British Virgin Islands

Saturday, Dec 04, 2021

Cabinet revises criteria to apply for Work Permit Exemption

Cabinet revises criteria to apply for Work Permit Exemption

The Cabinet has issued a raft of new guidelines after it revoked the work permit exemption policy that was previously in place.

According to a post-Cabinet statement on its August 18 meeting, the new guidelines took effect on August 23.

Under this revised policy, all applications for Work Permit Exemptions must be sent to the Labour Minister for approval after they are submitted to his ministry for processing.

Cabinet also decided to reduced the categories of persons that are eligible for work permit exemption. The number of categories is now down to three and these include exemption by marriage, exemption by education, and exemption by a minister’s discretion.

Previously, persons residing in the territory for 15 or more consecutive years were eligible to apply for work permit exemption.

Exemption by Marriage


Cabinet advised that persons applying in the ‘marriage’ category can now do so immediately after marrying a BVIslander or Belonger.

An approved person under this category will receive their exemption for a fixed period of six years, maximum. At year number-five, an application for Belongership by Marriage should be made with the Immigration Department.

Importantly, Cabinet advised that any applications from spouses residing outside of the territory will be denied. Cabinet also stated that this category of exemption will be linked to a specific employer. It said any change in employer or employment, before the expiration of the exemption, will result in the exemption being automatically cancelled.

Further to this, Cabinet said any awarded exemption is to be revoked if a person becomes divorced, legally separated, or leaves the territory for more than 90 days without previous permission.

Notably, a work permit exemption will not be revoked if the holder has, at any time, obtained a protection order against their spouse under the territory’s Domestic Violence Act.

Exemption by Minister’s discretion


Under the revised Labour policy, a person who is granted Exemption at the Minister’s Discretion would not be eligible for Exemption by Marriage.

The ‘Exemption by Minister’s Discretion’ category will be also be linked to a specific employer and any change in employment before the expiration of the exemption will nullify the exemption previously awarded.

A person is only eligible to reapply after one year from the date of the originally denied application, Cabinet advised.

This category also offers the option to apply for a renewal of an expired work permit exemption. Cabinet said the exemption will be revoked if a person is residing outside of the territory for more than 90 days without prior permission.

The aforesaid Cabinet document did not issue any guidelines for persons requesting exemption under the category of Education.

Non-refundable fees for all categories of exemption will remain in place.

Why was the new policy implemented


Labour Minister Vincent Wheatley has repeatedly cautioned persons that the issuance of a work permit exemption does not confer a new Immigration status on any person.

In the meantime, Cabinet said the new Labour policy was done “to better reflect the government’s ever-evolving strategy on immigration and labour reform in the territory”.

It was also done to streamline and reduce illegal trends associated with work permit exemption holders. These include illegal work and movement throughout the territory.

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