KUALA LUMPUR: Red tape is compelling the construction industry into employing illegal immigrants, all because it takes up to eight months for applications for work permits to be processed. With such delays and contractual obligations to be met, many have opted to take a chance by employing those without proper documents. Facts and figures outlining the delay were presented at a high-powered industry meeting where senior government officials were present. In March, the Master Builders Association of Malaysia (MBAM) invited officials from the Human Resources Ministry, the Construction Industry Development Board (CIBD), the Immigration Department and Pemandu for a meeting with a view to ironing out problems. However, after six months, industry sources there has hardly been any improvement, and contractors take the risk in employing workers without credentials for fear of delaying their projects. At that meeting, said a source, members of the industry pointed out the shortcomings and suggested ways to fast-track the process. "They listened to our woes, all took notes and went away but there has been no change," he added. "Sometimes", says a contractor, "we get a small job which has to be completed in six months. But if we go through the process, we cannot meet the deadline. So, what choice are we left with?" According to documents made available to theSun, the delay starts at the first stage – where the contractor has to show the Letter of Award to the Human Resources Ministry via the state Manpower Department. As a pre-requisite, an advertisement has to be placed with Jobs Malaysia website and if there are no local takers, the department will issue a recommendation letter stating the number of foreign workers allowed to be recruited. This could take up to two months. Then, there is another bottleneck where work permit applications have to be submitted to the Home Ministry. Interviews will be conducted and if the applications are for more than 10 workers, this could take up to two weeks. Once this is approved, only then can workers be sourced from a foreign country. This is another lengthy process, which among others requires contractors to translate the approval letters into English before submission to the authorities in the source country. The translated letter must then be endorsed by the source country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and in Nepal, an endorsement by a High Court is mandatory. Only after this can the jobs be advertised and interviews be carried out by employers in the source country. Selected workers are then required to be sent for a medical check-up in the source country and the documents have to be sent back by the employment agent to Malaysia. This process takes at least two months upon which applications are made to the Immigration Department for "calling visas" for foreign workers. On receipt of this document, the foreign workers can arrive in Malaysia. The contractor is expected to prepare bank guarantees, Foreign Workers Compensation Scheme (FWCS), health insurance and submit application to the Home Ministry together with photocopies of passport, medical reports, photographs and other documents for approval. On receiving the "calling visas" the contractor has to send it to the agent in the source country who has to organise the work force and submit further documents to the Malaysian Embassy in the source country for endorsement. Only after this can air tickets be purchased for the workers. That is not the end of it. Once the workers arrive in Malaysia, the Immigration Department will only issue the temporary pass (Pas Lawatan Kerja Sementara), which is valid for three months, after local health screening and approval. But workers are not allowed to work at site without the CIDB issuing a "Green Card". This requires them to attend a course.