Newly Elected Bermuda Government Scraps Work Permit Term Limit Policy
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Bermuda’s new One Bermuda Alliance Government has scrapped the “Measures to Inhibit Long-Term Residency” policy, more commonly known as the term limit policy, and undertaken a review of the Islands’ work permit policy, all with a view to encouraging economic growth and job opportunities for Bermudians. The initial announcement came on 30 January 2013 from Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy who called the term limit policy a “barrier to job creation”.
Government has also sought to reassure Bermudians that doing away with term limits will not negatively impact their job opportunities given that the work permit policy remains in place. Bermuda’s work permit policy requires that when the renewal of a guest worker’s permit is sought, the position must be advertised giving qualified Bermudians an opportunity to apply. In addition, Government indicated that it sought legal advice to reaffirm advice already received by the previous Progressive Labour Party Government which confirmed that the term limit policy is not necessary to prevent long term residency.
Minister Fahy stated all work permit holders would be required to sign a declaration acknowledging their understanding that Bermuda law does not confer rights of permanent residence and that the holder has no expectation of such residence. On 18 March 2013, he announced that the declaration was being finalized and would shortly be in the mail to be completed and returned by employers no later than April 30th 2013.
Overall, this decision recognizes the important role that guest workers play in the Islands’ economy and that the term limit policy discouraged businesses from coming to or remaining in Bermuda. Minister Fahy said, “To be clear, our guest workers are vitally important to our economy. The data shows that there are more jobs in the economy than there are qualified Bermudians to fill some of the jobs.” He reminded the public that guest workers contribute to Bermuda’s economy in a variety of ways including rental costs, dining out, and purchasing goods of all kinds. He said, “Their mere presence helps to create and sustain jobs.”
The removal of the term limits policy is intended to give a clear indication that Bermuda is open for business.
Bermuda’s business community has responded quickly and positively to the scrapping of term limits with The Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Insurers and Reinsurers, the Bermuda Employers and Expertise, the Island’s largest management consulting and outsourcing company, all publicly applauding the decision.
As mentioned above, Government also indicated that it would be reviewing the current work permit policy with a view to reform. Since that time the Work Permit Stakeholder Group (“Stakeholder Group”) — comprised of members of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, the Bermuda Hotel Association, Association of Bermuda International Companies, Association of Insurers and Reinsurers, the Construction Association of Bermuda, the Bermuda Employers Council, the Bermuda Human Resources Association and the Island’s unions – has been very busy.
In February, Minister Fahy announced that amendments to the work permit policies would include:
- changes to certain job categories increasing those jobs in the ‘closed’ and ‘restricted’ categories,
- clarification and amendment to the advertising and requirement criteria,
- clarification of certain work permit processes,
- new subsections of job categories with special conditions are to be added,
- an added restriction on non-Bermudians seeking or obtaining employment including a defined salary structure for single parents and/or married couples with dependent children,
- dependant children of non-Bermudians to be permitted to work during the summer with a work permit, and
- provisions relating to English language competency are to be clarified and officially incorporated into the work permit policy.
In a press statement on 18 March 2013, Minister Fahy said that he is satisfied at the progress which has been made in recent weeks regarding the work permit modifications. The Ministry has received and formulated the final proposals from the Stakeholder Group representing Phase 1 of the Ministry’s work permit policy reform to be implemented on 1 April 2013.
Phase 2 of the Work Permit Policy reform is expected to commence in early April.