New Malaysian visa regulations cause worry to Maldivian students and their families.
Speaking to AVAS, a student revealed the biggest challenge currently faced by students in Malaysia is difficulties in opening a local bank account.
According to the regulations, 5000 Ringgits have to be deposited and circulated in a Malaysian bank account, and a three-month bank statement has to be submitted when applying for Malaysian visa.
Previously, transaction receipts from Western Union had sufficed for Malaysian Immigration.
"Before going to Malaysia, we confirmed with friends already in the country that a Malaysian bank statement is not necessary when applying for visa. We were not informed of any change to the visa process either by our universities or the embassy", said a Maldivian woman who recently moved to Malaysia with her husband and two children.
An official from Maldives Embassy in Malaysia blamed the new change in government for stricter regulations, and said the new government is seeking to reform the existing regulations.
"The procedure is for the student to first arrive in Malaysia, process their visas and open a bank account, and then bringing their family or dependents to the country. As the regulations were not implemented very strictly previously, the students have been bringing their families when they initially come to the country", said the official.
The visa issues are not faced directly by students but few of their families, revealed the official, and confirmed that the embassy is working to seek a solution to the issues faced.
AVAS has learnt that the families who were not able to acquire visas have to fly out of the country in order to apply for visa again.
"We do not come here because we have a lot of money. Most of us are financed under loans. Even I am here with my kids because my husband is seeking education. It will be such a challenge to travel back to Maldives again with two little kids", said the woman who spoke to AVAS.
Not just bank issues
Maldivian students in Malaysia also revealed that the strict enforcement of visa regulations are causing other difficulties as well.
A Maldivian student doing PhD in Malaysia, who brought along her child with her informed that due to the sudden change in regulations, her child has been unable to obtain a visa an has been forced to travel back to Maldives.
"Previously, children below 18 years of age can stay in Malaysia with their parents on dependent visa, even if they are studying in Malaysia and that is what we followed. However, we were informed at the last minute that the children have to obtain a student visa", she said.
By the time the visa application was rejected, the period granted on-arrival had already expired. However, the Malaysia immigration had refused to take any responsibility, and gave seven days to fly out of the country, she added.
"I asked them how can we just interrupt our studies and go back to Male'. However, they were adamant and did not give in, we had to come back home"
Negligence on embassy's part
The students in Malaysia are most unhappy with the Maldivian Embassy in Malaysia over the current issues.
A student seeking a degree in Law said changes to the visa process is normal in all parts of the world, however, the issue is that the embassy did not inform any information regarding the changes.
"The purpose of an embassy is to facilitate ease to residents of Maldives living in Malaysia. The Malaysian immigration is very rude to Maldivians, we have brought this to the attention of the embassy several times. However, no solutions have been sought thus far", said the student.
The student further accused that while Maldivian embassies in other countries try to facilitate ease for Maldivians, the Maldivian embassy in Malaysia is not carrying out their responsibilities effectively.
He further claimed that the embassy did not inform Maldivians that Maldivian licenses can no longer be used in Malaysia, earlier this year.
"The embassies were informed of changes to the license regulations six months prior to it being implemented. When we found out about it, we inquired at the embassy how we should proceed. We did not receive an appropriate answer, and then the changes took effect. Now, traveling between college and home has become very expensive. It was cheaper earlier because we drove our own cars then", said the student.