Ming leaves immigration board
A new head of the immigration board is to be appointed after its chairwoman became a member of the Cabinet.
Renée Ming, the Progressive Labour Party MP for St George's North and board chairwoman, took over as Minister of National Security last month after the forced resignation of Wayne Caines.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Labour, which is responsible for immigration, confirmed that Ms Ming was no longer on the board.
He added: “Government is in the process of appointing a new chair, and an announcement will be made in due course.”
The news came after board members were asked to make recommendations on how to revise the 2015 work-permit policy in their July 15 meeting, the first since Covid-19 restrictions disrupted work for several months.
Jason Hayward, the Minister of Labour, in consultation with technical officers, considered applications after he took over the portfolio when he was appointed to the Cabinet on June 4.
A ministry spokesman said: “The minister, as per the actions of previous ministers with responsibility for immigration, and powers granted under the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956, can decide on applications of all types.
“As such, the minister continues this established practice and also consults with the entire team of technical officers before making decisions.”
He said: “Ministers from time to time approve applications of all types to ensure the efficient and timely processing of applications to avoid unnecessary delays.
“Minister Hayward, with the responsibility for immigration, continues with this practice.”
The spokesman added: “The Board of Immigration was unable to meet during Covid-19 because of the lockdown, physical-distancing requirements, and health and safety reasons.”
He said that the July 15 meeting was “given terms of reference from the Minister of Labour as to their tasks”.
The spokesman added: “In particular, they are tasked with reviewing and revising the work permit policy of 2015 and making recommendations to the minister.”
A member of the board said last week that the group held meetings every week until March, when the first coronavirus cases were detected on the island.
The member explained that there could be up to 50 applications for consideration at any meeting and that each would be cross-checked so that two or three people would sign off on work-permit decisions.
The Department of Immigration — when it was still under the Ministry of National Security — started a phased resumption of services on May 4.
All types of applications, including work permits, passports, land licences, Bermudian status applications and permanent resident's certificates, were received from June 1.
The immigration board member added: “All the buildings were closed, so it was futile to have a board when the people in the building could do it themselves.”
Work-permit policy documents published on the government website — versions effective both in March 2015 and March 2017 — said: “Most work-permit applications are decided upon by the board as delegated by the minister.
“Appeals on those decisions should be made to the minister with the appropriate fee.”
The Ministry of Labour spokesman said: “The department continues its process improvement initiative, including seeking ways to eliminate multiple sign-offs to simplify the process, to make the processing of all applications more timely, accurate and consistent and the department should be applauded for its continued collaboration with industry to accomplish this.”
Mr Hayward told the House of Assembly in June that work started under the former national security minister on immigration reform “will continue uninterrupted”.
He added: “The concept of introducing a pilot programme for the approval of work-permit applications for good corporate citizens, with the aim of promoting the stability and advancement of Bermudians in their own country, is still under way.”
Mr Hayward said the next phase of the improvement programme at the immigration department would be to “push further for the full automation of the department”.