Govt urged to extend visa deadline for foreign workers

PETALING JAYA: Restaurant owners and other businesses have made a last-ditch plea for the government to extend this Sunday’s deadline for Visa With Reference (VDR) applications for foreign workers.

“There should be a six-month extension till Sept 30,” said Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association (Primas) president Govindasamy Jayabalan.

“We need more time to find suitable workers,” he said.

The VDR refers to a work visa that employers need to apply for foreign workers before they can start the process of bringing them over to Malaysia.

On March 1, the Immigration Department announced that VDR applications for previously approved foreign worker quotas would be cancelled if employers fail to obtain this approval for their workers by March 31.

In a statement yesterday in which Govindasamy noted was put together with 22 other organisations, he said that many foreigners working in restaurants would be completing their three-year contracts at the end of this month and they do not intend to resume their job here.

“There are also foreign workers who would be returning home after being here for 10 years. These are skilled or experienced workers. They are required to abide by a three-month cooling-off period before returning to work here,” he said.

“It would be difficult to find workers from source countries within such a short time.”

He said employers who are desperate might resort to seeking the services of illegal agencies or hire less qualified workers.

“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 yesterday.

Govindasamy also appealed to the government to consider raising the age limit for VDR applications for workers who are 55 years old.

“Many of our experienced workers, upon completing 10 years of service, will reach 45 years old and above. They are an asset to our business,” he added.

Govindasamy also suggested that the May 31 deadline to bring in foreign workers be extended to Dec 31.

This would allow employers time to go through the proper hiring channels and bring in suitable workers, he said.

The additional time, Govindasamy said, is also necessary to allow experienced and skilled foreign workers to return to their countries of origin before returning to Malaysia to work.

The Federation of Malaysian Business Associations has also expressed similar concerns over the issue and called on the government to reintroduce the automatic Check-Out Memo (COM) system for replacing foreign workers.

“Employers are currently compelled to hire new workers in stages if their quotas are still valid whereas the COM would allow one worker returning to their home country to be replaced by a new worker quickly.

“This will help industries continue their business operations without disruption,” the association said in a Facebook post yesterday.

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