Sunday, May 17, 2009

Company Formation in Bangladesh - Part V
Investor Visas and Work Permits
May 17, 2009

(For an index of all of my Company Formation in Bangladesh blogs, click here: Forming a Company in Bangladesh)

In order to apply for my work permit, I needed an investor visa; in order to apply for my investor visa, I needed my Board of Investment (BOI) registration letter. As I mentioned in my previous post (Company Formation in Bangladesh - Part 4: BOI Registration), I submitted my BOI registration documents. They told me it would be ready in 10-12 business days, so I went back about 15 business days later to pick it up. They hadn't even started it. They told me to come back in two days; which I did. Again, they hadn't even started it and told me to come back in two more days.

Though I was quite annoyed, I remained positive and upbeat, but I firmly refused to leave that day until they had given me the BOI registration letter. I sat in Deputy Director Mizanur Rahman's office until he got annoyed and kicked me out. (For the Industrial Side of the BOI, this is who you talk to about getting BOI registration.) Then I followed my registration folder around making sure that it got to the next person in line andthat it never sat on anyone's desk longer than a few minutes. They were all very annoyed with me, but I was always friendly, so they didn't get angry. The document was almost done, but then the power went out at 4:30pm. I knew the power would not come on again before they left at 5pm, so I reluctantly agreed to go home that night after making them promise me that they would finish it first thing the next morning.

The next day I came back at 10:00am (a half an hour before the BOI opens to visitors) and again sat in the manager's office until I did finally get my registration document around 1pm.

With my BOI Registration Letter in hand, I was ready to apply for my investor visa ("PI Visa").

Investor Visa
You apply for your investor visa at the Board of Investment. It is on the same floor as registration (18th Floor), but you need to speak with Deputy Director Nafriza Shayma. Fortunately, she does seem genuinely concerned if you do not get your documents in the alotted time. Unfortunately, her staff is not as on top of things as she is.

To apply for your investor visa, you need to submit the following to Nafriza's department:
  • Cover letter addressed to Mamdood Alamgir (for the Industrial side of BOI) explaining that you are applying for a PI visa which lists the documents that you are submitting; also say where the letter of recommendation should be sent. It can only be to one location and it needs to be to a Bangladesh embassy or consulate in your home country (i.e. "the Bangladesh Embassy in New York.) (You need to return to your home country to get your investor visa. You can not get it in Bangladesh and you can not get it in a nearby country like Thailand or India; believe me, I tried!)
  • Copy of the BOI Registration Letter
  • Copy of the decision of the Board of Directors of your company to employ you (needs to be signed by the Chairman and Managing Director and stamped with your corporate seal.) This letter must list your name, what position you will have, your annual salary, housing allowance, "dearness" allowance, overseas allowance, house rent, conveyance allowance, entertainment allowance, bonus, other fringe benefits, monthly expenditure for household expenses like servants, car, club subscriptions, etc., and any remittance. (Only list those items that are applicable.)
  • Copy of your company memorandum & articles of association
  • Photocopy of your passport (all of the pages)
  • Several attested (signed and stamped with corporate seal) passport photos
They told me it would take 7-10 days to complete. I came back on the 11th day, and of course it was not done. So again, I waited all day and Nafriza made sure that her team finished it for me that day. (She was quite polite and offered me tea which made waiting much less frustrating than the first time around.)

After I had the letter, I had to go back to the U.S. to get my visa. I went to the Embassy in New York. To apply for my visa in New York, I needed:
  • Local Visa Application Form
  • Cover letter explaining why I wanted the visa. I included all of the particulars of my company: company name, company address, names of managing director and chairman, certificate of incorporation number, trade license number, tax ID number, and BOI registration number. I also wrote a flowery paragraph about how much I love Bangladesh and its people. (Which I did on recommendation of a friend and I am happy to say that it was so well received that I was given a five year investor visa when I was told that it was only possible to get a one year visa when I applied!)
  • Several passport photos
  • Copy of the BOI letter (BOI sends it directly to the Embassy, but it is good to submit a copy along with your application just in case it didn't arrive.)
  • Copy of my resume
  • Money order for $131 (check the visa fees in your country as they may vary)
I dropped off the visa application form in the morning and was able to pick up my visa in the afternoon. Unfortunately, they made a mistake on my visa and stamped it to say that "working was prohibited" which of course negated the whole point of the visa, so I needed to go back the next day and have them redo it. (Fortunately I checked before I left the country!!)

Work Permit
Upon returning to Bangladesh I was (finally!) ready to apply for my work permit! Two days after I got back, I went back to BOI and submitted the following paperwork, again to Nafriza's department:
  • Cover letter addressed to Mamdood Alamgir (for the Industrial side of BOI) explaining that I was applying for a work permit and listing all of the documents that I was submitting
  • Four copies of the Work Permit Application Form (with passport photos attached)
  • Copy of my BOI Registration Letter
  • My resume
  • Decision of the Board of Directors regarding my employment (see Investor Visa section above)
  • Full copy of my passport (all pages, including my new investor visa)
  • Pay order for 5,000 Tk (see below)
Again they told me it would be 7-10 business days. When I returned 14 days later, again, it was not done. They told me that I needed to submit a pay order for 5,000 Tk. Annoyed I asked them why they didn't tell me this before and they said that I only needed to pay it if my application was approved. So my advice to you is to call Nafriza 3-5 days after you submit the application and ask if you now need to bring down a pay order. Or, assume that your application will be accepted and submit the pay order when you apply. (Though I am not sure they will accept it from you at this point...)

You can get the pay order downstairs at The City Bank in the BOI building. Just go first to the side WITHOUT the tellers and tell them you need a pay order. They will fill out some paperwork and direct you to the teller side to pay. Pay for the pay order, then bring your papers back to the non-teller side and they will issue the pay order to you.

After I submitted the pay order, the man who works for Nafriza told me to come back in three days. Of course, I didn't listen to him and I waited to speak to Nafriza herself. When I did, after a bit of coaxing she agreed to push through the paperwork that day and about two hours later I had my work permit!

I have discovered that the best way to deal with the BOI is just to schedule several days to go down there and wait for all of your paperwork to go through. Sit in the hallway so that everyone sees you as they go by. Be polite, but resolute that you will not go until everything is done. Give them the time they say it will take (i.e. 10 days), but go on day 11 at 10:30am when they open and tell them that you won't leave until you get your documents. Then sit there all day (bring food, water, and some form of entertainment with you!) Every 30 minutes ask what the status is of your paperwork to make sure that it doesn't just sit on someone's desk collecting dust.

Opening Your Bank Account
So today I FINALLY opened my bank account! I went down to my bank (HSBC) and submitted my tax ID, trade license, BOI registration letter, and work permit to my banker. She told me that she would open my account by the end of the day and mail me my checks. (My banker is VERY efficient!)

When I commented on how convoluted the company/ bank account process is here, she told me that because of the craziness that I went through with my bank account, they talked to the Board of Investment and made it standard procedure to open a non-operating bank account for people who are trying to set up companies. (If you recall, I had to get special permission to open mine...) Well at least going through this process improved the system a tiny bit!

Conclusion
I would love to say that this will be my last company formation post and that I will no longer have to deal with the BOI since my company is now registered, but (alas!) I still have to apply for my liquor license. Plus, I need to get prior approval from the BOI to change ownership of the company, which means that whenever I get a new investor I need to talk to the Board of Investment first. So, alas, I am afraid the saga is not over yet...

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