Publishes by The Daily Star on April 29, 2014 (Link Above)

This week Your Advocate is Barrister Omar Khan Joy, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh. He is the head of the chambers of a renowned law firm, namely, ‘Legal Counsel’, which has expertise mainly in commercial law, corporate law, family law, employment and labor law, land law, banking law, constitutional law, criminal law, IPR and in conducting litigations before courts of different hierarchies.

I am a European national working in Chittagong- Bangladesh for the Bangladesh office of a foreign company for about two years. But, I do not have any work permit in Bangladesh. I have requested by employer to arrange for a work permit for me but they are not very keen in this regard. When insisted they told me that if I can obtain my own work permit they will not have objection. But, they will not increase my salary for any income tax matters. So far, I have been using either Tourist or business VISA to come and stay here. Please advice if I really need a work permit and if so, can I obtain it on my own. Is there any sanction for not having a work permit?

Thank you very much for your query.  Private sector industrial enterprises (outside EPZs), branch or liaison offices of foreign origin and  local commercial enterprises desiring to employ foreign nationals are required to have work permit from the Board of Investment (‘BOI’). Without work permit you are not actually allowed to be employed in Bangladesh. Hence, your employment for almost last two years can be considered as unauthorised and in violation of the laws of the land. It appears that you have not also paid the income tax on your salary and hence you and your company have violated the provisions of the Income Tax Ordinance, which amounts to criminal offences.
Hence, on a practical note, I would advise you to resign from the job immediately and leave Bangladesh at the soonest as you run the risk of being prosecuted. On a contrary note, if you want to stay and continue your job, honestly you have to do the following process immediately with BOI. From the following description, you will realise that obtaining work permit is very much corporate oriented process and opposed to a personal one.
For expatriate employment, the guidelines are as follows:

  • Nationals of the countries recognised by Bangladesh can only be considered for employment. You being a European need not worry about this.
  • Your employer needs to be an industrial establishment or commercial enterprise duly registered/permitted by the BOI. So, please check whether your employer satisfies this.
  • Number of the expatriate employees in an industrial enterprise should not exceed 1:20 (foreign: local) ratio at any time during regular production and the ratio for commercial office is 1:5 (foreign: local).
  • Employment of foreign nationals is normally considered for the job for which local candidates are not available. Accordingly, before you can apply for a work permit, the company has to publish a job circular in the newspaper and/or web-job portals and take interview of the local candidates, if any. If no local suitable candidate is found, only then BOI will consider issuing a work permit in favour of a foreigner.
  • Decision of the Board of Directors of the company concerned for new employment/ extension has to be furnished specifically stating that the company has decided to appoint you along with your salary breakdown, date of joining, term of posting, designation etc.
  • Before applying for work permit, the foreign employee must first come to Bangladesh with E-Visa. For grating E-VISA, a recommendation letter from the BOI is required. BOI only issues the recommendation letter for E-VISA provided all the above criteria are satisfied. Your company needs to apply to BOI in the prescribed form along with required documents requesting them to issue such a letter in your favour addressing the foreign mission of Bangladesh from where you want to obtain the E-VISA (may be in our country or may be in any other country).
  • Thereafter, the employee will you have to travel to Bangladesh with the E-VISA and apply for work permit within 15 days of reaching Bangladesh in the prescribed form with almost the same supporting documents.