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Minister outlines overhaul of immigration policy for long-term residents

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Reform: Jason Hayward, the minister of labour at a press conference (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Long-term residents will be able to apply for permanent residency in Bermuda in a major overhaul of immigration regulations.

Jason Hayward, the Minister of Labour, made the announcement at a press conference yesterday afternoon.

Mr Hayward was flanked by Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance, who claimed that long-term residents made a significant contribution to the economy.

The changes affect a slew of resident non-Bermudians, including; people who arrived in Bermuda at an early age and are normally resident in Bermuda; non-Bermudians who have continuously contributed to the community; a divorced or unwed parent of a Bermudian child; and children of first and second generation Permanent Resident Certificate holders who have been ordinarily resident in Bermuda.

Mr Hayward said the new legislation will give long-term residents who had contributed to the island deserved “some level of security to enable them to remain“.

He said: “There are many individuals who were born in Bermuda or been in Bermuda from an early age, call Bermuda home, but have no way of normalising their residency in Bermuda.

“The ability for some of these individuals to remain in Bermuda with their families is tied to their ability to secure a work permit. This issue must be addressed.”

He said the proposals will also remove difficulties faced by non-Bermudians who must leave the island when their Bermudian child turns 18.

“Currently, there is no clear provision that will allow a mother or father to remain in Bermuda after a certain age. It is never my intention as Minister, or the intention of this Government, to bring grief to a parent who simply wants to remain in Bermuda with their child.

“A parent should not have to choose between living with their child or leaving without their child.”

Economic recovery

Finance minister Curtis Dickinson has pledged to beef up the team charged with revitalising Bermuda’s economy.

He said: “In addressing the challenges caused by the pandemic, the Government has identified 31 priority initiatives it will move forward with to accelerate medium-term economic growth, in parallel with immigration, health and education reform.

Led by the Cabinet Office, the economic recovery plan will be coordinated by a new team, reporting to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Development and the Premier.

Work is ongoing to stand up this team up. The Government is working with key stakeholders to assist in the staffing of a project management office who will oversee the execution of the Economic Recovery Plan. Updates on the progress of the ERP will be reported regularly.

Mr Hayward said: “This Government’s proposals seek to provide a more effective solution for long-term residents living in Bermuda. This solution will enable Bermuda’s long-term residents to gain a permanent Residency Certificate.

“It also improves upon the repatriation and mixed status families amendments made in 2020 and supports the principle that families should not be separated.”

The minister said that eligibility standards to obtain a PRC remained conservative.

“Approximately 96 per cent of the 200-plus jurisdictions examined have significantly shorter time requirements for permanent residency,” he said.

Under the new laws, which will come into effect later this year, the fee for a PRC application will be slashed from $50,000 to $10,000.

Mr Hayward pointed out that the issue of status was not on offer – a significant difference to amendments put forward by the former One Bermuda Alliance six years ago, that the PLP had opposed.

Describing Government’s approach to the longstanding issue as “balanced“, Mr Hayward said: ”Although we are faced with many challenges, this Government will remain steadfast in moving Bermuda towards a more sustainable future.

“The policy proposals provide a more effective means for Long-Term Residents to be granted permanent residency thereby allowing families to remain together and allow individuals to continue contributing to the local economy, as well as the social fabric of the community.

“Simply put, the granting of Permanent Resident Certificates to Bermuda’s long-term residents is the right thing to do.

In his statement Curtis Dickinson stressed that long-term residents added to the labour supply, and consumed goods and services, thereby creating jobs.

He added: “In other cases, they may be job creators. More importantly, they are our friends, our families, and our neighbours. People we see and interact with on a regular basis.

“The notion that the Government can pursue international economic openness by insulating the economy from changes to immigration laws is incorrect. Ignoring this fact demonstrates why it is important to accurately identify the current state.

“For decades, a gap exists between those who are able to obtain a Permanent Resident Certificate and those who fall under the category of long-term residents as highlighted earlier by the Minister of Labour.

“The examples of inconsistent immigration policies are confusing, uncertain, and risk averse. We have an opportunity to transition to a more inclusive society by prioritising our social values in the same way we prioritise other aspects of our economic model to address societal differences.”

Mr Dickinson said that one quarter of Bermuda’s population will be over the age of 65 within the next five years.

“In that context, together with the Government’s aspiration to rebuild the economy, in a manner which is consistent with its economic recovery plan, now is the time to accelerate immigration reform for long-term residents within three areas identified by the Ministry of Finance together with our widely recognised specialists on international economics, the Fiscal Responsibility Panel, as follows – rising healthcare costs, rising costs of support for the elderly, and the underfunding of pension schemes.

“Against this background, the Government of Bermuda considers, that a growth-oriented immigration policy should not be limited to policies related to the entry of new persons into a country.

“A growth-oriented immigration strategy should also consider persons who have already made their home in Bermuda. An immigration system that allocates all responsibility for fairness and proportionality to lawmakers, should not avoid the necessity for timely reform.”

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Published August 03, 2021 at 7:59 am (Updated August 03, 2021 at 7:59 am)

Minister outlines overhaul of immigration policy for long-term residents

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