Reform or no reform? That is the question
It is great news that visitors are being enabled to extend their stay in Bermuda. I congratulate the Government on this decision, and on the decision to promote the one-year residency programme for digital nomads.
The more people that are in Bermuda, the more services are required, the more groceries being purchased, the more bikes being serviced, the more driving lessons being taken, the more restaurants being eaten in. It is also a great sign that the Department of Immigration is working behind the scenes on new initiatives.
This brings hope that we will soon hear something more from the Bipartisan Committee for Immigration Reform, or the Immigration Working Reform Group, both of whom have been conspicuously quiet recently.
We have had two new governments since the Working Reform Group was formed in April 2016, and over these past five years, we have seen only one piece of legislation brought in March 2020 to enable those born to Bermudians overseas to apply for status in a more seamless fashion, and those families where one person had different rights to another.
This was much overdue legislation, and I am delighted that it was finally passed, but it is very much the most obvious end of this immigration concern — and to think that it has taken so many years to get this far does not bode well for others who are also keen to be able to fully participate in Bermuda.
There are people who have been in Bermuda for more than 25 years, some of whom were born here and have spent their whole lives here — and they each contribute to Bermuda in many different ways.
They watch as the Government pleads with people to come to the island, wondering why those who are already here are not being encouraged to stay. Many families are leaving as a result. My neighbours are a family who have been here for nearly 30 years; both parents work in healthcare on the island, but with their children offered no rights of abode here in Bermuda, they are building up a life in the United States, to where they will likely return when the children are in university.
They would stay if allowed to, but like many healthcare providers, teachers, and those in hospitality and other professions, they are treated very differently to guest workers in international business, many of whom have a route to long-term residency.
Our teachers are quite literally enabling Bermudians to succeed on the worldwide stage, with some bringing their talent back to Bermuda, and others who stay overseas, making Bermuda proud and improving our global profile.
Please, can we have some indication from the Committee for Immigration Reform as to how it envisages playing out its role in the push for more bodies on the island, and over what timescale it sees these changes occurring?