Labour shortage spurs visa fee drop

Cambodia Construction News Laos Myanmar Vietnam

The Labour Ministry will seek the cabinet’s approval next week to slash visa fees for Vietnamese workers as the country grapples with a labour shortage.

The visa fee for Vietnamese workers will drop from 2,000 baht to 500 baht, said ML Boondarik Smithi, permanent secretary for labour, adding the request will be lodged at the cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

She was speaking after a meeting of the Policy Committee on Migrant Workers and Human Trafficking on Friday.

The new fee will be on par with the rates offered to Myanmar, Lao and Cambodian labourers permitted to work in the country under Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) to tackle the labour shortage, ML Boondarik said.

According to a cabinet resolution on Feb 10, Vietnamese who had worked in the country illegally as labourers on construction sites, in the fishery industry, household helpers and waiters or waitresses before the resolution will be allowed to carry on working on temporary one-year visas covering all provinces, though they will need to obtain work permits.

More than 3,000 illegal Vietnamese workers are estimated to be in the country, ML Boondarik said.

Those who entered illegally after the resolution must leave the country. Currently, only workers who qualify under the MoU agreement on labour cooperation between the two countries are allowed to enter the country to work.

However, the new fee will not allow Vietnamese workers to work as waiters and waitresses in restaurants.

ML Boondarik said once the fee comes into effect, efforts must be made to arrest illegal workers and take legal action against their employers.

The permanent secretary also said that registration will begin soon for Myanmar, Lao and Cambodian workers in the processed seafood industry, which is part of the supply chain for the fishery industry in all 22 coastal provinces.

The move would ensure workers are legally documented and protected by the law, ML Boondarik said, adding the issue was raised by the European Union with regard to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in connection with supply chains.

A Labour Ministry source said Vietnamese labourers seeking a work permit must undergo a medical check-up and buy health insurance from the Public Health Ministry to cover the period of their work permit. This also applies to workers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.

According to the source, Vietnamese workers normally enter Thailand on tourist visas, exploiting an agreement that allows citizens to enter each country for 30 days without visas to boost tourism.

Most illegal Vietnamese workers are waiters or waitresses in restaurants, and risk five years in prison and a fine of up to 100,000 baht or both, if they violate the Alien Working Act, the source said.

Illegal workers who are caught are usually fined 2,000 baht before being deported, but some sneak back in.