Health Minister Marlon Penn said he believes a means test should be done to determine whether expatriate residents qualify for Belongership or residency status in the BVI.
Penn said there should be a clearer process for Belongership status in the territory and argued that it shouldn’t simply be based on the number of years someone spends in the territory.
“There needs to be other determining factors that determines what makes one a citizen of the Virgin Islands
,” Penn said on the Talking Points show yesterday, February 27.
“If you’re going to be a citizen in a country… it has to be a basis. There has to be a means test and a basis in terms of how you become a citizen, just like you go to the US and there’s a process…” Penn stated.
He further commented that there is already a process in place to become a Belonger for persons married to locals. “Once you are married to a BVIslander, after five years and you could prove that it wasn’t a marriage of convenience or any of those types of things, [then] you get your status,” he added.
The government came under scrutiny during the Commission of Inquiry
) for skirting the established law on granting Belongership status after it was found that a government policy demanded that persons only apply after 20 years of residency, instead of 10 years as the law states.
Speaking to the furore over the issue, Penn remarked that the United Kingdom (UK) simply wants the government to uphold what the law says. Penn said it is one of the most critical reforms being undertaken by the government in relation to the COI
Governor John Rankin
recently expressed disappointment at the pace of COI
reforms and noted that a reviewer (Kedrick Malone) has since been identified to lead a review of the existing policy and processes for granting residency and Belongership status.
That review is also expected to examine the open discretion of Cabinet to grant such statuses and the length of residence required for Belongership, among other things.
Penn said the next steps for that review include research, public consultations and public meetings.