Plans to waive work permits for Caricom nationals postponed

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The delay will dismay many Caricom passport-holders (Photo courtesy Migronis)
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By Robert A. Emmanuel

[email protected]

Less than a month after announcing that work permit requirements for Caricom and Dominican Republic nationals would be eliminated, the Gaston Browne administration has divulged that it is delaying the implementation of the move.

On January 6, the government made the unexpected decision to remove the need for a work permit for certain Caribbean nationals, stating that it followed a previous decision to waive unpaid work permit fees up to December 31 2022.

Yesterday, Information Minister Melford Nicholas explained that after consultations with Chief Immigration Officer Katrina Yearwood, more details needed to be sorted before any implementation.

“The Chief Immigration Officer and her team did outline a framework that they had presented…and we had to look at the implications for that framework that has been presented,” the Cabinet spokesperson revealed.

The main opposition, the United Progressive Party, speculated whether the original decision was political motivated, considering it was made during the height of an election campaign.

However, in a press release, the government said that the measure applied to Caricom nationals “gainfully employed … consistent with its obligations under Articles 45 and 46, clauses 2 (iii) and 3 of the Caricom Treaty [of Chaguaramas]”.

They also said the elimination of work permits for people from the Dominican Republic was “in keeping with Antigua and Barbuda’s commitment to the economic integration of the Caribbean region”.

Minister Nicholas said the original press release was an indication of “general policy” and the rationale behind the delay was due to concerns over national security and labour market implications.

“The Chief Immigration Officer did raise the matter of the tedium required to satisfy herself and her department about certain security arrangements, in particular citizens from the Dominican Republic, and she had indicated there is challenges in establishing the bona fides of those citizens.

“The other consideration would be what removing the requirements would do to the general labour market conditions, so those are areas where the Labour Department and Ministry of Labour will have an oversight,” he indicated.

According to Cabinet notes, the discussions between lawyers within the Ministry of Legal Affairs and Immigration and Labour officials will ensure that “all is done to make the process seamless”.

Until then, the six-month entry allowance for visitors from Caricom states will continue.

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