By Orville Williams
The government has advised that it does not intend to extend the amnesty period at this point, despite the fact the Immigration Department continues to be inundated with inquiries from prospective applicants.
Thousands of foreign nationals who have settled in Antigua and Barbuda over the years have been given yet another opportunity to regularise their immigration status, with an amnesty in effect from March 1 to April 30.
Reports are that the available amnesty appointment slots have already been fully booked – just over one week since the start date – but Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, Lionel Hurst, told yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing that the amnesty is still set to wrap up at the end of next month.
He added, though, that the government could be prompted to offer an extension if it is deemed absolutely necessary.
“[We have] no plans to extend the application period…[but] if at some point the Immigration Department indicates that the numbers are greater than can be fulfilled between March 1 and April 30, the Cabinet would make a decision.
“However, it is not my [decision] to make now and I’m certainly not authorised to suggest that it will be extended,” Hurst said.
The Chief of Staff also confirmed the reports that the Immigration Department has exhausted the available appointment slots, noting that walk-ins remain the most favoured option.
“They’ve filled their appointment schedules between now and April 28, but the number of people who walk in is far greater than the number who have fixed appointments.
“So, the walk-in remains the option that most of the men, women and children seeking amnesty will utilise,” he added.
The government previously announced that numbered application forms would be available for collection at the Immigration Department and the various consulates in Antigua.
The processing fee for the amnesty, which should accompany the application form, will be EC$200 per person and Caricom nationals will be charged an extension fee of EC$150, while a fee of EC$300 will be applied to non-Caricom nationals.
Caricom nationals seeking citizenship will have to pay an additional ‘base fee’ of $2,000, with a processing fee of $200, and for non-Caricom nationals looking to become citizens, the ‘base fee’ is $3,500 with a $200 processing fee.