Myanmar draft laws covering foreigners cause concern for expats

Published:  27 Jan at 6 PM
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Two new draft laws affecting foreigners living and working in Myanmar are causing fear and trepidation in the country’s growing expat community.

The laws are expected to be presented as priorities by the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population and the Factory and General Labour Law Department once Myanmar’s upcoming parliamentary session opens next Monday. Both the Law Concerning Foreigners and the Foreign Worker Law are being slammed by analysts and lawyers for, at best, muddying still further the country’s bureaucratic red tape and, at worst, increasing anti-foreigner prejudice and creating a hostile environment for much-needed investment.

The effect of the two laws would be to restrict relocating or travelling within Myanmar for expats and force incomers to provide excessive documentation as well as taking a medical examination within seven days of their arrival. The Law Concerning Foreigners is to apply to all foreigners over the age of 10 wishing to take up residence in Myanmar for a period of over 90 days, and enforces an existing but mostly ignored law stating a Foreigner Registration Certificate (FRC) must be obtained and carried at all times.

Foreigners who do not comply with the new laws will face imprisonment for a period not longer than five years. However, the clause causing the most concern amongst expats relates to travel within the country. Foreigners with FRCs wishing to travel around Myanmar for over 24 hours must first get approval from a registrar, defined as the head of a local immigration or manpower office, with failure to do so resulting in a one year prison sentence.

According to the Myanmar Times, experts within the expat business community are concerned the new laws, if passed, could seriously discourage much-needed overseas investment, already affected by Myanmar’s poor reputation on the international stage.
Director of the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business Vicky Bowman told the press the draft laws would cause administrative delays and increase the likelihood of corruption, already a problem for incoming businesses.

Myanmar, she said, has massive investment needs and even larger skill gaps, making both foreign capital and expat workers necessary for its economy. In a 2016 ranking by the World Bank, the country scored 170 out of 190 countries surveyed, citing low-quality judiciary, an excess number of procedures and slow bureaucratic processes as barriers to doing business.
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