By Orville Williams
After extending the immigration amnesty by two months due to the level of interest shown by foreign nationals residing in the country, the government has revealed that more than 3,000 persons have applied to date.
“The Minister of Immigration did share with me this morning that, so far, the numbers have indicated approximately 3,300 persons have applied for the amnesty,” Information Minister Melford Nicholas told media yesterday.
The amnesty programme officially got underway on March 1 this year, to allow undocumented immigrants – many of whom have been residing in Antigua and Barbuda since childhood – to regularise their status.
Earlier in the process, a large number of persons from Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Guyana and Jamaica were seen in long lines at the Immigration Department’s office on Sir George Walter Highway, with many complaining about the length of time they were forced to wait.
The sheer burden on the system prompted the government to consider options such as installing more immigration officers or extending the length of the process, which was initially intended to come to an end on April 30.
The latter option was eventually decided on, meaning the amnesty will now end on June 30.
As a condition of the amnesty, persons living in Antigua and Barbuda for a minimum of four years – but less than seven years – may apply for residency, while those residing in the country for more than seven years may apply for citizenship.
The Information Minister told yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing that it was not immediately clear how many persons fall in either category based on the applications received to this point.
“I do not have a breakdown in terms of those who, having been accorded the amnesty, would qualify for citizenship versus those who would qualify for the residency.
“[The minister] did not give that [latter] breakdown, but the [overall] number is approximately 3,300 persons so far,” he added.
Prior to the start of the amnesty, the government had projected that the Immigration Department could receive approximately 2,000 applications.