The Malaysian government has been urged to extend the deadline for Visa With Reference (VDR) applications to avoid workforce issues across a number of industries. The Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association (Primas) and 22 other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have called on the government to extend the application for visas for foreign workers until September 30.

In a joint press statement, Primas president Govindasamy Jayabalan also appealed for an extension to the current May 31 deadline for employers to bring in foreign workers to December 31. He said this was to give employers time to go through the proper hiring channels and bring in suitable candidates. “It is difficult to find workers in source countries within such a short time and employers will likely panic as a result, leading them to seek out the services of illegal agencies. “This could lead to employers hiring less qualified foreign workers out of desperation. “Any sudden changes to immigration policies without a sufficient transition period can have adverse effects on businesses including decreased productivity, service quality, and even closures,” he said.

He noted that the sudden surge in foreign worker demand had also made the hiring process more difficult, as overcrowding at Immigration offices may cause longer waiting times. Govindasamy added that the extension was also necessary to allow experienced and skilled foreign workers to return to their countries of origin before returning to Malaysia to work. “Most foreign workers will finish their three-year contracts at the end of March and do not intend to return to work immediately. “There are also many skilled or experienced foreign workers who go home after working for 10 years as they are required to adhere to a three-month cooling-off period before returning to work here,” he said.

He also asked the government to consider raising the age limit for VDR applications to 55 years. “Many of our experienced workers will reach 45 years of age or more after 10 years of service, and would have become key assets to our businesses. “We are also appealing for the approval of foreign worker replacements through an automatic check-out memo (COM) system,” he added. He said the move has caused apprehension and unrest among employers across the country and called for the Immigration Department to hold dialogue sessions with industry stakeholders to address their concerns.

On January 9, Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail announced that employers would only be given three months to complete the process of legalising their illegal foreign workers by March 31 under the Labour Recalibration Programme (RTK 2.0). On March 13, the Immigration Department announced that VDR applications for previously approved foreign worker quotas would be cancelled if employers failed to obtain visas for their workers by March 31.

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