People from Southeast Asia are having to wait for at least a year and a half for a visa decision that will determine if they can work in Malta.
Documents seen by Times of Malta show that an appointment to submit documents for a Malta visa in Bangladesh have a year-long waiting period.
The authorities, however, can still refuse a visa application once the necessary documents have been submitted. Applicants can expect to wait up to an additional five months for a decision.
And, before applying for a visa appointment, a prospective employee must have found a job and have an approval in principle letter in hand, a process which, in itself, can take months.
This means that the whole application process to work in Malta can take up to two years.
In October, Times of Malta reported that prospective Bangladeshi employees had to wait for six months for an initial document submitting visa appointment. However, the waiting time for a visa appointment has been increased to a year since then.
Third-country nationals require a single-work-permit to work in Malta, a document which expires yearly.
In the work-permit process, Jobsplus identifies whether a Maltese or EU-national can fulfil the role instead of the third country national (TCN) and the immigration police do a background check. The process is repeated every time a TCN applies for a permit.
A Malta Employers Association report published in August revealed that, despite the authorities saying that the work permit process should take up to two months, the majority of employers waited between two and four months for the paperwork to be settled.
Some waited over six months.
Several TCNs such as Brazilians, Serbs and US citizens do not require a visa to enter Malta. Their employment-related paperwork ends with acquiring a work permit. However, for those from Southeast Asian countries it is only the beginning.
A 12-month wait for a visa appointment
Identity Malta, the agency overseeing the visa process, said in October that, in recent months, it hired additional personnel to assist foreign embassies and consulates in processing visas.
A few weeks later, Times of Malta asked about delays in appointment dates but no reply was forthcoming.
Identity Malta documents seen by Times of Malta show that five prospective Bangladeshi employees who applied in December 2022 have been given a visa appointment for December 2023.
Sources said that the delays are similar in all Southeast Asian countries.
Joseph Farrugia, director general of the Malta Employers Association, said that visa and work permit delays greatly affect employers. “It is very hard to plan so much in advance,” he said.
Clarifying that Identity Malta delays have been reduced in some cases, Farrugia said that even when an employee is in the country with all the necessary paperwork, workers often still need to be inducted and trained, which, in itself, takes time.
In November, Alex Scicluna, director of Jubilee group of companies, spoke out saying that the immigration process is forcing people to “put their life on hold because of inhumane delays”.