(Royal Gazette) A new points system has been proposed for the granting of Bermudian status.
Decisions on status should take account of people’s contribution to Bermuda and include a course and test on Bermudian culture.
The recommendations from the Consultative Immigration Reform Working Group released yesterday included a condition that families should not be separated because of issues about grants of long-term residency.
Highlighting a “data gap”, the group called on the Government to track the statistical impact of any amendments made.
The report said: “We have been unable to determine with any degree of certainty what numbers of people are affected by the issues examined.”
It also highlighted the “persuasive argument” that the offer of permanent residency or citizenship to “unsustainable numbers of guest workers” would go against the human rights of the local population.
The report, drawn up after 18 months of discussions and public consultation, laid out guiding principles for new immigration policies covering mixed-status families, permanent resident’s certificates and Bermuda status.
Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs, will examine the report alongside a bipartisan committee on immigration reform.
Mr Brown said he hoped new legislation would be brought to Parliament as early as February.
The group added it was “mindful that Bermuda needs to attract foreign investment to our shores and that there are some job categories which have low Bermudian participation”.
It added that a “mechanism” should be adopted to grant “security of tenure to long-term residents”.
Eligibility should be determined by a timeframe that would denote long-term residency, with the candidate required to show “some form of investment in Bermuda”, as well as an immersion in local culture and positive contributions to the community. Another factor to be considered was that the person “occupies a position in an essential job category where there is low Bermudian participation”.
The report said a grant of Bermudian status was “a privilege extended by the Government”.
It added: “There should be a route for long-term residents to apply for the grant of Bermudian status after meeting certain stringent criteria and based on population demographics offering equal opportunity for all qualified persons to apply, eliminating any bias and discrimination.
“Children of Bermudians should be Bermudian — if at least one parent is Bermudian then you are Bermudian.
“Once acquired, Bermudian status is a right — no matter how status is acquired, it cannot be taken away.”
However, it said that “care must be taken so as not to create a right for all long-term residents to get Bermudian status”.
Among its suggestions for drafting policy, the report recommended keeping records of the numbers of Bermudians emigrating from the island.
The working group was established in April 2016, in the wake of protests sparked by the Pathways to Status immigration proposals.
Those amendments, which included offering status to residents who have lived on the island for 20 years, along with the possibility of permanent resident’s certification for 15-year residents, were withdrawn after several days of demonstrations that sparked industrial action as well as protesters blocking Parliament.
The need to amend Bermuda’s immigration laws was accepted by the former One Bermuda Alliance government and the new Progressive Labour Party administration — with Mr Brown calling the island’s policies “unbalanced” shortly after the PLP regained power in July.
The working group was at first tasked with proposing amendments to the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956.
But just after the election, Mr Brown gave it a new mandate and assigned the group to develop immigration principles that would accommodate “Bermudians coming first” as well as the needs of local businesses.