Foreign workers (left side of the table) with officials from the Division of Labor, Ministry of Justice. (Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Justice)

Fifty illegal foreign workers came out in the open to opt for legalization of their residence status in Palau through the amnesty program executed by the Division of Labor (DOL).

As of this writing, fifty foreign workers comprised of Filipinos, Bangladeshis, and an Indonesian, had approached the DOL since Friday, November 1.

The DOL is urging more illegal foreign workers to come out and register until December 30 to be able to benefit from the program, otherwise, the regular labor law will apply to them which might lead to their deportation or penalty of fines.

Those who have registered will benefit from issuance of pertinent documents free of charge and those who have illegal status and do not have an employment will also get help to be employed.

There are 134 potential employers who have expressed interest in hiring the workers listed under the amnesty program, according to Special Assistant to the Vice President for the Bureau of Immigration and Labor (BOIL), Portia K. Franz.

Franz, however, clarified that the employers hiring people under the amnesty program will still go through the regular employment process.

Franz revealed that most of the problems noted among those who avail of the amnesty program were the non-renewal of working permits despite having an active employment.

Meanwhile, Elway Ikeda, also a Special Assistant to the Vice President at the Bureau of Immigration and Labor, said that they found out that some of the foreign workers did not renew their permits for a long time because they are working at another company that is not indicated in their contracts, making it difficult for the DOL to monitor them.

President Tommy Remengesau, Jr. signed on September 17, 2019 the Executive Order No. 428, granting a two-month amnesty period for non-resident workers who are currently working in Palau with expired visas or have no legal status for them to be able to comply with the law.

The EO bared that there are currently over 150 non-resident workers in Palau that have no legal immigration status.

On top of the amnesty, a ‘grace period’ commencing December 30, 2019 and culminating on June 30, 2020 will also be given to those who registered at the DOL within the given time frame.

During the grace period, registered foreign workers without legal status will not be arrested, deported, or penalized if they are looking for ‘lawful’ jobs during the allotted time and will report to the DOL for at least once a month. Those who will gain employment during this period will also be issued work visas for free.