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Brown confirms English proficiency policy

The home affairs minister said the Government was considering the introduction of an English test for work permits.

Walton Brown said consultation on the proposal is under way and tests could be introduced before the end of the month.

Mr Brown said: “The English-speaking work permit policy is in circulation to key stakeholders for consultative purposes.

“The deadline for feedback is October 12. Depending on the extent of the feedback, I expect that this policy will be implemented by October 19.”

The policy would require anyone from a country where English is not the first language to prove they have passed an English as a second language exam to get a work permit for some positions.

Mr Brown said the focus would be on industries where the staff have to deal with the public and jobs in which lives could be put at risk if a worker did not have a good command of English.

Those positions include restaurant and hotel staff, health professionals, caregivers and nurses.

Mr Brown said: “Under this policy, the Department of Immigration would investigate complaints from members of the general public that work permit holders cannot speak or understand English.

“In circumstances where the individual is already working in Bermuda and where a complaint is lodged against them, they will be brought into the Department of Immigration and given an English language test.”

“If the employee fails the test, they and their employer will be given 14 days to provide a written response as to why the minister should not revoke their work permit.”

Mr Brown said costs of the tests would be covered by the Government. He added the Government can recall employees for retesting. Mr Brown denied that the new system would open the doors to harassment.

Mr Brown said: “I think we will deal with all of these matters carefully and make assessments going forward. We will be very careful in how we process these applications.”

The draft policy also said that when a work permit-holder arrives in Bermuda as a first-time resident, HM Customs and Immigration officers can return them to their place of origin if they believe they cannot speak or understand English.

Mr Brown said: “There will be training undertaking so there is a process they have to undertake when processing the individual.”

He also dismissed the suggestion that strong accents could cause challenges.

The minister said: “There is a sharp distinction between the two and the customs officials will be aware of that distinction.”

Mr Brown said the Government was still at work in a bid to create comprehensive immigration reform. He said: “We have come to a position on a number of key issues involving mixed status families and we will be unveiling that in due course, in the next few weeks.”

Home affairs minister Walton Brown (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published October 04, 2018 at 9:00 am (Updated October 04, 2018 at 9:03 am)

Brown confirms English proficiency policy

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