Hundreds of South Asian migrants are taking advantage of a new employment registration system to find a job through a temporary work permit issued by Identity Malta, the Times of Malta is informed.

Sources, particularly in the catering and restaurants sector, said they have been approached by dozens of Nepalese and Pakistani citizens in the past months asking them for work.

“Many are turning up outside our establishments on a daily basis asking us for work, particularly low-level, unskilled jobs. To our surprise, when we ask them whether they have a working permit they produce a piece of paper issued by Identity Malta showing they were granted a temporary work permit,” a Gżira restaurant owner said.

An entrepreneur who manages a small hotel in St Paul’s Bay said he had been inundated by Nepalese citizens asking if they could serve in the kitchen or do some form of cleaning work.

The Times of Malta has seen copies of certificates issued by Identity Malta clearing the way for those holding a visa, particularly of Nepalese and Pakistani origin, to seek work in Malta on a temporary basis.

Most of the third country nationals in possession of such documents obtained visas from the Maltese High Commission in New Delhi, the sources said.

They expressed concern the system could have been “abused”, even fearing a racket might well be involved in the issue of such temporary work permits.

The sources added that the system might be exploited for third country nationals to use Malta as their first entry point to the EU, then proceeding to other countries through the Schengen system.

Change in system

The Times of Malta was told that, until some time ago, third country nationals wishing to work in Malta had to follow a thorough application process whereby only those who had already acquired a job could apply.

Furthermore, they would only be able to travel to Malta once the permit was issued.

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The system was changed last year in a bid to facilitate the hiring of non-EU citizens. As a result, the sources noted, prospective foreign workers could travel to Malta even before a full permit was issued, on the basis of the temporary permit.

The third country nationals would then seek work in the period between their arrival and the eventual issue of a permanent employment permit, the sources noted.

A spokesman for Identity Malta confirmed that “a temporary authorisation to work document has been introduced in 2018”.

However, he made it clear “this was not an alternative to a single work permit but part of a process to grant work and residence authorisation to third country nationals once the necessary verifications and assessments were carried out by Identity Malta, Jobs Plus and the immigration police”.

The spokesman warned that if the temporary work permit were misused, the eventual single permit would be revoked.

Fuelled by an expanding economy, Malta has experienced a sharp rise in the number of foreign workers over the past years. Eurostat figures show that the number of foreign residents on the island more than doubled between 2013 and 2017.

Third country nationals, who are only allowed to reside in Malta for work purposes or if they possess refugee and humanitarian status, were given more than 10,500 work permits in 2017, the last year for which data is available. This contrasted sharply with the figure for 2013, when just over 5,000 had been granted.

The government has insisted on the need for more foreign workers to sustain economic growth in the coming years.

Residence permits issued

  2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
EU citizens 3,902 5,531 7,209 7,120 9,317
Third country nationals 5,078 6,981 7,939 8,302 10,675
Total  10,897 14,454 16,936 17,051 21,676

Note: Total includes permits issued for those applying while temporarily in Malta.

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