Government moves to close 180-day immigration loophole
The Government has moved to close an immigration loophole that allows visitors to reside on the island almost continuously.
Currently, visitors are allowed to remain on the island for up to 180 days before their visa expires.
But under current legislation, they can leave for one day, return and be granted another 180-day visa.
In the House of Assembly yesterday morning, Jason Hayward, the Minister of Economy and Labour, tabled a Bill that would outlaw the practice.
He said the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2022 would “clarify and strengthen the provisions relating to the unrestricted period of residence of visitors to Bermuda”.
Mr Hayward said that the drafting of the 2020 Act meant that “if a visitor leaves and then returns to Bermuda, upon returning, the visitor lands anew”.
He said: “The conundrum is that trying to interpret the current provisions in BIPA to refer to a maximum of six months in any one year would be straining the meaning of the words in the section, particularly because the section does not mention one year.
“Also, visitors can take advantage of the current policy by residing in Bermuda and circumventing immigration control. For example, a visitor can arrive in Bermuda, stay for a period of six months, leave for one day, and return the next day and reside in Bermuda for another period of six months.
The amendment will mean that visitors can only stay in Bermuda for a maximum of 180 days in any 12-month period from the date of their arrival.
He said: “The “unrestricted period of residence” would be from six months from the date the visitor landed in Bermuda, to be a cumulative maximum period of six months in any 12-month period, from the first arrival date within that 12-month period.
“The amendments by way of the Bill, will mitigate visitors circumventing Immigration control.
Mr Hayward said his ministry would undertake a public awareness campaign regarding these changes so that visitors understood in advance how they might be affected.
He added that the Department of Immigration’s border management system would be upgraded to calculate the allowed length of stay per calendar year for all visitors. The Bill will not come into effect until the upgrade has been completed.
Mr Hayward said: “As has been done during the past 12 months, at least, the ministry will continue to ensure that visitors and all stakeholders are informed about alternative options to reside in Bermuda for longer uninterrupted periods such as Work from Bermuda – a One Year Residential Certificate – and Permission to Reside on an Annual Basis.