New fines for work permit violations start Tuesday
Tough new work permits regulations with fines of up to $25,000 for criminal breaches of immigration law will come into force at the start of next month.
Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy said: “The new powers of the Chief Immigration Officer to levy fines on those who flout the law can be seen as a culmination of a modernisation process that began more than a year ago.”
He added that changes to immigration law made last year will come into effect on April 1 and “demonstrates this Government's continuing commitment towards protecting the rights of Bermuda's workers.”
The Immigration and Protection Amendment (No 2) Act, which passed last year, allows the Immigration Department to slap increased fines on those convicted of criminal offences in connection with work permits.
The new law increases the maximum fine for indictable offences from $10,000 to $25,000 and for summary offences — those heard in Magistrates' Court — from $5000 to $10,000.
The Chief Immigration Officer will also be able to impose civil penalties of between $5000 and $10,000 on employers who knowingly hire overseas workers without a work permit and against workers who perform duties outside of permit conditions.
Mr Fahy said: “Last year, we began the process of overhauling our work permit policy and in doing so we recognised that we needed to strike a balance between protecting Bermudian jobs and ensuring that our business stakeholders understood that Bermuda is open for business.”
The original 1956 immigration law already stipulates that employers must verify the qualifications of a prospective employee and to ensure unauthorised overseas workers are not hired.
Mr Fahy said that effective policing of permits “plays a critical role in preventing recruitment violations and the employment of guest workers in jobs which may otherwise be occupied by Bermudians.”
He added: “An effective worksite enforcement strategy will address both employers who knowingly hire unauthorised workers without a work permit and workers who are performing duties outside of conditions prescribed by their work permit.
“Investigations will also involve egregious violations of criminal statutes by employers and widespread abuses such as harbouring, fraud or worker exploitation.”