Leader of the United Progressive Party Harold Lovell says on forming the next Government, the UPP Administration will champion an immigration system that is more competent, compassionate, and equitable.
He said in a press statement issued today that there are many areas that need to be better managed, ranging from indefinite periods for processing applications to a hostile environment, where non-nationals are made to feel like second-class citizens.
“At the heart of these new sweeping policies is the Party’s focus on ‘People First’ and our long-standing respect and connection to our Caricom brothers and sisters that have chosen to make Antigua and Barbuda their second home”, Lovell said
Lovell said the UPP has launched a printed brochure and an e-book entitled One Caribbean Vision, setting out a pro-prosperity approach to immigration, and these documents outline plans and policies under our One Caribbean Programme that eliminate work permit fees, reduce application fees and standardize processing times.
“Our plans also include an allowance for the transfer of work permits, which will enable greater job flexibility and movement within a specific industry, so that non-nationals can take advantage of more employment opportunities, according to Lovell.
He said under its one Caribbean Programme, the UPP will amend the constitution to allow people who have an Antiguan and Barbudan great-grandparent to secure their national passport by descent, complete all citizenship applications within 90 days and create a Department of Immigrant Affairs, guided by a Board of directors from within migrant communities.
The UPP according to Lovell will also establish an Immigrant Affairs Desk to promote the well-being of migrant communities, with multilingual staff to help applicants with all immigration matters.
They will also grant a Residency Card as the first step toward obtaining citizenship, establish a Citizenship Line to speed up the processing of persons applying for citizenship, grant Family Citizenship under a skilled immigration programme and activate the Immigration Appeals Tribunal to ensure quick settlement of immigration disputes.
In the field of education, Lovell said the UPP Government will introduce an “Education For All” Policy which simplifies access to public and private schools for children of immigrants, once space is available. This policy he said will remove red tape and prevent discrimination in the school enrollment process.
“Immigration checks and Ministry of Education approval will no longer be required for school access by immigrant children. The New UPP Government will provide greater access to free public school education for immigrant children. We will construct a New Secondary School to serve the Rural West and Rural South Constituencies and add new smart classrooms to other school plants. This will reduce overcrowding and improve the learning environment,” according to the UPP leader.
And where work permits and jobs are concerned, Lovell said a UPP government will implement a Work Permit Amnesty.
“Applicants will go through the same process, the work permit fee will be waived so they only pay the application fee, saving $500 to $800. Lower the cost of the Extension forms to $25. Introduce Transferable Work Permits that allow individuals to change employers within the same industry, without a new work permit. Waive the visa requirement for CARICOM Nationals who stayed out of the country for longer than the allowed time during the pandemic.