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Immigration FAQs for Third-Country Nationals (TCNs)

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Immigration FAQs for Third Country Nationals

As a law firm, we see many scenarios of mistreatment and issues arising around the topics of immigration, work permits refusal, unjustly terminations, visa refusals and more.  Therefore, we have come up with a set of Frequently Asked Question revolving around these topics to assist any TCNs with all their queries.

Sciberras Advocates is a law firm, and our work is limited to legal work such as appeals on work permit refusals, visa refusal, overturning travel bans and any sort of employment matters and disputes. 

Prior to your arrival in Malta

What about Malta?
Malta as a country and economy has exceeded it’s expectations in the past ten years and there has been an increasing demand for foreign workers to fill the lack of local workforce. Malta, being the fastest developing country in Europe in terms of growth in the labour market and growth in population offers a number of career and work opportunities.

I want to come to work in Malta, can you find me a job?
Our law firm offers legal services and is not a recruitment agency company, we do not offer jobs. Legal services comprise of appeals and assistance with the various stakeholders namely Identity Malta Agency, Jobsplus and Immigration Police, such as work permit appeals, visa appeals, return orders appeals. If you have an employer who does not know how to fill up the paperwork, we can offer administration services however we do not represent any agency and are not affiliated with anyone.

How can one find work in Malta?
There are many reputable companies who need workers on a regularly basis, mostly being in the catering and hospitality industry, as well as in the construction and manual work sectors. There are also a number of service industries that require skilled people such as doctors, nurses, carers, accountants, clerical positions and similar professions. If you are an unskilled worker, you need to ensure that the job you are applying for in Malta matches the job description on your workbook. If you are a qualified individual you need to ensure that your qualifications meet the right standards. This can be checked from here: https://mfhea.mt/academic-qualifications/.

My employer is requesting money to employ me. Do I pay him?
You should never sign for any job that requests you to pay money. That goes against the fundamental human rights of your right to work and is equivalent to human trafficking. You should not accept any job which requests you to pay.

What is the procedure to apply for the Single Work Permit?
The procedure to apply for work in Malta for TCNs is called the Single Work Permit application. The employer or agency will apply for you on a ‘still abroad’ basis. The application is straightforward and you need to fill the form and attach all relevant documents. Normally the employer will prepare the form with your input and submit to obtain an Approval in Principle letter. Please note that this is not your completed work permit. You will have to finalise the application process once you arrive in Malta.

How long does it take to get a work-permit?
Typically, from the day of submission with Identity Malta, it usually takes 30-60 days to get approved. Following this, you have six months’ time to travel to Malta, subject to visa clearance. Overall, typically applicants take up to nine months from the start of the process to arrive to Malta. Unfortunately, many Consulates and Embassies are unable to manage the influx of visa applications and are slow to give you a visa appointment. Therefore, the moment you receive your Approval in Principle Letter it is important to look for the closest Consulate or Embassy to start the visa process. The visa application is normally split into two phases: paperwork submission and interview. Each Consulate or Embassy have their own requirements to apply for a working visa in Malta. A high number of visa applications are submitted regularly, however even though Malta has a shortage of workers, the country still needs to select the correct applicants for the jobs to ensure that no one ends up in an incorrect position and is then requested to leave Malta soon after arriving. It is also important that you have good knowledge of the English language and that you have arranged for accomodation for your stay in Malta. Once you manage to get the Visa, you will have a permission to travel to Malta.

How do I know the status of my application with Identity Malta Agency?
As a prospective employee you should receive an email with your status. It is important you follow-up on any instructions from the emails you receive. Never ignore an email from Identity Malta Agency.

What do I do in case that my application for work is not accepted?
If you or your employer receive an email by Identity Malta Agency stating that your application cannot be processed, you have a right to appeal with the Immigration Appeals Board. You must consult an immigration specialist law firm like Sciberras Advocates who can understand the case and guide you accordingly. Similarly, if you receive a refusal letter you have three days’ time to appeal at the Immigration Appeals Board. You need to submit the application by hand. Sciberras Advocates can assist you if you provide us with the complete file. We can review the file and appeal accordingly.

What happens when a visa is refused?
If a visa for work permit is refused, you have a right to appeal within 15 days with the Immigration Appeals Board. Appeals can also be sent via email. It is advisable to consult an immigration specialist law firm like Sciberras Advocates who can understand the case and guide you accordingly. In case of rejection, Sciberras Advocates can assist you if you provide us with the complete file. We can review the file and appeal accordingly.

How long do appeals take to get an answer?
Appeals in Malta are done in writing. Once the appeal is submitted, the Appellant is given another 15 days to submit any further documentation to substantiate his appeal. At the same time, the various stakeholders (Identity Malta, Jobsplus, Immigration Police, Central Visa Unit) are asked to give their feedback depending on the type of appeal. Typically appeals take between 6 to 9 months to get a final definite answer. The reason for this backlog is that there are several appeals which is growing due to the influx of third country workers wanting to work in Malta, and also the stakeholders and the Board are limited in human resources.

Is there a possibility to fast-track appeals?
Unfortunately, there are no fast-track systems for appeals. There are hundreds of new appeals every month and there is a huge backlog. You cannot pay extra to fast track the appeal process.

How do I renew the appeal?
Appeals are not automatic. Once you file an appeal it is in your interest to make sure that this appeal is heard and that you are still interested to proceed with the appeal. In this case, when you make an appeal, typically you will have a date stamp that is valid for two or three months. After that, it is in your interest to keep emailing the Immigration Appeals Board or visiting personally the Immigration Appeals Board on the first floor of City Arcade, Valletta and renew your interest to receive a decision.

How do I check the status of my appeal?
If you want to check the status of your visa appeal, you can email here: [email protected]. If you want to check the status of other appeal, you can email the Immigration Appeals Board at MHSE: [email protected].

What happens if I get a negative answer to my appeal?
In that case you can still have a chance for a final redress at the Inferior Courts of Malta in it’s Civil Jurisdiction. You should consult an immigration specialist law firm like Sciberras Advocates for this type of appeal.

Do you offer certification services for the visa application?
Yes, our lawyers can assist in certifying documents, subject to verification of authenticity.

Arriving in Malta

What happens when I arrive in Malta?
Once in Malta, you need to fulfil the final steps to complete the conditions of your work permit application and obtain the Maltese Residence Card. The work permit and residence card will be valid for one year. It is important that during the first weeks in Malta and beyond you ensure that:
a) You are correctly registered with Jobsplus
b) You are getting a payslip every month
c) You ensure that your National Insurance contributions are being paid by your employer
d) You are getting the correct amount of leave and overtime rates
e) You are being given an FS3 (your annual statement of earnings)
f) You are not terminated without being informed or not given advance notice to find a new job.

It’s important you understand that your work permit depends on your engagement with the company, so if at any point you are terminated without being informed, unless you can find another job in a short time you will be expelled from Malta because your residence card, which is tied to your job, ceases to be valid. In case of cease of employment letter (letter of employment termination), Sciberras Advocates can assist you to review your situation in case of unfair dismissal.

Can I work before receiving my Maltese Residence Card?
In principle, you cannot work before you have your card, however when you take your biometric and photo, Identity Malta Agency give you a letter and with this letter you can request a temporary authorisation to work. This will be deemed valid for you to start working.

What if I am stopped in my workplace or pulled over by the police?
There is nothing to worry about, if you always carry your Residence Card, there should be no issues. It is important that if you work permit covers a specific job with a specific employer, you are doing so. Working illegally is subject to detention and removal orders and it will be very difficult to challenge it in the courts.

Can I travel for holiday whilst in Malta?
The residence card gives you a right to travel in Schengen zone. However, if you are planning a trip abroad, it would be advisable to inform your employer in advance and also obtain permission in writing (dates of permitted leave) and carry it with you at the airport in case immigration police stop you on your way out. It is important that you have a return ticket too.

What about renewal after one year?
At the tenth month of your stay, you will need to prepare the paperwork for the renewal of your work permit. This process is not complicated however it is important to be done on time as often residence card permits are rescidended on administrative manners by way of oversight.

Changing jobs in Malta

What happens if I am unhappy with my job?
Remember the contract that you signed before coming to Malta and remember the important clauses. You cannot decide to terminate your contract without reading the fine lines of the contract. Your employer has invested in you and therefore you should follow the contract. You still have an opportunity to leave however it is advisable that first you have found another job. Changing jobs for a third country national is not straightforward. When changing jobs, you only have a 10-day window to apply between termination and application. Furthermore, when you apply for a new job, it does not automatically mean you can start working straight away. You need to get a new employment license and approval from Identity Malta Agency, and this takes some time. Whilst you can legally reside in Malta when changing jobs, the application does not give you automatic rights to work.

Is this 10-day rule enforced?
The 10-day rule is a strictly observed by the Agency and the relevant stakeholders (such as the Immigration Police) and ending up in an irregular position is a time consuming and costly ordeal to overturn it. You risk being deported or expelled from the country and given a three-year ban from returning to Schengen. Remember that ignorance of the law is no excuse to justify a stay without permit. Whilst the authorities can be practical and overturn bans in genuine situations, most of the times they will not accept such appeals. It is best to consult an immigration specialist such as Sciberras Advocates if you are in a similar situation.

What if my employer is mistreating me or underpaying me?
If you feel your employer is mistreating you, it is best to consult an immigration and employment lawyer specialist such as Sciberras Advocates. Your case would be a bit tricky because if you report him to the respective authorities and the employer decides to terminate you, and do not find a job within 10 days, you end up being in an irregular position in Malta. You can still open cases against your employer with the respective tribunals and at least get paid what you deserve. You need to be in Malta when you file your complaints.

What if my employer terminated me without informing me?
It is not the first time that employers terminate employees, send the Jobsplus termination form a month late and back date it. This would put you in an automatic overstay position and make you irregular in Malta. In that case you need to speak to an immigration and employer lawyer specialist such as Sciberras Advocates to see if there is a chance of redress. In most cases you have a good chance to appeal such wrongful termination however this is a time-consuming process, and most probably you will not be able to apply for another job in Malta until this case is first cleared.

More information about immigration services can be found here:
https://sciberras.legal/practice-areas/immigration-law/

More information about conditions of work can be found here:
https://sciberras.legal/practice-areas/employment-labour-law/

For assistance on immigration issues, employment issues and any type of work permit appeals, visa appeals or return orders appeal, please contact us on [email protected].

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