Amid cries from local businesses and expatriates that work permits are not being processed in a timely manner, Minister for Financial Services, Labour & Trade Lorna Smith has promised that the nine-month processing period many are experiencing will be significantly reduced under her leadership.
“I am very conscious of this issue and it is all pervasive. I have met with the Labour Commissioner to discuss the matter and to make sure that the time is reduced significantly,” Smith explained. “One of the things we have to look at is using technology better and I am in touch with a person that has been recommended to assist us in doing so. But I can tell you that I am committed to making sure this is no longer the case.”
Smith pointed out that inadequate staffing is one of the main reasons the Labour Department continues to face problems with the processing of work permits. She said she is aware that many tourism businesses are suffering because of a lack of officers to process work permits within the Labour Department.
“I just met somebody who pointed out that on Virgin Gorda, there isn’t a senior officer in place and so at times — especially businesses in tourism, they have to wait for an officer to come over from Tortola to solve this problem,” Smith explained.
While Smith was promising to fix the work permit woes, Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley added that he will give his full support to ensure the staffing issues at the Labour Department are fixed.
Work permits are very important to the private and public sectors as both government and private sector businesses rely on immigrant labour in the BVI. Official statistics show that expatriates make up some 70 per cent of the local labour force.