The changing world of work permits: what you need to know

Author: Laure de Panafieu and Denise Bryan | Date: 17 Feb 2016

Working visa laws have been relaxed in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam

Last year Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam took a number of steps to relax their respective visa rules on foreign manpower.
This is part of the ASEAN Economic Community’s vision of creating an integrated and strongly cohesive regional economy. One of its main objectives is facilitating a seamless movement of goods, services, investment, capital and skilled labour within ASEAN to boost regional trade and production networks.
Employers in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam – and especially HR professionals will all welcome the changes, which will also make these countries more attractive to foreign investment.
In contrast, employers in Singapore remain subject to tightened immigration rules. This follows measures the government has implemented in the last two years in response to calls from the population for Singaporean jobs for Singaporeans.
Experts Laure de Panafieu, Denise Bryan and Sutthipong Koohasaneh from law firm Linklaters, Ani Simanjuntak from Widyawan & Partners and Linh Bui from Allens, highlight some of the big changes and their impact for HR professionals.
The changes
The Ministry of Manpower has issued Regulation 35/2015, amending some of the controversial rules that were previously applicable to the employment of expatriates in Indonesia. These include Regulation 16/2015, which required non-resident directors and commissioners of Indonesian organisations to hold a work permit, even if they were not domiciled in Indonesia, and the implementation of a foreign-to-local employee ratio of 1:10.
The Department of Employment issued a notification regarding the types of activities that it does not consider ‘work’ under the Alien Working Act 2008.
The Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs issued a draft decree with the intention of revising the laws on work permits, to ease the employment and work-permit conditions applicable to foreign workers in Vietnam. These new provisions were due to take effect in the last quarter of 2015, but at the time of writing their enactment is still pending.
What those changes mean
  • The requirement to have 10 Indonesian employees for every one expatriate has been eliminated. The authorities have not yet indicated whether a new ratio will be adopted in replacement
  • A business visa will be sufficient for foreigners to undertake a number of activities in Indonesia, such as attending meetings, giving speeches, attending training and lectures in Indonesia. This replaces the requirement for a short-term/temporary work permit
  • Work permits are no longer required for non-resident directors and commissioners of Indonesian organisations
A work permit is no longer required for a foreigner temporarily entering Thailand to undertake a number of activities, such as: attending conferences and seminars, exhibitions or trade shows (unless representing the organisation at a trade fair) and visiting clients or attending business negotiations.
As and when the new provisions are adopted:
  • Processing time for work permits will be quicker – reduced from two weeks to seven business days, according to the current draft decree
  • Work permits will not be required for foreigners coming to work in Vietnam for less than 30 consecutive days
  • Applications for work-permit renewals will be accepted earlier, ie 45 days before the expiration date of the existing work permit, instead of 15 days under current rules
  • The processes for reissuing work permits when an employee changes location, job or employer will be simplified