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Rule change to end mixed-status heartache

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A Bermudian-born woman who missed her chance to get status by weeks was overjoyed yesterday to get a second chance after a government policy change.

The 31-year-old said: “I think I'm still dreaming.”

The woman, who asked not to be named, was speaking more than eight years after she highlighted her status problems with The Royal Gazette.

She was speaking after Jason Hayward, the labour minister, said yesterday that legislation to tackle the problem of mixed-status families would come into force today.

The changes to immigration law, the “repatriation and mixed-status amendments”, means that applications for status and permanent resident's certificates would be accepted by the Department of Immigration from September 14.

The move will tackle the longstanding discrepancy where some members of the same family were Bermudian, but others were not.

The woman said she had just celebrated her birthday.

She added the news was “the best birthday gift ever” and that she looked forward to revealing her identity once her status was approved.

The woman said: “I started this journey when I was 19. I was denied three times. I just turned 31 — it's been a long road.”

Mr Hayward said the move was “not a new initiative” as the legislation had been passed in March.

He said earlier that part of the delay in its introduction was because electronic applications had to be ready at the Department of Immigration.

The change will also allow children born overseas to Bermudian parents to obtain status automatically, for up to two generations.

The new legislation cannot be used for people born beyond two generations.

But Mr Hayward promised that the paperwork would be streamlined for Bermudians whose children were born overseas to apply for status for their family members.

Mr Hayward could not provide numbers for how many might gain status as a result of the new policy, but said “significant interest” was expected.

There will also be a two-year window from September 2020 to August 2022 for PRC holders to apply for their children to obtain PRCs.

Mr Hayward said the timespan was “something we can review further in the future”.

Cases of mixed status include families where one parent holds Bermuda status or a PRC, while a spouse or children, despite being born on the island, do not.

Other examples include families where some of the children do not have the same rights.

The woman, whose parents are PRC holders originally from the Azores, said her older brother and sister had both been successful in obtaining status.

A route to status only existed for people resident in Bermuda up until July 31, 1989 under earlier regulations.

The woman who was born in August 1989, just missed being able to qualify for status, despite having two children born in Bermuda who did get status.

She said: “Finally, I can call Bermuda home. I always did anyway, but now I can do it for real.

“It's the right thing to do. I've always said it's about human rights. You can't have one sibling Bermudian and another not.”

She added: “I come from that first set of people born after that date. Even though I'm born and raised here, I couldn't get it.”

The woman said: “This has made my day. Now I'm just curious as to how much it's going to cost.

“Once it's done, I can go public. They can see how grateful I am and many others are for this.”

Mr Hayward said it would not be possible for immigration staff to provide specific answers to people who called with queries on whether they were eligible.

But he added that a page would be launched on the Department of Immigration website, including a list of frequently asked questions, to cover circumstances where people would be able to apply.

Mr Hayward said: “To better assist the public to understand types of situations persons may be in, it is only possible to provide examples of the two issues the legislation seeks to address — repatriation, and mixed-status families.”

He said the new repatriation rules applied to Bermudians whose children were born overseas.

He said: “The parents of these children will not be required to prove that they were domiciled in Bermuda at the time of the child's birth, for up to two generations.

“What this means is that if a Bermudian has a child born overseas, the child is automatically Bermudian at birth, without the need to fulfil any requirements.

“If the child born overseas in turn has a child of its own, the second generation born overseas will also be Bermudian from birth.”

A bipartisan committee on immigration reform was set up in October 2017 to review mixed-status families.

The legislation was delayed last year and Wayne Caines, the former national security minister who was then responsible for immigration, said some problems had still to be resolved.

Mr Hayward added that the bipartisan committee's work was continued, but did not elaborate on other changes that may be considered.

He said it had to be established that the law could not have any negative impact on Bermudians, was aligned with the European Convention on Human Rights, and could not lead to the separation of mixed-status families.

Mr Hayward added the move related to “matters like legally residing in Bermuda, working in Bermuda, purchasing land in Bermuda and being free to fully participate in Bermuda life”.

He said: “These are all matters that impact people in a deeply personal way and ties directly to their hopes and aspirations for a life in this country.”

Mr Hayward said “in many cases this will allow them, after many years of uncertainty, to finally have official documentation to prove that the place of their birth and the only place they have ever called home, is indeed their home”.

He added: “There is no typical scenario that holds true for every mixed-status family. The individual circumstances will differ by person and by family.

Mr Hayward added the changes would be highlighted in an advertising campaign and that he planned to hold a Facebook Live discussion next week on the subject.

To view the full statement from the Minister of Labour, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”

Immigration reform: Jason Hayward, the Minister of Labour, announces changes to the rules yesterday (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Jason Hayward, the Minister of Labour (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published September 01, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated September 01, 2020 at 2:03 pm)

Rule change to end mixed-status heartache

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