New government rule on bank account catches migrant workers unawareA majority of people learn about the new provision after reaching foreign employment office only to get confused.
Last week, when Narayan Bahadur Thapa, a returnee migrant worker from Palpa, reached the Foreign Employment Office at Tahachal, Kathmandu, he was denied the labour permit.
Officials asked him to present the papers that showed he had his personal bank account. He had none. He said he had no idea about any such rule that required him to have a bank account.
Thapa, who had returned after working for three years in Dubai, had completed the online application process for the work permit he required to fly back.
“I spend hours in the queue and when my turn came, officials asked for details of my bank account,” said Thapa. “In the online system, I had mentioned my sister’s bank account details. They said I have to have my own account.”
Thapa is among the majority of Nepali migrant workers who are confused about the latest rule that requires them to produce bank details for obtaining a work permit to work abroad.
The new rule came into force early this month, but not many migrant workers know about this because of the authorities’ failure to disseminate information about the provision.
A majority of the workers visiting the office for the work permits are clueless.
Shiva Bhushal from Chitwan, who would soon be going to work in the United States, also learned about the new rule after reaching the office.
“Most of the people coming here are not aware of the new rule about personal bank accounts. I looked for the notice online, but could not find anything,” said Bhushal. “Only after coming here, I got to know that there is a rule like this.”
According to Bhushal, a middle-man told him about the new rule.
The Department of Foreign Employment enforced the rule on September 2 and announced that all the migrant workers must have a bank account before going to work abroad.
When the government introduced this new rule, the motive was to bring back remittance using the formal channels, minimise the incidents of any potential fraud of their hard-earned money and keep tabs on money laundering.
However, the rule hit a snag on the first day of its implementation after most of the aspirant workers visiting the department were unaware of it.
For the migrant workers’ convenience, the department then tweaked some provisions, making it voluntary, which meant they did not mandatorily need personal bank accounts.
“We have not yet made it mandatory. When workers visit the office seeking labour permits, we encourage them to have their own bank accounts,” said Suresh Joshi, deputy chief of the Foreign Employment Office.
Only a handful of people like Mohammad Ayub from Siraha were at the office with all the documents, including bank account details.
“My agent had told me that I needed a bank account. I opened a new bank account only a few days back,” said Ayub, a returnee from Qatar. “I don’t know what will happen with this. I find it useless and a waste of money.”
In view of the difficulties migrant workers were facing, some banks have set up their temporary counters on the premises of the Foreign Employment Office. According to their estimates, on average 200 people are opening bank accounts at these counters every day.
Kabita Dhital, a senior assistant at Garima Bikash Bank, said they wanted to assist these workers by giving instant services.
“Most of the migrant workers are not aware of the new rule. Nor do they know what benefits their own bank accounts can bring,” said Dhital. “They want it only because officials at the employment office say so.”