The United Progressive Party (UPP) has issued a press statement, saying that effective 1st March 2023, it will waive all work permit fees for nationals of Caricom and the Dominican Republic, who have been working and resident in Antigua and Barbuda on or before January 1st 2023.
Work permits for nationals of Caricom and the Dominican Republic will be replaced by the “One Caribbean Employment Stamp”, which will be transferable from one employer to another, within the same industry and same job class, according to the UPP.
UPP Leader, Harold Lovell says OECS Economic Union has been effective in bringing citizens of the OECS together as one people and one community.
“Work permits are not required for OECS nationals to work throughout the OECS, thereby expanding opportunities for job creation and the growth of regional economies,” he said.
Furthermore, he says by replacing work permits with the ‘One Caribbean Employment Stamp’, the UPP’s ‘One Caribbean Act’ will extend similar opportunities to Caricom nationals, as well as nationals from the Dominican Republic.
“Therefore, Guyanese, Jamaicans and other Caricom nationals, as well as nationals from the Dominican Republic who have been living and working peacefully among us before 1st January, 2023, will no longer require a work permit. This represents further advancement towards the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) and regional integration,” Lovell said,
He said the ‘One Caribbean Act’ is part of the UPP’s “One Caribbean Vision” Programme, which provides a pathway to achieving a more effective and reliable immigration system, that is simpler, fairer, yet also well enforced.
“Other reforms under the UPP’s “One Caribbean Vision” include increasing the staff at the Immigration Office to target a quick turnaround time of no more than 90 days for all citizenship applications”
And for persons who broke their residency period due to their unavoidable absence, caused by the COVID pandemic, the UPP says they will have no adverse immigration consequences.
A UPP government he said will also amend the Constitution to allow people who have an Antiguan and Barbudan great-grandparent who was born in Antigua and Barbuda to secure their Antigua and Barbuda passports by descent.
They also intend to create a Department of Immigrant Affairs, guided by a Board of directors from within migrant communities.
The establishment of an Immigrant Affairs Desk to promote the well-being of migrant communities, with multilingual staff to help applicants with all immigration matters is also on the cards including a Grant of Family Citizenship under a skilled immigration programme.
Another of the promise includes activating the Immigration Appeals Tribunal to ensure quick settlement of immigration disputes.
The new UPP Government also promises that it 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 will remove red tap 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, should they form the next government
The new UPP Government will also 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. The UPP remains committed to delivering immigration reforms and improvements which ensure a better quality of life for all Antiguans and Barbudans”.