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Work Employment Visa in Brunei: Explained

Navigating the labyrinthine world of work and employment visas in Brunei can be as intricate as a shadow puppet play.

But don’t sweat it!

This article is your backstage pass to demystifying the process and setting you on the path to professional fulfillment.

Benefits Of Living In Brunei

Brunei has one of the highest standards of living in the world, thanks to its rich oil and gas reserves. The inhabitants of this tiny state pay no income tax, and healthcare and education are accessible to citizens.

Brunei is an absolute monarchy currently ruled by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (crowned in 1968), the world’s second-richest royal (after the King of Thailand).

A British Protectorate until 1984, Brunei has since been transformed into an industrialized and developed nation.

Two-thirds of Brunei’s people are Muslim and adhere to strict Islamic traditions and culture. Indeed, Brunei was the first country in Southeast Asia to introduce Sharia law into its penal code.

The Sultan rules from the opulent golden-domed Istana Nurul Iman palace, located in Brunei’s capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, which is thought to be the world’s largest residential palace.

Culture

Brunei’s culture reflects that of neighboring Malaysia, as its principal ethnicity is 65% Malay.

The family is revered in Bruneian society, and members of the extended family are expected to care for and respect each other while deferring to the Sultan and the majority religion of Islam.

Young children are taught to respect their elders and not question their authority.

The concept of shame and honor is of utmost importance to Bruneians, who are known to be highly polite and respectful. Islam is central to daily life and activities, although religions such as Christianity and Buddhism are tolerated among minority populations.

Popular Activities

Brunei is an affluent country with many sites of historical interest, beautiful parks, and activities that capitalize on the country’s relatively untouched rainforest.

Hiking in mountainous areas or taking a stroll and some light exercise in one of the country’s parks, such as Tasek Lama in the center of Bandar, are popular activities with locals and tourists alike.

Here, you will see monkeys flitting through the trees and local families taking their children to one of the many playgrounds. Sports are popular in Brunei, particularly football, golf, and tennis.

Marathon running is also enjoyed, with record-breaking prize money available. Shopping in one of Brunei’s exclusive air-conditioned malls or browsing the bustling local markets is also a beloved weekend activity.

Alcohol is prohibited, so expats will find no bars or nightclubs, although Brunei has a thriving restaurant culture.

Food and drink

Neighboring Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore heavily influence Brunei’s cuisine. Food is strictly halal, and pork is avoided, though not banned for the country’s minority and expat populations.

Popular dishes include beef rendang, a spicy coconut, and lemongrass stew, voted one of the world’s tastiest dishes.

Other dishes include nasi lemak, a rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves (usually served for breakfast), and ambulate, sticky balls of sago starch dipped in a fruit sauce.

Bruneian staples include rice, noodles, chicken, and seafood in spicy sauces.

Alcohol is banned in Brunei, so locals stick to coffee, tea, and a unique drink called air batu camp (ABC), a sweet drink made from ice, sago pearls, red beans, grass jelly, and noodles.

Languages

The official language of Brunei is Standard Malay, similar to Malaysia and Indonesia’s standard languages. However, the local dialect of Melayu Brunei (Brunei Malay) is the most widely spoken language and is a variation of Standard Malay.

English is the second most spoken language, and the majority of Bruneians are proficient in the language. English is used in business and courts and is taught as a first language from the fourth year of primary school, with core subjects being taught solely in English.

The minority of Chinese people in Brunei speak Hokkien, Hakka, and Cantonese, with Mandarin being the language of instruction in Chinese schools. Arabic, the language of the Quran, is also widely understood and is used by Islamic scholars.

Accents And Dialects

Being a small country, accents are uniform. However, several officially recognized indigenous languages still need to be put in use, such as Dusun, Belait, and Tutong, although these are gradually dying out in favor of Standard Malay and English.

English-speaking expats struggling with Malay will be OK making themselves understood in Brunei.

Weather

Brunei has a tropical and humid climate with heavy rainfall throughout the year. Although it is hot all year, the driest months are between June and September, with the heaviest rainfall and monsoons between October and February.

The hottest months are March and April, with temperatures rising to over 45°C in some areas. Due to the high rainfall and humidity, it’s always advisable to wear lightweight clothing and rainwear when visiting Brunei.

The country is mainly unaffected by earthquakes and flooding and is considered a safe place to live weather wise compared with neighboring Indonesia.

Safety And Security

Crime rates in Brunei are low, and crimes against tourists and expats are uncommon. However, strict laws surround alcohol and drug use, and harsh penalties are handed down to offenders.

Travelers to Brunei should also be aware that blasphemy, homosexuality, and adultery are illegal and carry heavy punishments.

Police in Brunei regularly conduct stop and searches on cars and people, so tourists should be aware of the strict laws before traveling.

However, as there are no bars and nightclubs, anti-social behavior is virtually non-existent, so expats with young children will find Brunei’s cities and towns safe places to be at any time of the day or night.

Employment Permits For Foreign Workers In Brunei

Brunei is among the most popular destinations for foreigners looking for career opportunities in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Over the years, the country has emerged as a wealthy economy fueled by the largest oilfields in Southeast Asia. With a growing economy and English as its business language, the number of foreigners looking to work in Brunei has increased significantly.

Here is a brief explanation of the procedures and documents required for obtaining an employment permit in the country.

Generally, all foreigners traveling to Brunei for employment must obtain a valid employment visa and employment pass before entering the country. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule.

Foreigners from the following countries traveling to Brunei on a short-term business or professional visit may travel without an employment visa for a limited period:

  • Nationals of Cambodia, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Liechtenstein, Maldives, Myanmar, Norway, the People’s Republic of China, Philippines, Peru, Qatar, Switzerland, Thailand, Ukraine, and Vietnam may visit Brunei without an employment visa for 14 days.
  • Citizens of Australia, Iceland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Singapore, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and Ukraine can visit for 30 days without an employment visa.
  • Citizens of the United States and the European Union are allowed a visa-free business visit for 90 days.

Cases eligible for a visa-free visit include cultural, technological, or scientific conferences, seminars or meetings, and unpaid participation in athletic or performing arts events or competitions.

Foreign workers traveling from other countries or visiting on a long-term business contract must obtain an employment visa authorized by the Department of Immigration and National Registration from a Brunei embassy or consulate.

What Are The Procedures and Documents Required To Obtain Employment Visas?

Recently, the government of Brunei introduced a new process for permitting foreign workers to be employed in the country—a foreign worker license, or Lesen Pekeria Asing (LPA).

The new process requires employers to register and advertise vacancies, receive clearance from Jobcentre Brunei, and obtain endorsement from the Employees Trust Fund (Tabung Amanah Pekerja or TAP) before applying for the license.

In addition, the employer or the company applying must be registered with the Registry of Companies and Business Names (ROCBN).

They must comply with the rules set out by the Department of Labor and the Department of Immigration and National Registration about the entry and recruitment of foreign workers into the country.

The documents required for an LPA are

  • Two copies of the foreign worker application form
  • A copy of the identity card and passport for each applicant, owner, or partner in the company
  • A copy of the valid passport for every applicant
  • Copies of approval letters from relevant government agencies (if applicable)
  • A list of local employees verified by the TAP
  • Verification of mandatory registration from Job Centre Brunei
  • A copy of the certificate equivalent to the occupation should the occupation require qualifications
  • A copy of the tenancy agreement for the office, business premises, or company and worker residence (if applicable)
  • In case of construction activities, attached copies of ongoing or upcoming projects

After the documentation requirements are met, the employer must make a payment of a security deposit to the finance unit of the Department of Labor to complete the procedure to obtain an LPA. The total processing time for an LPA is 14 days.

Visa Application

Upon the approval of an LPA, foreign workers must undergo a pre-employment medical examination at an accredited health center in the country, per the conditions set out by the Ministry of Health, Brunei.

Once the medical report is received and approved, foreign workers must file the following application documents:

  • An application letter from the employer to the Director of the Department of Immigration and National Registration
  • An employment pass application form
  • A visa application form
  • The employer’s labor license
  • Department of Labor Form 500
  • A passport recognized by the Director of the Department of Immigration and National Registration, with a validity of more than six months before entering the country.
  • Required fee

After the documents are verified, and the visa application is approved, the applicant may collect the work pass from the relevant Brunei diplomatic mission.

The pass is valid for two years and can be renewed for another two years. The processing time for an employment visa is five working days. 

Foreigners entering Brunei on an employment pass with a validity of more than three months are required to register with the national registration identity card system for a smart identity card, also known as Green Identity Card (IC).

This card must be renewed each time the employment pass is renewed or extended. The Department of Immigration and National Registration issues it.

Employers must note that under the new process, the Department of Labor will conduct a mandatory inspection three to six months after license approval instead of conducting it prior to the issuance of the license, as was done under the previous process.

How To Find A Job In Brunei?

Brunei is an appealing prospect for many expats: located in SE Asia, this tiny nation is one of the wealthiest countries in the world with a high standard of living and some commensurately high salaries, too.

You will find a range of jobs available, from education to banking, tourism, and the oil and gas sector. Skilled professionals are in demand: finding casual work could be a problem, although there are lower-paid openings in the hospitality industry.

You will need an Employment Permit if you want to work in Brunei, but it is possible to enter the country on another type of visa and then seek employment.

Some countries – Australia, the UK, and the USA – have reciprocal visa arrangements with Brunei, and you can enter the country without a visa for allocated periods (90 days in the case of the UK/USA).

Overseas employment is controlled via a quota system based on skills shortages. Your employment permit will, therefore, be for a specific amount of time and must be renewed after this point (it is illegal to work without one).

Any company which hires foreign nationals must pay a security deposit to the government.

You will also need to have a series of medical tests proving that you are fit to work (diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C will rule this out, for example, and so will pregnancy).

Expats in Brunei report that local bureaucracy can run slowly, and it can take up to a year to obtain your employment permit. Some expat workers wait until the permit is sorted out before relocating to the country.

Employment Websites

Many employment websites are designed to allow employers to post job requirements for a position to be filled and are commonly known as job boards.

Other employment sites offer employer reviews and career and job-search advice describing different job descriptions or employers.

Through a job website, a prospective employee can locate and fill out a job application or submit resumes over the Internet for the advertised position.

Nearly all major corporations use some form of Applicant Tracking System to handle job applications and manage resume data. The principal function of an ATS is to provide a central location and database for a company’s recruitment efforts.

ATS are built to better assist the management of resumes and applicant information.

The functionality of an ATS is not limited to data mining and collection; ATS applications in the recruitment industry include the ability to automate the Recruitment Process via a defined workflow.

Another benefit of an applicant tracking system is analyzing and coordinating recruitment efforts – managing the conceptual structure known as Human Capital.

A corporate career site or companyspecific job board module may be offered, allowing companies to provide opportunities to internal candidates prior to external recruitment efforts.

Candidates may be identified via pre-existing data or through information garnered through other means. This data is typically stored for search and retrieval processes—for example, the Brunei Shell Petroleum and Brunei Liquid Natural Gas websites.

Main Areas Of Work

Brunei has rich oil and gas deposits, so the country leads Asia in high living standards for its citizens. The extraction and processing of oil and gas are the basis of the country’s economy.

This industry employs the most significant number of expat workers. Your chances of getting a job with a high salary are great if you are a highly qualified specialist and have work experience in these areas.

Other industries are also developing and operating in Brunei: the pulp and paper industry, the production of mineral fertilizers, building materials, timber harvesting, and wood processing, and the production of consumer goods and food.

In addition, there are attractive vacancies in banking, education, tourism, hotel business, etc. If you are planning a trip to the country, then the ideal option is to buy a checklist

Applying For A Job

CVs are essential in Brunei, and it is recommended that you be as comprehensive as possible. Some job sites allow you to upload your CV and accompanying documents, such as your proof of qualifications.

Brunei is now under Sharia law, and some forms of freedoms of the West – such as LGBT relationships – are illegal in the country. This can affect your chances of employment. Some companies will also state that they prefer male workers.

Qualifications And Training

As with most nations, the more highly qualified you are, the better your chances of obtaining employment. Brunei’s primary industry is oil and gas, so if you have qualifications and experience in this sector, you may find suitable vacancies awaiting you.

If you plan to teach English, note that TEFL jobs may be limited. The country already has a high standard of English, and the educational system uses English as its primary language.

If you intend to seek work in the private educational system, you will need at least a Bachelor’s degree as well as a TEFL certificate.

Conclusion

You’re now armed with the knowledge you need to maneuver the Brunei work visa maze like a pro. Whether you’re a seasoned expat or a newbie, this guide is your compass, leading you straight to that elusive work visa.

Happy job-hunting!

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