Destination countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, which accounted for 80% of labour approvals in 2020-21, require migrants to have government-verified vaccination certificates. The newly-issued government proof of vaccine has a unique QR code for authentication, following concerns about the acceptability of previously provided paper-based vaccine documents.
Outbound workers headed overseas can also obtain electronic certificates online.
For Nepali migrant workers, the vaccine certificate is only the latest among a long checklist of permits, certificates and authorisations to complete before their departure. Moreover, changing vaccine requirements, the authenticity of paper-based certification and the availability of doses have added to the problems for outbound migrants who are harassed every step of the way.
Yet, such is the desperation of Nepalis that they are lining up for days to obtain a simple piece of paper for overseas jobs amid shrinking opportunities at home and abroad.
Workers who have relied on migration to break out of intergenerational poverty now have to deal with Covid-induced policy changes in destination countries. Meanwhile, Nepalis earning a daily wage and those working in tourism and agriculture have suffered job losses and or reduced income at home.
Hiring freezes and travel bans from destination countries due to public health concerns following the pandemic saw the number of annual labour approvals fall below 100,000 to just over 72,000 in 2020-21, the lowest in 20 years.
In comparison, nearly 500,000 Nepali workers were repatriated from across the world during the pandemic.