Immigration Dept extends business hours as amnesty gets underway

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The amnesty will run from March 1 to April 30 (Photo courtesy iStock)
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As the much anticipated amnesty gets underway today, the Immigration Department has adjusted its hours to accommodate thousands of non-nationals preparing to regularise their status in the country.

Wesley Simon of the airport’s Immigration Department told yesterday’s Observer AM show, “All the regular operations go from 8am until 1pm, but amnesty itself starts at 2pm and goes down until approximately 8pm every day, Monday to Friday.”

He said application forms have already been distributed to the various consulates and should be filled out prior to appointments.

Forms can also be picked up at the department’s Sir George Walter Highway office.

“The Covid protocols still exist and we need to let persons know that. So, when they come to the department, they should still be wearing their masks, still going to the handwashing stations and doing temperature checks and all that. There will be a designated area. The customer service personnel will be able to point you to those areas,” Simon explained.

“All the other procedures will be indicated to you. So, basically, it is still regular business at Immigration. The only thing that has changed is the hours.”

The Gaston Browne-led administration has, on several occasions, offered amnesty to immigrants who have overstayed their prescribed time, and last year the Prime Minister hinted that another amnesty would take place in the new year.

Applicants who have resided in the country for a continuous period of four years, but who have not yet completed seven years, will be granted residency, while persons who have gone over that seven-year mark will be cleared to citizenship.

That news was corroborated in Cabinet a few weeks ago, with government saying it would even waive the usual fees to regularise the status of indigent illegal immigrants.

In 2015, Antigua and Barbuda passed the Immigration and Passport (Amendment) Act 2015 under which illegal immigrants could seek amnesty to have their time in the country extended.

The Act requires that a person seeking citizenship be ordinarily resident in Antigua and Barbuda for no less than seven years, of which not less than five years in total must have been spent in the country.

In considering whether an application for amnesty should be granted, the authorities will look at whether the applicant has any criminal convictions, his or her family ties in the country where applicable, and any other information deemed relevant to the application.

The processing fee for the amnesty, which should accompany the application form, will be EC$200 per person.

An extension fee of EC$150 will be extended to Caricom nationals, and EC$300 to non-Caricom nationals.

Caricom nationals seeking citizenship will be asked to pay an additional ‘base fee’ of $2,000, with a processing fee of $200. For non-Caricom nationals looking to become citizens, the ‘base fee’ is $3,500 and the processing fee is $200.

The amnesty will run from March 1 to April 30.

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