As many as 85,486 citizens of 44 countries
are working legally at over 1,000 local and
multinational companies in Bangladesh
with neighbouring India dominating the
number, according immigration
Foreigners living legally in Bangladesh,
however, are much higher than that of those
residing with work permits.
According to police’s Special Branch (SB), a
total of 245,775 foreign nationals are living
There is huge discrepancy among the
figures from the home ministry and other
government agencies, which issues work
permit to foreigners.
Nonetheless, no government agencies have
specific data on how many foreign citizens
are currently living as well as working in
Three government agencies, namely
Bangladesh Investment Development
Authority (BIDA), Bangladesh Economic
Zones Authority (BEZA) and NGO Affairs
Bureau grant permission for foreigners to
work in the country.
BIDA issues work permit to foreigners for
private sector while BEZA for the export
processing zones and NGO Affairs Bureau
for development organisation.
Data shows only 17,000 foreign citizens
have obtained work permit.
The National Board of Revenue has
information on 15,000 foreigners, of which,
14,000 pay taxes.
Analysts stressed coordination among the
government agencies over data on
foreigners in country.
“It’s important (for authorities) to know the
purpose of travel right after a foreigner
checks in the (Bangladesh) immigration,”
said Dr Nazneen Ahmed.
According to Nazneen, how many
foreigners travel to Bangladesh is not
important rather the focus should be on
who come to work.
“Foreigners including students,
entrepreneurs, physicians, and tourists
bring in foreign currency for our economy.
“It’s really a matter of concern why
foreigners get jobs amid high
unemployment rate in Bangladesh,” said
Nazneen, a research director of the
Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies
She says the HR department in the apparel
sector is largely dominated by foreign
nationals work. “But then again 90 percent
of what the private universities teach is
According to her, despite a large number of
local graduates, the major manufacturing
sectors like textile, dyeing, are dominated by
foreigners and that the case for the IT sector
“Research should be carried out on how
many foreigners are working, where and
why,” said Nazneen.
The SB has no details on whereabouts of the
foreigners living in Bangladesh.
A recent SB report expressed concerns over
the rising numbers of foreign nationals
getting involved in criminal offences,
including drug smuggling, counterfeit
money, human trafficking and money
It also said some have even managed to get
themselves included in the electoral roll.
Figures from another government agency
says, over 1 million foreigners are living in
Bangladesh and most of them entered on a
Most of them belong to South Asian counties
like, India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
Experts said that many foreigners do have a
valid visa but no work permit.
“It’s imperative to find out the exact
number and where they work,” said CR
Abrar, a director for Refugee and Migratory
Movements Research Unit.
“Bangladeshi workers face actions at
foreign countries, so it’s also the state
responsibility to know whether such foreign
workers live in Bangladesh or not” he
Back in 2016, the NBR started to create a
database on foreigners in coordination with
other government agencies, which is yet to