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Bahamas Business Community Urged To Uphold Immigration Laws

by Amanda Banks,, London

13 November 2007

Minister of State for Immigration, Elma Campbell has urged the business community to uphold the country’s immigration laws, and has warned that flouting these laws could jeopardise the country’s political and economic status.

“We encourage the business community to do its part by exercising due diligence in ensuring that applications are properly completed and all supporting documents are submitted and that the application being made is in the best interest of development in The Bahamas,” Campbell stated, continuing: “We count on the business community to uphold the immigration laws of The Bahamas.”

Despite an ongoing shortage of suitably qualified and skilled labour in the jurisdiction, Campbell recently told the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce that while the Department of Immigration is committed to approving Work Permits for foreign persons to be engaged in the Bahamas, this will be done only as and when a suitably trained Bahamian is unavailable or unwilling to accept such employment.

Campbell has now announced that the government’s recently initiated comprehensive immigration policy is “well underway”, and is addressing the challenges facing the Department of Immigration in the areas of illegal migration and the processing of work permits. This reorganisation is in keeping with the Constitution, laws and national development priorities, she explained.

“Rest assured that we will give notice to Bahamians and to our communities and will listen in our efforts to reach a national consensus in this critical area,” Campbell stated.

However, she reiterated that work permits will only be approved "as and when suitable and trained Bahamians are unavailable, or are unwilling to accept such employment and all avenues both national and international have been exhausted to confirm that there is no Bahamian available”.

Since the launching of the new immigration policy, the Immigration Board convenes weekly in New Providence and twice a month in Grand Bahama.

Campbell revealed that in August, 1,650 work permits and 360 permits to reside were considered. In September, 1,100 work permits and 100 permits to reside were considered, and in October, 1,300 work permits and 90 permits to reside were considered. Of these, for the financial services sector there were 50 applicants in August, 140 in September and 60 in October.

Campbell also restated that it is the policy of the government to refuse work permits for persons who enter the country as visitors, although she revealed that the government makes every effort to expedite work permit applications where there is an urgent need to engage that particular employee.

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