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By Carlena Knight

An amendment to the Immigration and Passport Bill was passed in the Senate yesterday with both sides of the political divide giving clear support for the legislation.

The Bill, which is an amendment to the original law passed in 2014, will see the addition of a remote work visa and a change to the grant of residence permit.

“Nomad digital residence visa” or “NDR” is a visa granted by the Chief Immigration Officer with the approval of the Immigration Minister for a person to live in and work from Antigua and Barbuda for a period of up to 24 months.

Applicants must be in possession of a valid passport; show proof of annual income in excess of EC$135,000; show that their income is generated outside of Antigua and Barbuda; and that they hold valid health insurance coverage for the holder and all dependents for the entire period for which the visa is granted.

It can be revoked if the holder engages in employment in Antigua and Barbuda other than that for which it is granted; offers his or her services for a fee to a locally registered business, or to any person in Antigua and Barbuda; or operates a business in the domestic market.

A register of all persons issued NDR visas will be maintained by the Chief Immigration Officer.

An application form was also added to the Bill, which can be found online at laws.gov.ag.

Senator Richard Lewis, the minority leader in the Senate, shared his support for the Bill which he believes “is an opportunity for economic benefit” and “brings well needed resources” to the country.

“This is something that in my opinion must be applauded. Countries like Anguilla, Barbados, the Bahamas, Costa Rica, the Cayman Islands and even Mexico have gone that route and I think it is a good move for us to go that route as well.

“It is an avenue that can bring some well needed resources to the country and help to stimulate the economy,” Lewis explained.

Government Senator Gail Christian also stood in support of the Bill and commended the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party-led government for their “creative decision making”. She believes this legislation is quite timely due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, which has hampered the twin island’s economy.

“What time better than now when we are grappling with this pandemic than do it? So, when you hear ‘we live where you vacation’ and you want to stay with us a little longer, we’ll allow you to, but it comes at a cost of US$1,500; a couple US$2,000; and a family of three or more US$3,000.

“But do not think at any point in time that this gives you an opportunity to tap into the local market; the stipulations are there that you cannot,” she warned.

Meanwhile, clause four is an amendment to section 40 of the principal Act to address the issue of gaps in an applicant’s period of lawful residency in Antigua and Barbuda.

Such an applicant would have demonstrated an intention to permanently reside in Antigua and Barbuda, and would have satisfied all other conditions leading to residency, but for the fact that his or her period of residency is marked with times when he or she would not have been lawfully resident.

This amendment will allow for any such period or periods, amounting in total to less than six months of the four-year period required for residency, to be treated as a period of lawful residence for the purpose of the application for the grant of the residency permit.

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