Fahy: Term limits could be scrapped altogether
Term limits for work permit holders will be suspended for two years or scrapped entirely, Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy announced today.
A final decision is likely to be made by the end of the month, he told a press conference.
Senator Fahy acknowledged that “the mere mention of the words ‘term limits’ and ‘work permits’ tends to send people from all sectors of our community into a frenzied debate”.
However, he insisted that the Island’s work permit policy, rather than term limits, was what protected local jobs.
Statistics failed to show Bermudians taking over job positions when guest workers leave, he added.
He said the Ministry would hand over its impact assessment on the elimination of term limits to a work permit stakeholder group “within the next day or two”.
Asked why he wasn’t simply dispensing with term limits immediately, the Minister said the One Bermuda Alliance had made suspending term limits for two years part of its pre-election platform, “pending better policy”.
“What in fact we discovered is that maybe we should be scrapping them altogether,” he said.
He added that he was “not anticipating an inordinate amount of time” for the decision to be made.
And he hinted that Government could implement a system that would show “when a work permit is coming up for renewal”.
“Woe betide any employer who ignores work permit policy,” he warned.
Sen Fahy said he couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen an employer prosecuted who breached work permit laws and that greater enforcement would also be introduced.
“Government is ever mindful of the legitimate needs and expectations of Bermudians — those who are Bermudian by birth, and those who have already become Bermudian by grant,” he said. “But unless we have a major swelling in birth rates, Bermuda will never supply enough Bermudians to satisfy the job market. In order for Bermuda’s economy to thrive, there is a need for guest workers into the foreseeable future.”
In the meantime normal work permit policies and procedures continue to apply, he said.
Regardless of whether Government suspends the current term limit policy, or eliminates it entirely, work permit holders will be required to sign a declaration confirming they understand that Bermuda law does not confer them rights of permanent residence, and that holders have no expectation of such residence.
Sen Fahy advised guest workers with concerns that their local employers might be breaching the conditions of their employment to contact the Department of Immigration.