Updated 1pm with Identity Malta comment

Out of a job for months, a young Indian man uploads a post on a Facebook page for expats in Malta in one last desperate attempt at securing gainful employment in Europe.

He soon receives a message from someone claiming they work in the catering industry in Malta and that a recruitment agency here can get them the necessary employment permits.

But this will come at a price tag of €4,280.

The first €280 will have to be settled as soon as he receives an email from Identity Malta that the agency has submitted their application.

A sum of €1,500 will go to the agency’s lawyer on sending in his CV, an experience letter and a copy of his passport, while a further €1,000 will have to be wired as soon as he receives the approval letter from Identity Malta.

The remaining €1,500 will be handed over once the visa is issued and the third-country national is in Malta.

This is the typical scenario dozens of prospective employees have recounted with leading expat community members Tom Skjønsberg and Patricia Graham, who, for years, have been guiding third-country nationals on how to apply for a work permit in Malta.

Identity Malta charges just €280.50 for each application.

But agencies are charging anything from €1,500 to €5,000 per application for a work permit in food delivery, catering, care, cleaning and other low-paying jobs, they tell Times of Malta.

For several months, and increasingly over the past few weeks, they have been relentlessly warning prospective applicants not to “fall” for such recruitment agencies.

Graham and Skjønsberg have noticed that the increase in the number of people resorting to such agencies coincided with reported delays at Identity Malta.

“Prospective workers are being promised their application will get fast-tracked if they pay thousands to these agencies. They have tried to apply the ‘regular’ way but can’t seem to get past the Identity Malta and visa facilitation services interview hurdles.

“Suddenly, if they fork out thousands to these agencies, the interview appointments become available,” Graham told Times of Malta.

Skjønsberg, one of the people who runs the Expats Malta page, said that, from what prospective applicants have told him, agencies usually ask for a percentage of the money upfront either through an intermediary or a bank transfer.

The remaining is paid in cash once they arrive in Malta.

“We noticed an increase in delays at Identity Malta in late 2019, then, through 2020, we figured it was just because of COVID but then it got progressively worse… this year it has been horrendous.

“The delays, for some reason, have coincided with the increase of recruits coming through agencies charging thousands. However, the agencies don’t seem to have these delay issues.”

When Times of Malta spoke to prospective applicants, one man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was bound to pay the requested €4,000.

“I have not paid any money yet but I will if it transpires that they are genuine because in India people are taking €10,000 for Malta, so I think €4,000 is little, in comparison,” he said.

And when one other man asked on Expats Malta whether he was being ripped off, as one recruitment agency had asked for €5,500 to obtain the working permits, he received a call from the agency and was asked to delete the post.

He was also asked to send an apology by email. The same agency also asked Skjønsberg to remove the post as it was “damaging” for the company.

'ID Malta has no connection with agencies'

Identity Malta on Monday said it had no involvement with, or any connection to, any of these agencies' operations, or the fees requested from prospective third-country national workers.

The agency said it charges a single processing fee of €280.50 for the issuance of a Single Permit. 

"Identity Malta Agency strives to safeguard national security while delivering timely and effective services to all of its clients.

"Each Single Permit application submitted, by any prospective foreign employee, is vetted and rigorously checked by both Identity Malta and other stakeholders. Identity Malta Agency does not offer a fast-track service and Single Permit applications are processed in accordance with procedures established by Identity Malta Agency and its stakeholders," it said.

It reiterated that the average processing time for an application stood at between eight and 10 weeks, which it said was well within the four-month processing time stipulated by EU Directive 2011/98/EU.

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