The British Overseas Territory of Bermuda has ended its current six-year term limit on foreign workers’ residence “with immediate effect”, Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy announced Wednesday.
Mr. Fahy said the move was one of several steps needed “if Bermuda’s economy is to grow”.
“The elimination of the policy: Measures to Inhibit Long-Term Residency represents a giant step forward,” Mr. Fahy said in his address. “It represents the red-carpet approach, conveying that Bermuda is open for business.
“[The rollover is] a policy that has been identified as a barrier to job creation.”
Mr. Fahy differentiated between the six-year term limit and the issuance of work permits for foreign workers who are employed in Bermuda. He said the work permit system should be adequate to ensure that qualified Bermudians are given jobs ahead of non-Bermudians.
“I want to remind all Bermudians that every work permit holder is in Bermuda for a defined period based on the length of their work permit,” he said. “When a one, two, or three-year work permit expires, the job must be advertised.
“Where a qualified Bermudian applies for the job, the employer must extend the job to the qualified Bermudian applicant.”
Mr. Fahy said all work permit holders would have to sign declarations of their understanding that Bermudian Immigration Law does not confer rights of permanent residence upon work permit holders.
Although Mr. Fahy indicated in his announcement that he had the support of the Bermudian opposition party, members of the Progressive Labour Party disagreed sharply with that statement, calling it “erroneous and disingenuous at best”.
Prior to the 17 December general election held in Bermuda, in which the former Progressive Labour Party government was defeated, the group had committed to immigration reform. However, Opposition Leader Marc Bean noted that the ruling government had campaigned on the promise of a two-year suspension and review of the term limit policy, not its elimination.
“The Progressive Labour Party understands the need for expatriate workers in Bermuda and supports the policies that make it more accommodating for them to set up employment and to relocate to Bermuda,” Mr. Bean said. “However, we also must strike a balance between this accommodation and ensuring opportunities for qualified and capable Bermudians are provided.”
The term limits issue is near to Cayman’s heart, with the local government here having enacted what was referred to as a two-year “suspension” of the policy in October 2011. That suspension is set to expire in October this year, potentially leaving some 1,400 non-Caymanian workers in limbo.
The current interim government has said it does not plan to act on any significant immigration reform proposals prior to the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly on 26 March.
Former Premier McKeeva Bush’s government was considering proposals at one time to eliminate Cayman’s current seven-year term limit and extend it to ten years, allowing any foreign workers who stayed here that long to apply for permanent residence.
However, that proposal never came to fruition prior Mr. Bush’s expulsion from his leadership role by members of his own United Democratic Party government.