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Minister announces top down review of immigration laws

Immigration laws are to be subjected to a “top down review”, the Minister of Labour announced on Friday.

Jason Hayward said the goal of immigration reform “is to ensure that the big picture is one that benefits all of Bermuda”.

“In the past, we have discussed reforms to immigration in a very myopic way, such as, work permits, permanent residency or the emotive and politically divisive issue of granting status.

“Unfortunately, that dialogue has overshadowed the immediate need to overhaul and completely revise the laws, policies, systems and resources required to ensure that Bermuda has an immigration system that is unbiased and beneficial for today’s Bermuda.”

He added: “No matter what side of the political compass one sits on there should be an honest and general acceptance that our current system simply is not efficient.

“Successive Government administrations have failed to adequately invest time and capital in the reforms and resources required.”

The Minister said immigration reform initiatives consist of four strategic priorities: achieve a simplified, fair, and modern immigration legislative framework, leverage technology to improve operations which will lead to greater levels of efficiency, process consistency, and sustainability, strengthen enforcement of laws and policies and support economic growth and the expansion of job opportunities in Bermuda.

Mr Hayward said the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 was enacted to provide Bermuda status to British subjects deemed to be domiciled in Bermuda under the Immigration Act 1937.

Jason Hayward, the Minister of Labour, announced a top down review of immigration laws (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

“There have been over 100 amendments to the Act since it came into operation. Some of those amendments have resulted in negative unintended consequences such as the creation of many mixed status families and the granting of status to individuals outside of the intent of the legislature.

"The Ministry will conduct a top down review of the Act and associated policies. The aim will be to have an immigration legislative framework that is simplified, fair and modern.“

The Minister said the current immigration system was “cumbersome, understaffed, and supported by outdated IT systems that lack integration and inhibit the effective and efficient processing of all application types”.

“The current state of most of the Department of Immigration’s IT systems is subpar. Bermuda is not getting value for money with the processes, procedures and systems currently in place.”

He said work has been completed to map the existing workflows and to “design re-engineered processes”. In addition, July 2020 saw the launch of the new Border Management System and last December the E-gates at the L.F. Wade International Airport went live.

“Employers and the public have long encouraged the improvement of processes, turnaround times, and quality in the Department. Moving forward, the Department will need to invest more to upgrade and replace antiquated systems and will look at innovative partnerships to achieve this goal.

“Work is also underway on the online submission of applications, online payment of fees, electronic workflow within the Department and distribution of digital application approvals.“

Mr Hayward added: “In order to combat the realities of a declining and ageing population we must achieve positive net immigration.

“That is, we need less emigration, or people leaving the country, and more immigration, or people returning to and entering the country to reside.

"The economic output from new residents contributes to the overall economy and is just one of the potential gains that could be achieved from a coherent immigration system designed to serve the needs of the Bermudian people and businesses.

“There are genuine concerns in the community about how non-Bermudians affect local culture and impact opportunities for Bermudians.

“Many jurisdictions have had to grapple with the very same concerns and recognised that there must be a balance as the benefits of economically sound immigration policies which promote economic sustainability are clear.

"It is evident that we need a system that promotes and supports the growth of our local residential population. A system that supports expansion and allows businesses to source the skilled labour it requires from the global workforce.

“To that end, the Ministry of Labour will continue its work to use immigration as a lever to support the local economy.”

He added: “This Ministry is steadfast in ensuring that the goal of immigration reform is one that all of Bermuda benefits. As we progress towards achieving economic recovery, immigration policies will be a key component to achieving these outcomes.”

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Published July 04, 2021 at 8:04 pm (Updated July 04, 2021 at 8:04 pm)

Minister announces top down review of immigration laws

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