The Government is to restrict permission for expatriate workers in Sri Lanka by directing Government Agents to first ascertain whether locally qualified personnel are available. It is only thereafter that foreign personnel assigned by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) will be given work permits to serve, in terms of new guidelines.
These guidelines were issued by the Government on Wednesday. In terms of these, only exceptions to this rule will be the positions of a head or deputy of the NGOs concerned.
A series of restrictions have also been imposed.
Hereafter foreigners will be granted residence visas only for a maximum of three years to work in Sri Lanka, under the new guidelines. At present, such visas are renewable annually on the recommendations of the organisation concerned.
The Ministry of Internal Administration has sent a circular regarding the new rules to all ministries, Provincial Chief Secretaries, Government Agents/District Secretaries, heads of departments and Sri Lanka’s diplomatic missions abroad.
Under the new rules, foreigners will be required to submit a security clearance report from the security authorities of their respective countries and they will be forbidden from engaging in any political or unlawful activity during their stay in Sri Lanka.
In the circular, the Ministry said that while acknowledging the contribution made by NGOs or INGOs operating in Sri Lanka towards reconstruction and rehabilitation activities during the disaster periods, it was necessary to streamline procedures for granting of visas to such expatriates working for these organizations.
The Controller-General of Immigration and Emigration may carry out any investigation including security concerns in consultation with the Ministry of Defence or intelligence agencies before granting entry or residence visas. When the applicant gets a clearance certificate or work permit issued by the Ministry of Defence, visas will be granted for the validity period of the certificate.
In cases where it has been found that the expatriates or dependents have engaged in any unlawful or political activity during the stay in Sri Lanka, the Immigration and Emigration Controller General will take immediate action to cancel the visa of such expatriate and deport him or her with immediate effect.
According to the circular, the Attorney General will also initiate legal action with the assistance of Police against an expatriate who violates the law before any decision is taken by the Controller to deport the expatriate.
For organizations that are working in the provinces, the Government Agent, the District Secretary or Divisional Secretaries should make preliminary recommendations for visa requests of NGOs functioning in their areas. They have been asked to ensure that the NGO requesting a visa for an expatriate, has initially attempted to recruit locally and has been unable to find a suitable person locally due to unavailability of required manpower/expertise in the country.
This will be applicable to posts other than the posts of Chief and Deputy Chief of the organization. The concept here is that NGOs should recruit locally as far as possible and should only find expertise for the posts which cannot be filled locally due to unavailability of suitable candidates, the circular points out.
Foreign nationals who arrive on entry or prior visas should apply for residence visas within one month upon arrival.
The ministry has told all parties concerned to ensure strict compliance with these rules.