Trapped in the Maldives: foreign nationals stranded due to employers, state failing to resolve visa issues

A growing number of foreign nationals are finding themselves forbidden from leaving the Maldives by immigration staff, due to the failure of state and private employers to renew visa documentation.

The Indian High Commission in the Maldives told Minivan News it was now demanding government intervention after receiving complaints from expatriates claiming they have been blocked from boarding planes at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA), and stranded in the country indefinitely.

Minivan News has learned of cases where expatriates from India, the UK, the US and the Philippines have been blocked from leaving the country due to issues with visa documentation attributable to the negligence of state authorities and employers – in some cases, government ministries.

Unable to leave – and in some cases fined extortionate sums on behalf of the employer – foreigners are complaining of being trapped without funds, accommodation or legal representation.

As employers are responsible for arranging work permits on behalf of their foreign employees, foreign nationals are unable to submit or collect their own visa documentation, effectively stranding them in the Maldives at the mercy of their employers and state authorities while renewals are underway.

One UK national, seeking to ensure his own work permit was processed, even told Minivan News he was refused service at the immigration office on the grounds of “Where’s your owner?”.

An Indian High Commission source this week accused authorities of persecuting foreign nationals for the failure of the state and private employers to correctly renew or register foreign staff in the required time, depriving expatriates of their freedom of movement.

In just the past few days, the high commission said two Indian nationals had missed flights and been stranded in the Maldives while waiting for employers and government authorities to resolve the outstanding issues with their paperwork.

One of those affected, licensed pathologist at the state-run Indira Ghandi Memorial Hospital (IGMH), Dr Anjula Jain, was prevented from returning to India last week after completing her contract with the Ministry of Health.

She was forced to wait several days before receiving approval to book another flight with her own money.

Dr Jain has since filed an official complaint over her treatment with the Indian High Commission.

A High Commission source said Dr Jain had been told at immigration counter that she could not leave the country as her work visa had expired, despite the Health Ministry being in the process of renewing her documents.

Despite possessing papers showing the renewal process was ongoing, the doctor was still refused permission to leave.

Dr Jain was then asked to obtain a letter from the Health Ministry confirming the renewal of her documents was underway, before finally obtaining clearance from the Department of Immigration to leave the country days later.

The High Commission source said it was extremely concerned that Maldives employers, especially state authorities such as the Health Ministry, were continuing to employ foreign nationals even after their visas had expired, resulting in serious difficulties for the workers.

“There is a serious problem here for expatriates working for private and government companies where a visa is not renewed in time, with some people even having their bank accounts frozen and being deprived of their rights,” the source said.

“One call is too many,” the source said. “Concerns have been raised with [State Foreign Minister] Hassan Saeed as some similar cases have been brought to our attention. [The commission] will be checking with authorities that a systematic resolution can be found by the government to resolve this issue.”

Trapped in Male

Several foreign staff of varying nationalities working in areas ranging from tourism to the NGO sector have told Minivan News they are effectively barred from leaving due to problems with paperwork they are unable to resolve without the assistance of ambivalent employers and immigration staff.

One US national working in the NGO sector told Minivan News that she remains blocked from leaving the country due to a delay in obtaining a visa stamp in her passport, after discovering at the immigration counter that a previous employer had failed to pay outstanding visa charges.

Speaking to Minivan News on condition of anonymity, the woman said that during a recent attempt to fly to Sri Lanka for a medical reasons, immigration staff  had summoned an airline official, who had ripped up her ticket in front of her.

“I spent a year working for my former employer. It took six months of demanding my passport be returned to me before it was, however I was constantly reassured all my documentation was in order and there were just processing delays. So I was very surprised to discover they had failed to pay the appropriate work visa fees,” she said.

“This has not only caused problems for my current employer, it has put me in a very vulnerable position as an expatriate worker. I’ve been prevented from leaving the country – urgently for health reasons – by the Immigration Department because of these unpaid fees resulting in my documentation not being properly updated.”

The US national said she was now effectively at the mercy of previous employers to resolve the outstanding payments, as she was unable to afford the the MVR 15,000 (US$1000) in fines demanded by immigration authorities to allow her to leave the country.

“Despite being in constant contact with my former employer about these issues, and some of the members showing genuine concern, they have still failed to resolve the issue nearly seven months later. Instead they blame me for these issues, when it’s clearly their own professional incompetence. It’s a foul betrayal to have dedicated so much time and energy, as well as made numerous personal sacrifices, in order to partner with this organisation to achieve their mission, merely to be blatantly disrespected as a professional and individual,” she said.

“Foreign workers in the Maldives – of any nationality – are treated like slaves, or indentured servants at best.  As a professional woman, it’s worse because you have to navigate the sexism and endure a lot of harassment – which would never be allowed if this was a country that respected its foreign employees.”

By contrast, the US national believed the only method to have visa documentation approved in a quick manner was to go through recruitment ‘agents’, alleging that corruption seemed to be endemic within the system, despite tight restrictions imposed on foreign professionals.

“The most ridiculous part of the situation is that in addition to my former employer’s incompetence, the department of immigration has been in a state of flux since Feb 2012, but this is not taken into consideration by the government. They don’t care. Illegal foreign workers are brought into the country and exploited in droves, but immigration punishes legitimate workers claiming they know what they are supposed to do,” she argued.

Employees must take responsibility: Immigration

The Department of Immigration confirmed it was aware that foreign nationals had been prevented from leaving due to their employers not having obtained visas correctly.

However, the immigration authority argued that the Maldives, like countries all over the world, required foreign nationals to have the correct visa documentation to enter or leave the country, even to their homeland.

Immigration Department spokesperson Ibrahim Ashraf said all expatriates would be aware that, in order to stay in a foreign country, it was mandatory to have the correct and valid visa.

Ashraf said that there had been a “huge backlog” of visas that were required to be processed by employers such as the health and education ministries, claiming that immigration authorities had made special arrangements to fast track visa renewals.

“This should not be happening,” he said of expatriates being prevented from boarding flights out of the country.

Ashraf claimed the Immigration Department had not been made aware of any concerns raised by the Indian High Commission over the issue of stranded workers, suggesting some issues may have been related to a “huge misunderstanding” of the visa system by employers.

“Payments for visas have to be made to the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA), with passports then officially needing to be processed with the Department of Immigration once payment is complete,” he said. “The visa sticker has to be there in the passport.”

Ashraf stressed that a correct visa sticker was requested by airlines as well as foreign authorities to allow a foreign national to board any international flight.

Health Ministry backlog

Responding to the Indian High Commission’s concerns about Dr Jain, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health Geela Ali told Minivan News said she was unaware of the case.

However, she accepted there had been issues with foreign doctors not being able to leave the country as a result of problems relating to visa extension issues, such as the transfer of staff from health corporations established under the previous government back to the ministry.

Geela insisted there were no longer recurring problems with visa extension of expatriates working for the health ministry, despite a backlog of outstanding documentation preventing staff from leaving, and said many issues had been resolved.

“The matter is now under control, but obviously there will sometimes be employees who cannot leave over visa issues,” she said.

Geela said IGMH was responsible for its large foreign workforce, and any workers who were facing issues leaving the country.

Indian authorities meanwhile last year slammed the government and some private employers for failing to reissue visa documentation to expatriates who were forced in some cases to wait weeks in Male to return home for visits and emergencies, including one worker’s own wedding.

In January, the high commission provided local media with a list of 11 grievances affecting its relationship with the Maldives, including discrimination, the keeping of passports of Indian nationals by employers, and the failure to repatriate mortal remains of foreign workers.

The source expressed confidence that authorities would find a resolution to the various grievances raised, despite claiming that no progress had made on any of the issues raised at time of press.

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26 thoughts on “Trapped in the Maldives: foreign nationals stranded due to employers, state failing to resolve visa issues”

  1. state failing to resolve visa issues...and our State doesn't understand we are fully depending on foreigners for:
    - healthcare
    - education
    - construction
    - knowledge
    - money

    because we are too uneducated and lazy to do thing ourselves...

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  2. Retarded monkeys could do a better job than the fine folks at the Immigration Department.

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  3. And screwing foreign employees over is standard operating procedure by all Maldivian employers.

    Maldivian employer + Immigration Department= greed, laziness, and incompetence.

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  4. Maldives.... what are you doing??? First - banning pork and alcohol and the use of spas? The airport, hotel management and throwing people out, then the lashings and now imprisoning foreigners... what next? Ban tourists?

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  5. Strict rules and regulations in the Maldives for expatriate employment was not needed just now.
    It should have had a decent and fool proof system.
    However, when expatriates were brought by the thousands it was completely a different business for the benefit of a class.
    I am sure that even today, with a so called XPAT registration system and so on existing, with Q systems working, there can be, and will be opportunities to open a tiny door (provided the employer or expatriate has the right key) to exit.

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  6. Immigration staffs complain that there NCIT system is not fully function and the way of design is not according to the immigration standard and almost some staffs had complain to now Defense Minister Nazim the issues and Immigration Controller Mohamed Ali is not fulfill the Controller Duty and gave now News Boss is DEFENSE Minister who is busy with American system and NCIT Fayaz System which it is not good system to all immigration...

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  7. And there are a million tourists visiting Maldives and leaving without any visa issue..

    About Expats we have 70,000+ illegal workers and government unable to do anything..

    Please visit immigration's official website for information about Entry into Maldives:

    http://www.immigration.gov.mv/index.php/entry-to-maldives.html

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  8. Hey Ann, tourists are above the law. 🙂

    Unfortunately, the illegal immigrants are exploited by the big businesses that pay you to come over here.

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  9. 'Stranded indefinitely in the Maldives'.....what a horrible thought!!
    This visa business has still not been resolved by your immigration authorities and expatriates continue to be harassed and put to great hardship. This has been going on for a few years now.
    Are you people that dumb and incompetent that you cannot process a simple visa system?
    I would advise all Indian expatriates, especially doctors and teachers, to get the hell out of the Maldives. Those that choose to stay.....poor suckers.....should ensure their passports are with them at all times and not with some Mafiosi employer.
    I suggest a training exercise for your useless visa officials.....take them to a foreign embassy.....not Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.....and show them the basics of administering a visa system. Is a modern computerised visa system beyond the comprehension of your feeble minds?

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  10. only a matter of time before expat workers will have it up to their noses and then completely stay away from maldives....Maldives EZ2 get in....but trapped in a Hellhole!

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  11. one thing to say about resort workers- if you let the resort take your passport longer then lets say 1 month and still dont care then you are on a "honeymoon" and havent opened your eyes on whats going on.
    Resorts are not allowed to keep the passports whatsoever, they say they do, but they dont.

    So- come in this country, but dont forget to think!!

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  12. Your USELESS AND INCOMPETENT immigration department should employ some Indians to run the visa system. Judging by the visa hassles of recent years, operating a modern computerised visa system appears to be beyond the limited mental capabilities of Maldivians.
    All expatriates reading this should note that reneging on a signed contract of employment and retaining passports are ILLEGAL ACTS and must not be tolerated. If your employer asks for your passport tell him to get lost and report the matter to your embassy.
    Indian doctors and teachers should not put up with any abuse by the Maldivian authorities.....they need you more than you need them.....without you dear countrymen Maldives will be another Somalia.

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  13. Many visa renewal problems for the teachers working in the Ministry of Education but still the agencies recruiting many teachers by collecting a huge amount around IRS.1.5 lakh . This is a big corruption deal going in the Ministry of Education. The newly recruited teachers through the agencies from India are asked to bring money in US dollar, they say , they have to give equal share(Bribe) to some officials in the Ministry. Why cant the ACC here Maldives take necessary action!!!!

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  14. The war has begun ! Political blame game & damage to the nation. And the news reporters who want to sell their paper at any cost.... While the alligator nations with cunning minds will do maximum damage they can!! FABI. ALI

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  15. Whereever there is a majority of a madlivian work force it reeks of ineffciency, lack of common sense and having no clue what the job entails.

    I was at a store today. It took the store clerk a 15 minutes to put an item into te bag wiegh it and put the sticker... not an isolated incident..

    Recently a high ranking officer in the government said Sri Lanka is not an island.. its a country...

    bunch of illeterate buffoons... who have no clu of who they are, their religous values... they are only good and stealing, lying and copulating like rabbits.

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  16. @MissIndia NewDelhi on Thu, 25th Jul 2013 3:47 PM

    "Your USELESS AND INCOMPETENT immigration department should employ some Indians to run the visa system."

    We have found that Indians are very good at cleaning toilets. But thank you for your interest and we will keep you posted if any future vacancies arise.

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  17. Shame on Maldives. Horrendeous place to live and work. A sick, twisted and deeply psychotic society full of people in Male living like rats on top of each other all going nuts at the same time. My one year there heading an international organization was misery...worse place I ever lived (and I'm comparing it to DR Congo and a few other choice spots). Get your acts together. Foreigners should clear out and let the Maldivians stew in their own mess.

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  18. This is the worst country I've ever visited. People are illiterate & mentally challenged, No wonder the country is a slum. i really wish some country could drop a bomb and destroy this country forever.

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  19. It is good that news report contained instances of US and UK citizen being harassed as well. Otherwise, people here at this forum would just dismiss this news saying it is yet another Indian propaganda news. Now we all know that Maldivian immigration is fair to all - be it a white British or a brown Indian. Bravo!

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  20. he he he Indians to run Maldives immigration already because of these donkeys Dubai and Qatar airports are getting tons of complaints daily ...even these Indian donkeys treat their own natioanls in Qatar airport like shits because of of their Indian standard....finally it will take 15 minutes to understand their INGLSH..THESE DONKEYS ARE ONLY GOOD IN CLEANING TOILETS IN ARAB LANDS ,,,,

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  21. Before you dumb retards criticise the INGLSH of Indians, you need to go to a proper school. The comments here seem to be made by semi literates for whom English is probably picked up second hand when the tourists give their orders for food and drink. For proper English see any of my previous comments.
    You dimwitted people should show a bit more respect for Indian professionals without whom the Maldives would be another Somalia.
    We run your health service
    We run your education service
    We can straighten out your HOPELESSLY INCOMPETENT IMMIGRATION SERVICE too.

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  22. Go an see Indian airports ..rats and insects are running in waiting halls..donkeys can`t clean their own yards ..are advising others..respect for Indian professionals...because of your Kuwalidy(quality)??? ..65% Indian medical doctors failed in British exams...while colleges teach Grade 12 in Asian countries this donkey land offer degree at collge ..even African countries are not accepting this...by the way what are the majority of Indian donkeys doing in Arab countries ..SIMPLY SWEEPING STREETS AND CLEANING TOILETS which is labelled as a job exclusively for Dalits in India ...dirts have no shame do these dalit jobs in Middle East and Europe???? Even Bangladesh nationals know how to behave in Europe not donkey Indians looking at flashy cars and white girla with open mouth ..by the way how many rapes in Delhi today???

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  23. Indian donkeys who gave their country to an Italian ..illiterate ex-barmaid are advising others...Indian donkeys who worship corruption and Europeans have not right to talk about others...this India has to day become a laughing stock in the world....recently chinese defence chief has warned dhoti clad ..so called Indian defence minister while this clown visited China ...this is your respect today...1000s of Bangladeshies and Nepalies are entering India daily what is your professional (???) immigration people are doing except accepting few hunders rupees and allow them?Many Bangadeshies in India today can vote in Indian elections because of your donkeys

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  24. so from immigration's failure- to bombing maldives- and its education system? You guys are not so bad compared to the mullahs committing suicide bombing in the name of jihad.

    Maldives today faces a problem; blind for half witted people. Corruption as an entity. Cost of living in Male averages from 1000 USD to 2000 USD (possibly more) on a monthly scale.. rent, food, power, water. The average govt salaries r 4500MVR i think.. m not sure because i work in private sector.

    A customs officer or in this case,lets say an emmigration officer has a salary of maximum 8000 MVR (with all bonus and whatever cents that can be put into it) but amazingly he owns, 2 cars, 2 motorbikes and a high class apartment in the centre of the city. Still no questions? Ask a lawyer why he takes any case...its always for the money. never for humanitarian efforts.

    Immigration and customs r among the highest rated corrupt areas in the govt.if an officer catch u with incomplete paper work, he can hold u back. (but after reading that a ticket was torn infront of expat, that is too much. that is illiterate, disrespectful act for a social servant to commit)in accountable cases, the employer calls the immig officer and settle the matter under the table.. he has to pay immigration officer a bribe possibly smaller than what he has to pay MIRA. works everytime...y? he needs the money to live on this purposely expensive piece of land.

    MissINDIAnewhatever- the literacy rate in Maldives is higher than india.. the country is socially and technologically above india though we have no thoughts for ballistic missile development while our nation is still starving for the momentum like urs.

    for the benefit of a certain class within Male; rather Maldives, we do not have rental regulations, do not have proper corruption handling institutions, do not have laws to control and facilitate expat workers who are a majority in our work force.business tycoons like current presidential candidate gasim ibrahim sat on the parliament speaker seat to finalize the labor law.. a conflict of interest which ever way we put it; knowing he himself is one of the biggest employer. The problem with Maldives is its leaders. money hungry, self proclaimed, selfish bunch of lunatics.

    if they form an anti corruption commission, then the leading chief would be the most corrupt between them.If they start a project, the only thing they think of is money embezzlement by which ever means necessary..

    All these for only one cause: MONEY which has no control and no regulation in our forsaken country.

    MISSINDAWHATSISNAME- please fight for a worthy cause like domestic abuse to expat workers/ rape and sexual harassment.. u have better Inglish than most Indians.... why not open a blog and try to make events social rather than be the fanatic critic here.. as a maldivian i am fed up of this nation. A nation that has never failed to disappoint its citizens

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