Guide to employment permits for foreign workers in Myanmar Guide to employment permits for foreign workers in Myanmar

Guide to employment permits for foreign workers in Myanmar
21 Sep 2017

As Myanmar continues to open up after years of isolation, many multinational companies and foreign investors are now starting to enter the country for the first time.

But investors establishing businesses from the ground-up often bring in skilled and experienced foreign workers of their own to oversee the setting up of new operations. Being able to employ these workers is important given the poor state of training and preparedness for work of local citizens. In fact, according to the country’s Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, only about 500 skilled workers out of Myanmar’s total population of approximately 52 million meet international standards.

Laws concerning the employment of foreigners are still developing, as is the case with many other regulations governing the country’s rapidly changing business environment. As a result, Myanmar currently lacks a comprehensive work permit system for international workers, although the National League for Democracy-led government is currently drafting legislation to create a more cohesive framework.

That being said, there are still multiple paths that foreigners can follow to acquire legal working status in Myanmar, as laid out below:

Obtaining a business visa

At present, most foreign workers in Myanmar enter and reside in the country under a business visa. The majority of people initially acquire a single entry visa valid for a 70-day stay. A multiple entry visa can be obtained if applicants have already had at least two single entry visas and have not violated any immigration laws.

Criteria for awarding multiple entry business visas are not set in stone but rather determined on a case-by-case basis. In some instances, authorities may only require one previous single entry visa, while in other cases they may require three. Multiple entry visas allow for an unlimited number of entries for periods of three months, six months or a year, although a maximum stay of only 70 days is permitted per entry.

Citizens from 50 different countries are eligible to apply online for a 70-day single entry business e-visa. E-visas require that entry into the country takes place through Yangon, Mandalay, or Nay Pyi Taw airports. Nationals from 48 countries are also able to acquire a business visa on arrival, while nationals from all countries can apply for one at a Myanmar embassy or consulate.

Only nationals from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam can arrive in Myanmar on a visa-free basis and stay for a maximum of 14 days. Although visa costs vary by country of origin, multiple entry visas are considerably more expensive than single entry ones.

 

The following documentation is required when foreign workers apply for a business visa:

  • Recommendation letter from their employer, including details about the type of business, purpose of visit, applicant’s name, passport details, position in company, and intended entry and exit dates;
  • Invitation letter, which includes an official letterhead, from a Myanmar-registered company;
  • Copy of the Myanmar company registration certificate provided by the guarantor of the organisation that is officially inviting the applicant. The guarantor must be the company’s managing director or owner and they may be contacted by the immigration authorities during the application process;
  • Visa application form;
  • Two recent colour photographs with a white background of size 35mm x 45mm; and
  • Passport valid for at least six months and a copy of the passport details page.

Obtaining a stay permit and multiple journey special re-entry visa

Although business visas are limited to 70-day stays regardless of whether they are single or multiple entry, a ‘stay permit’ or ‘multiple journey special reentry visa’ can also be obtained to extend the total period of stay. The stay permit is not a separate visa but rather a special permit that removes the 70-day limit, allowing a foreign worker to remain in Myanmar for three months, six months, or one year at a single stretch.

“Although business visas are limited to 70-day stays regardless of whether they are single or multiple entry, a ‘stay permit’ or ‘multiple journey special reentry visa’ can be obtained to extend the total period of the stay.”

But the stay permit is only valid for single entry, even if the holder has a valid multiple entry visa. In order to ensure the permit remains valid when leaving the country, a multiple journey special reentry visa must be obtained.

The special re-entry visa is also valid for three months, six months, or a year and the criteria for obtaining it are stricter than those for business visas and the stay permit. To be eligible, applicants must have traveled to Myanmar under a business visa on a minimum of three separate occasions and present evidence that they are employed as a consultant, director, or manager. Both the permit and re-entry visa are regulated by the Ministry of Immigration and Population.

The following documents are required when foreign workers apply for a stay permit and multiple journey special re-entry visa:

  • Recommendation letter from their employer, including details about the type of business, purpose of visit, applicant’s name, passport details, position in company, and intended entry and exit dates;
  • Invitation letter, which includes an official letterhead, from a Myanmar-registered company;
  • Applicant’s CV;
  • Authorisation letter notarised and legalised by the relevant Myanmar embassy or consulate;
  • Company documents, including certificate of registration, permit and company affidavit;
  • Visa application form;
  • Two recent colour photographs with a white background of size 35mm x 45mm; and
  • Passport valid for at least six months and a copy of the passport details page.

 

 

Obtaining a work permit

The Myanmar Foreign Investment Law of 2012 introduced a work permit system for foreigners investing in the country. Companies investing in Myanmar under the terms of the Foreign Investment Law or that set up under the Myanmar Special Economic Zone Law (MSEZL) are eligible to apply for work permits for foreigners employed in managerial or supervisory roles or if they hold technical skills.

To do so, employers must have an Investment Permit and be endorsed to employ foreign workers by the Myanmar Investment Commission.

Alternatively, if operating under the MSEZL, companies can apply at the Zone’s One Stop Service Center.

In order to acquire a work permit, applicants must be in good health, have a letter of recommendation from their employer, and hold a regionally- or internationally-recognized degree related to their employment as proof of expertise. Even with a work permit, foreign workers will still need to acquire a stay permit and multiple journey special re-entry visa in order to stay in Myanmar beyond 70 days and to exit and re-enter the country on the same visa.

Legislative changes

As in all areas of foreign investment, the stipulations for hiring foreign workers in Myanmar are gradually loosening up. While under the Myanmar Foreign Investment Law of 2012, a certain proportion of company employees had to be Burmese citizens (25% within the first two years of an organisation being set up, rising to 50% during years three and four, and 75% in years five and six), this is no longer the case under the new Myanmar Investment Law.

However, companies must still give preference to local candidates and cannot hire foreigners to undertake unskilled labor. They must also have systems in place to enable the transfer of knowledge and skills to local employees.

Investors recruiting foreign talent to work in Myanmar are advised to monitor government websites and news services for any legislative changes. Draft laws aiming to create a more comprehensive legal environment for organisations employing foreign workers have already been drawn up and are currently undergoing revision.

As the country expects to attract more foreign investment as a result of the new Investment Law, which comes into effect on 1 April, new regulations clarifying issues around the employment of foreign workers are expected to appear over the course of 2017.

- By Alexander Chipman Koty, editor, Dezan Shira and Associates

First published by ASEAN Briefing.

Since its establishment in 1992, Dezan Shira & Associates has been guiding foreign clients through Asia’s complex regulatory environment and assisting them with all aspects of legal, accounting, tax, internal control, HR, payroll and audit matters. As a full-service consultancy with operational offices across China, Hong Kong, India and ASEAN, we are your reliable partner for business expansion in this region and beyond. For inquiries, please email us at info@dezshira.com

As Myanmar continues to open up after years of isolation, many multinational companies and foreign investors are now starting to enter the country for the first time.

But investors establishing businesses from the ground-up often bring in skilled and experienced foreign workers of their own to oversee the setting up of new operations. Being able to employ these workers is important given the poor state of training and preparedness for work of local citizens. In fact, according to the country’s Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, only about 500 skilled workers out of Myanmar’s total population of approximately 52 million meet international standards.

Laws concerning the employment of foreigners are still developing, as is the case with many other regulations governing the country’s rapidly changing business environment. As a result, Myanmar currently lacks a comprehensive work permit system for international workers, although the National League for Democracy-led government is currently drafting legislation to create a more cohesive framework.

That being said, there are still multiple paths that foreigners can follow to acquire legal working status in Myanmar, as laid out below:

Obtaining a business visa

At present, most foreign workers in Myanmar enter and reside in the country under a business visa. The majority of people initially acquire a single entry visa valid for a 70-day stay. A multiple entry visa can be obtained if applicants have already had at least two single entry visas and have not violated any immigration laws.

Criteria for awarding multiple entry business visas are not set in stone but rather determined on a case-by-case basis. In some instances, authorities may only require one previous single entry visa, while in other cases they may require three. Multiple entry visas allow for an unlimited number of entries for periods of three months, six months or a year, although a maximum stay of only 70 days is permitted per entry.

Citizens from 50 different countries are eligible to apply online for a 70-day single entry business e-visa. E-visas require that entry into the country takes place through Yangon, Mandalay, or Nay Pyi Taw airports. Nationals from 48 countries are also able to acquire a business visa on arrival, while nationals from all countries can apply for one at a Myanmar embassy or consulate.

Only nationals from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam can arrive in Myanmar on a visa-free basis and stay for a maximum of 14 days. Although visa costs vary by country of origin, multiple entry visas are considerably more expensive than single entry ones.

 

The following documentation is required when foreign workers apply for a business visa:

  • Recommendation letter from their employer, including details about the type of business, purpose of visit, applicant’s name, passport details, position in company, and intended entry and exit dates;
  • Invitation letter, which includes an official letterhead, from a Myanmar-registered company;
  • Copy of the Myanmar company registration certificate provided by the guarantor of the organisation that is officially inviting the applicant. The guarantor must be the company’s managing director or owner and they may be contacted by the immigration authorities during the application process;
  • Visa application form;
  • Two recent colour photographs with a white background of size 35mm x 45mm; and
  • Passport valid for at least six months and a copy of the passport details page.

Obtaining a stay permit and multiple journey special re-entry visa

Although business visas are limited to 70-day stays regardless of whether they are single or multiple entry, a ‘stay permit’ or ‘multiple journey special reentry visa’ can also be obtained to extend the total period of stay. The stay permit is not a separate visa but rather a special permit that removes the 70-day limit, allowing a foreign worker to remain in Myanmar for three months, six months, or one year at a single stretch.

“Although business visas are limited to 70-day stays regardless of whether they are single or multiple entry, a ‘stay permit’ or ‘multiple journey special reentry visa’ can be obtained to extend the total period of the stay.”

But the stay permit is only valid for single entry, even if the holder has a valid multiple entry visa. In order to ensure the permit remains valid when leaving the country, a multiple journey special reentry visa must be obtained.

The special re-entry visa is also valid for three months, six months, or a year and the criteria for obtaining it are stricter than those for business visas and the stay permit. To be eligible, applicants must have traveled to Myanmar under a business visa on a minimum of three separate occasions and present evidence that they are employed as a consultant, director, or manager. Both the permit and re-entry visa are regulated by the Ministry of Immigration and Population.

The following documents are required when foreign workers apply for a stay permit and multiple journey special re-entry visa:

  • Recommendation letter from their employer, including details about the type of business, purpose of visit, applicant’s name, passport details, position in company, and intended entry and exit dates;
  • Invitation letter, which includes an official letterhead, from a Myanmar-registered company;
  • Applicant’s CV;
  • Authorisation letter notarised and legalised by the relevant Myanmar embassy or consulate;
  • Company documents, including certificate of registration, permit and company affidavit;
  • Visa application form;
  • Two recent colour photographs with a white background of size 35mm x 45mm; and
  • Passport valid for at least six months and a copy of the passport details page.

 

 

Obtaining a work permit

The Myanmar Foreign Investment Law of 2012 introduced a work permit system for foreigners investing in the country. Companies investing in Myanmar under the terms of the Foreign Investment Law or that set up under the Myanmar Special Economic Zone Law (MSEZL) are eligible to apply for work permits for foreigners employed in managerial or supervisory roles or if they hold technical skills.

To do so, employers must have an Investment Permit and be endorsed to employ foreign workers by the Myanmar Investment Commission.

Alternatively, if operating under the MSEZL, companies can apply at the Zone’s One Stop Service Center.

In order to acquire a work permit, applicants must be in good health, have a letter of recommendation from their employer, and hold a regionally- or internationally-recognized degree related to their employment as proof of expertise. Even with a work permit, foreign workers will still need to acquire a stay permit and multiple journey special re-entry visa in order to stay in Myanmar beyond 70 days and to exit and re-enter the country on the same visa.

Legislative changes

As in all areas of foreign investment, the stipulations for hiring foreign workers in Myanmar are gradually loosening up. While under the Myanmar Foreign Investment Law of 2012, a certain proportion of company employees had to be Burmese citizens (25% within the first two years of an organisation being set up, rising to 50% during years three and four, and 75% in years five and six), this is no longer the case under the new Myanmar Investment Law.

However, companies must still give preference to local candidates and cannot hire foreigners to undertake unskilled labor. They must also have systems in place to enable the transfer of knowledge and skills to local employees.

Investors recruiting foreign talent to work in Myanmar are advised to monitor government websites and news services for any legislative changes. Draft laws aiming to create a more comprehensive legal environment for organisations employing foreign workers have already been drawn up and are currently undergoing revision.

As the country expects to attract more foreign investment as a result of the new Investment Law, which comes into effect on 1 April, new regulations clarifying issues around the employment of foreign workers are expected to appear over the course of 2017.

- By Alexander Chipman Koty, editor, Dezan Shira and Associates

First published by ASEAN Briefing.

Since its establishment in 1992, Dezan Shira & Associates has been guiding foreign clients through Asia’s complex regulatory environment and assisting them with all aspects of legal, accounting, tax, internal control, HR, payroll and audit matters. As a full-service consultancy with operational offices across China, Hong Kong, India and ASEAN, we are your reliable partner for business expansion in this region and beyond. For inquiries, please email us at info@dezshira.com

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