Construction of any sort in Bhutan invariably involves foreign workers. The matter of their recruitment is, however, complicated and frustrating. To save prospective builders the pain of tearing out their own hair, here are insights into three crucial questions on foreign worker recruitment that every builder should show.
- How do I get approvals to recruit foreign workers?
Assuming you already have approvals for your construction from the Thromde or Dzongkhag office, the first thing you need to do is get approvals for foreign workers from the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources.
Many people try to recruit foreign workers already working in Bhutan but the most convenient way is to get in touch with workers through foreign worker recruitment agencies. They usually have the best resources to recruit the most appropriate foreign workers and will also take care of all the formalities required by the Ministry for you. Going about the formalities yourself will involve a lot of work like registering as an employer at the MoLHR job portal, paperwork and other formalities. So we highly recommend that you use a recruitment agency for your peace of mind.
However, if you already are in contact with an employee contractor, commonly known as ‘thikadar’, they can recruit a team for you. You can still approach the agency for all the other formalities required.
To find agencies’ contact numbers according to your location, go to http://www.molhr.gov.bt/labournet/# and click on “Search Agents”.
If you decide to not avail any service from the agencies, during the approval process you will be asked to submit a signed undertaking to the Dept. of Immigration (MoHCA) declaring compliance with the rules and laws of the land which will be submitted to MoLHR by them. You can find the undertaking form here: http://www.mohca.gov.bt/forms/employerundertaking.pdf
While applying to the foreign worker recruitment agencies, you must give them a letter of requisition asking for foreign workers. This letter along with your applications for foreign workers will be submitted by the agency to the MoLHR.
We highly recommend that employers not share their user name and password (they are generated to the employers account and e-mail) with the foreign worker recruitment agency or anyone else. Only the employers EM No. (generated during registration) should be given to the agency.
Note that you will not get approvals for foreign plumbers and electricians for construction. Carpenters are a closed category only to furniture houses. They are available to construction work sites. This is a regulation of the Ministry of Labor and Human Resources to provide more employment opportunities to Bhutanese workers.
- What paperwork is required for immigration?
Once you are in touch with the foreign workers, they have to process their immigration paperwork. Your foreign workers will have to go through certain procedures to get a work permit. Medical tests are mandatory. If a foreign worker has any condition that makes him unfit for the work permit, they will be told about the condition and they will have to return to their home country for treatment. The cost for immigration can be up to Nu.200 for one foreign worker, and the process can usually be completed within two days.
Your foreign worker recruitment agency will take care of all the immigration formalities for you, including getting the workers’ health tested, which will cost you between Nu.1000/- to Nu. 1300/-.
- How many foreign workers am I permitted to employ?
If you are recruiting for a rural area, you will get an approval for up to 10 foreign workers. If it is for an urban region, you will be permitted 12 workers at first but if you think you require more, you can apply for an additional 12. The maximum number of foreign workers an employer can have is 25. Only hotels and resorts can avail upon a maximum of 50 foreign workers depending on their size. If you are constructing a hotel, you also need a letter from the Tourism Council of Bhutan.
Note: It is very important to find out if the foreign worker has worked in Bhutan previously or not as one foreign worker is allowed to work in the country only for three years irrespective of the number of projects they work on. Once a worker has been working in Bhutan for three years they will have to leave the country for six months to reapply for a work permit.
We hope that this post answers your top questions about recruiting foreign workers for construction. We will try to keep this post updated to reflect any changes to the regulations as they become available.