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BermudaFirst promotes agile immigration policy

An advisory group has called on a faster and more transparent immigration policy as the island awaits the details of promised immigration reform.

BermudaFirst's Future State Report, the second phase of its national socioeconomic plan, said any new immigration policy needs to be agile and reactive to help businesses and the Government attract top talent to Bermuda.

But it said educational and professional development opportunities must also be available for Bermudians to make sure they can compete at an international level.

In the report that was commissioned by David Burt, the Premier, the group compared the issue of immigration to that of a county cricket team which may have to choose between hard-working local players and better-skilled guest players.

The group said: “Teams face a dilemma. To win, a team must attract talent, but a county is unlikely to find among its ranks enough players that can win a championship.

“Under this scenario, it is possible for a county to field a team entirely made up of guest players, but this defeats the purpose of having a county game in the first place.

“This dilemma is resolved by having a limit on the number of guest players, but, inevitably, there will be some locals who will be replaced by outsiders.”

The report added: “Immigration policy faces a similar dilemma. Some Bermudians will not be good enough to make the team of their choice.

“We must be willing to accept that there are select, key positions within our community where having the very best person in the role, one whose skills and expertise meet global standards, is more important than having a Bermudian in place.”

The BermudaFirst report said it may not be possible to fill all positions with Bermudians initially, the opportunity should be taken to train up local talent so they can compete for the posts in the future.

The report said: “The Government, by leading in this manner, can positively influence the discourse, thereby reducing the emotive element of our usual dialogue about immigration.

“We applaud the Government's decision to move forward with the talent assessment initiative for senior civil servants.

“We recommend transparency with the public to aid in the shift in mindset that must be achieved so that we attract and retain the global talent required for our success as well as make opportunities available for Bermudians to realise their full potential.”

BermudaFirst made a series of recommendations to improve immigration to produce more job opportunities for Bermudians.

It called on Government to align its goals, such as GDP growth and an increase in international business, with its immigration policies and shifting the mindset of the immigration department to recognise the needs of the business community.

It suggested a work permit system that caters to the needs of international businesses.

The report said: “One example would be distinguishing between work permits for group employees who are in Bermuda on a rotation basis versus those employees who are expected to fill long-term jobs.”

BermudaFirst also called on the Government to “resolve” issues associated with family and long-term residency, and to streamline the immigration processes.

The report said the issue of diversity should also be considered in immigration.

It said: “In the interest of diversity, no longer can the fount of immigration be solely people of European origin.

“Already we see evidence of increased diversity in the guest worker population and efforts in this regard should continue; it is not uncommon to encounter people from Africa or Asia whilst walking along Front Street.”

Comprehensive immigration reform legislation was expected to be tabled in the House of Assembly in a special sitting held last Friday, but Mr Burt announced that the legislation had been pushed back.

The Ministry of National Security has not said when the legislation will be tabled, but a public town hall meeting on the subject of immigration reform will be held on Thursday.

Turnaround time: members of the BermudaFirst committee line up on stage before the release of their report

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Published September 16, 2019 at 9:00 am (Updated September 16, 2019 at 8:08 am)

BermudaFirst promotes agile immigration policy

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