By Carlena Knight
There is still no final word on when the removal of work permits for Caricom and Dominican Republic nationals will take effect.
The move was announced by the government on January 6 and was said to be effective from the beginning of the year.
However, it was subsequently delayed after apparent discussions with Chief Immigration Officer Katrina Yearwood that touched on concerns of national security and labour market implications.
Two months later there is still no definitive path forward.
Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister’s Office Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst sought to shed some light on the matter during yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing.
“It has to be brought to the Parliament because the law now stipulates who is required to pay work permit fees and who is not, so that has to be brought to the Parliament.
“I believe that the Minister of Labour Steadroy Benjamin would have given the first reading on the 2nd of March.
“I am not sure if there isn’t some other amendment that is required in order to ensure that everyone gets the message that no work permit fees are required of the Caricom nationals and those of the Dominican Republic, but that is the idea, to ensure that the law reflects the spirit in which the promise was made. The pledge was made to our neighbours from other Caribbean countries living in Antigua and Barbuda that the work permit fees will be waived,” Hurst said.
He did not give a timeline on when those amendments will be taken to the Lower House which means that the six-month entry allowance for visitors from Caricom states will continue in the meantime.
The main opposition, the United Progressive Party (UPP), speculated whether the January announcement – made a fortnight before the election and during the peak of campaigning – was politically motivated. The Gaston Browne-led administration has denied the accusation.