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MALTATODAY 5 December 2021

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9 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 5 DECEMBER 2021 NEWS Stop the spread of infection Stay home if you are sick Wash your hands regularly Cover your coughs and sneezes C M Y CM MY CY CMY K Stop the Spread Campaign (Newpaper Half pg advert) 2021.pdf 1 02/12/2021 13:12:45 Visa cartels block Indian workers seeking Malta jobs PAUL COCKS STAFF shortages in Malta's High Commission in India, as well as a 'mafia' of private middleman controlling the flow of visa ap- plicants in India, have resulted in huge delays in visa processing for people wanting to come to work in Malta. People trying to book an ap- pointment directly at the High Commission to process a visa ap- plication are now being told that no one can see them before April 2022 at the earliest. But while there is not enough staff at the High Commission to process applications, private placement agencies are making a lot of money on applicants who go through them to obtain a Maltese working visa. And these agencies are placing multiple bookings with the High Commission and then selling them on at high profit margins to their clients, to get the maximum pay-out from visa applicants who can pay more to get their visa fast- er. Major agencies like VFS Global and Akbartravels offer processing services for various countries' vi- sas, including Malta. VFS Global even claims on its website to be "the official partner of the Embas- sy of Malta in India". There is no suggestion these companies are carrying out irregular practices. In the meantime, Maltese busi- nesses are becoming desperate as they struggle to fill vacancies and the authorities need to take immediate action to facilitate and streamline the application pro- cess for foreign workers, SMEs Chamber president Abigail Ma- mo has claimed. She confirmed that workers from India where finding it very difficult to get a working visa. "India – and Pakistan too, which is served by the same embassy in India – are crucial markets for our economy because this is where we source most of the foreign em- ployees needed to fill vacancies in Malta," Mamo said. "The authorities need to take immediate action now, because this situation is now much, much worse than it has ever been and many business owners are be- coming desperate." Mamo said employers and ap- plicants alike were also finding it difficult to navigate and under- stand the health regulations in place at any one time. With global health and trav- el regulations changing daily as countries come to grip with the Omicron strain of COVID-19, many visa applicants are finding it difficult to fulfil all requirements established by local health author- ities. There were even cases where the status of a country changed to red while a person's visa appli- cation was being processed. The prospective employer was told that the application was therefore denied and that the whole process had to be restarted from scratch. But this is not so easy to do for many of the applicants. If they go directly to the High Commission, they face a wait of four months and more for their visa applica- tion to start being processed. And if they go to a processing agency, they face hefty – often prohibitive – costs. VFS Global does not list prices on its website but Akbartravels lists the price for a Maltese as starting from 7,899 Indian Ru- pees (€93) around three and a half times the average monthly salary in India, currently around 2,215 Indian Rupees (€26) per month. The price for the visa can vary depending what services are booked through the agency. Pre- mium options include expedited application process, one-on-one service, after-hour processing and door delivery. Malta's High Commission in New Delhi

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