'Ideal' time to relax US stop list, says Consul General
The timing is ideal for a relaxation of the so-called Stop List which prevents Bermudians with criminal convictions from visiting the United States, the US Consul General said yesterday.
Lee Rizzuto, who has been in Bermuda since July, said US Democrats and Republicans had “embraced criminal justice reform”, which meant it may be possible to relax requirements to visit the US from Bermuda.
The news came in an article on the US Consulate website to mark Mr Rizzuto’s fifth month on the island.
Mr Rizzuto added he was also working to help Bermuda get coronavirus vaccines for the entire population and was also trying to extend US Immigration pre-clearance to private jet passengers.
He said: “There are many other projects that I hope to complete during my tenure, which includes working with Washington, DC on how to constructively review what is locally deemed as the ‘Stop List’.
“The world has evolved and it’s our job to suggest revisiting the language and eligibility criteria of individuals seeking to travel to the United States.
“Many of our customers come in for visa waivers. Some are first-time applicants, while others continuously apply to renew their waiver for an extended period.”
Mr Rizzuto added: “As US law allows citizens of Bermuda to travel to the United States without requiring a visa, it has been suggested that perhaps language should be amended to allow those who have been approved for a waiver over an extended period of time to be less restricted.
“The United States has embraced criminal reform by both the Democrats and Republicans, and timing is ideal to embrace potential changes to eligibility requirements for travel from Bermuda to the United States.”
Donald Trump, the US president, signed a criminal justice reform law which reduced prison sentences and encouraged rehabilitation and the Black Lives Matter movements has also encouraged a move away from punitive justice.
Mr Rizzuto added that the opening of the new airport was a good time to extend US pre-clearance to include private jets as well as commercial flights.
He said: “Approximately 150 private flights go back to the US monthly.
“Pre-clearance would significantly increase that number and make Bermuda a more attractive destination for private charter flights.”
Mr Rizzuto added: “To end the year with one more project, it is our goal to see how we can help Bermuda secure enough vaccinations for the entire country.
“The thought of throwing away our masks and helping to make Bermuda an even safer place would be a dream come true.”
Bermuda is expected to get enough Pfizer vaccines for about 4,500 people in the first week of next month as part of a commitment from the UK to supply vaccines to the Overseas Territories in proportion.
Mr Rizzuto added he was “quite satisfied” with having helped to get the US Centres for Disease Control’s travel health advisory notice for Bermuda moved from Level 2 – moderate risk – on his arrival to Level 1,“ very low”, by October.
He highlighted that, although there had been a spike in cases in Bermuda since, “the positive takeaway is that they mostly reflect clusters”.
Mr Rizzuto said: “The Government is on top of it and I have full confidence they will continue to handle the situation well.”
He added he was pleased the US Consulate had been able to restore US mail service to Bermuda, which was suspended in March when the airport closed.
He said: “It was learnt that American Airlines had the contract to deliver mail, and since they suspended their commercial passenger service, mail services were disrupted.
“The US Consulate immediately contacted Washington, DC and established a relationship between Delta and the US Postal Service.
“Within three weeks, US mail service was restored to Bermuda, in addition to 14 other countries that were disrupted by the suspension of American Airlines.”