Bermuda lags behind competitors on immigration - BEC
Changes to Bermuda’s immigration policy to open the door for long-term residents to become permanent residents have been backed by the Bermuda Employer’s Council.
While Keith Jensen, the BEC president, said that while “the devil is in the details”, granting residents greater stability could help bolster the economy.
Mr Jensen said: “Although the BEC is apolitical, we understand the recently announced Immigration policy changes for long term residents is a difficult ‘political nettle’ to grab.
“Once introduced such changes will benefit the Island by stimulating investment – therefore sustaining employment, businesses and providing long term tax revenue.
“Re-building the economy will take many building blocks and the proposed changes will improve business confidence and as we all know that is essential for investment and growth – economic growth benefits all.”
Mr Jensen also said that such a move could help to address the growing cost of healthcare on the island.
“After the decline in work permits being issued, healthcare costs to everyone were affected since the numbers of persons paying in the pool declined, especially in the age groups that did not have significant healthcare claims,” he said.
“Improving long term residency means that families will be more secure and stay as opposed to deciding when to leave, thereby contributing to overall healthcare.”
The reforms, announced last week by Jason Hayward, the Minister of Labour, would mean long-term residents will be able to apply for permanent residency in Bermuda.
The changes affect a slew of resident non-Bermudians, including; people who arrived in Bermuda at an early age and are normally resident in Bermuda; non-Bermudians who have continuously contributed to the community; a divorced or unwed parent of a Bermudian child; and children of first and second generation Permanent Resident Certificate holders who have been ordinarily resident in Bermuda.
Mr Jensen added that the island still has a way to go to be “competitive” with other jurisdictions in the area of immigration.
“When introducing the proposals, Mr Hayward pointed out that of the 200 jurisdictions reviewed 96 per cent – BEC calculates that to be 192 of 200 jurisdictions – had significantly shorter time frames for permanent residency than what is being proposed,” he said.
Mr Jensen however said the BEC was overall in favour of the proposed immigration changes, and looked forward to their introduction and further consultation on the subject.
Mr Hayward said last week the changes would give long-term residents who had contributed to the island deserved “some level of security to enable them to remain“.
He said the revised policy will also remove difficulties faced by non-Bermudians who must leave the island when their Bermudian child turns 18.
Under the new laws, which will come into effect later this year, the fee for a PRC application will be slashed from $50,000 to $10,000.
Mr Hayward pointed out that the issue of status was not on offer – a significant difference to amendments put forward by the former One Bermuda Alliance six years ago, that the PLP had opposed.
Jarion Richardson, the OBA shadow minister for Immigration, said the new policy was “a step that Bermuda needs to take” in order to boost a declining population and shore up the economy.
But he said the PLP’s politicisation of immigration had slowed progress and made immigration reform more difficult.
“This newly-announced policy change is only one of many steps Bermuda needs to take to stop the financial bleeding caused by failed policies,” Mr Richardson said.
“Those steps will have to be taken and the sensitivities must be navigated. But like all things in Bermuda, once politicised, it only made things worse.”