British Virgin Islands

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Persons can no longer qualify for work permit exemptions through years of service- policy under review, says minister of labor

Persons can no longer qualify for work permit exemptions through years of service- policy under review, says minister of labor

Minister for Natural Resources, Labor and Immigration Honorable Vincent Wheatley has addressed what he said is persons who have been misinterpreting the work permit exemption as a permanent status.
Honorable Wheatley while delivering a statement titled “Work Permit Exemption” during the Seventh Sitting of the Third Session of the Fourth House of Assembly said the process is undergoing review so that it could achieve its initial intended purpose.

Honourable Wheatley said, “I want to bring awareness to the public on the reason for such a policy, as it has become more evident that a policy such as this can easily be misused whether unintentionally or otherwise. The Work Permit Exemption Policy is one that has grown immensely over the years in the number of persons that apply and are successful.”

Honorable Wheatley said after taking up office in 2019, the policy was revised with the most substantial change being where a term limit was added to the exemption, resulting in the ceasing of the issuance of indefinite work permit exemptions. He added that it is his belief that this change has allowed for the correct intent and purpose of the exemption to be realized.

Honorable Wheatley explained the difference between a work permit exemption and permanent status, and addressed employers who advertise misleading statements that contribute to the misconception about work permit exemptions.

He said, “I have reduced, once more, the categories of persons eligible to qualify for work permit exemption by removing the category of tenure. Therefore, persons are no longer eligible to apply for work permit exemption if employed for any specific number of years within the Territory.”

The minister said this will fall in line with the pending immigration reform. He said the aim is to formalize both immigration and labor policies as it relates to the number of years a person can reside in the Territory while on work permit, prior to their possibly transitioning into a permanent resident.

“The categories of Work Permit Exemption by marriage and Minister’s discretion will remain, albeit with new guidelines,” Honorable Wheatley said, adding, “I would also like to point out that a grading scheme has been introduced to the minister’s discretion category that will allow for a more streamlined, consistent, and fair approval of applications. The Work Permit Exemption issuance in this Territory will move from a situation of subsidy to one of substance.”

The Department of Labor and Workforce Development continues to promote good Labor/Management practices at workplaces to ensure stable and harmonious labor relations between employers and employees, and to protect the rights, wages, working conditions, safety, health and welfare of workers through enforcement of the British Virgin Islands Labor Laws.
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