Proposed changes to immigration law aimed at providing new routes to a Permanent Residency Certificate for certain long-term residents and families have received Royal Assent and should come into force in the near future.
The Government said that these changes support its priority of achieving a simplified, fair and modern framework for immigration in Bermuda. This development follows changes to the rules on "mixed-status families" that came into force in September 2020.
While not the same as possessing Bermudian Status (eg, they have no right to vote), non-Bermudians who hold a PRC experience certain advantages over those who do not, including the right to reside and work in Bermuda without a work permit.
A PRC can also provide the holder with a route to obtaining British Overseas Territory Citizenship via naturalisation, although additional criteria must be satisfied.
This column sets out existing paths to PRC under the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 ("Act") and discusses the upcoming changes.
As of today, PRC can be acquired in two ways.
Firstly, under section 31A of the Act, PRC is available for applicants who have qualified via the so-called "job-makers" route under the Economic Development Act 1968.
Under section 3B of the EDA, a company can apply for designation as a company whose senior executives can request an exemption from needing a work permit.
To qualify for this designation, the company must generally demonstrate that it:
- has at least ten Bermudian staff;
- has Bermudians employed at all levels in the company;
- provides entry-level positions for Bermudians;
- has programmes for developing and promoting Bermudians; and
- exercises employment practices which have not regularly required the intervention of labour relations officers or the Human Rights Commission.
Once the company is designated, a certain number of its senior executives can apply for a work permit exemption. Approval is conditional on, among other things, the applicant demonstrating that:
- they are responsible for making decisions that are critical to the continuity of the company in Bermuda; and
- the continued presence of jobs in Bermuda with the company for Bermudians is dependent on the applicant remaining in Bermuda.
Once approved, the applicant may apply for PRC, provided they have been ordinarily resident in Bermuda for at least ten years, and have been resident in the two years immediately preceding the application. The fee is $50,000.
Secondly, under section 31B of the Act, the son, daughter or spouse of most PRC holders can apply for their own PRC, provided, among other things, they have been ordinarily resident in Bermuda for at least ten years preceding the application.
It was originally intended that this route would only be open to new applicants until August 31, 2022.
There is presently no method by which LTRs (long-term residents) can acquire PRC purely by reason of the length of time they have resided in Bermuda.
Similarly, there is no route to Bermudian Status by reason purely of long-term residence.
This is an issue for many non-Bermudians whose security of residence in Bermuda is dependent on them continuing to hold a work permit.
The upcoming changes aim to address this issue by adding Section 31ZA to the Act, under which any person who has been ordinarily resident in Bermuda for at least 20 years is entitled to apply for PRC, provided also that they have been resident in Bermuda in the two years immediately preceding their application.
In calculating whether an applicant has 20 years' residency, periods of continuous ordinary residence of 12 months or longer may be aggregated (provided the gap between two periods is no more than four years), but any period of residency which occurred more than 30 years prior to the date of the application is disregarded.
The cost of the application will be $10,000.
Other changes to the Act will assist certain families.
Section 31ZB is to be introduced, under which a non-Bermudian parent of a child with Bermudian Status can apply for PRC, provided that they have been ordinarily resident in Bermuda for at least 15 years and for the two years immediately preceding their application. The ability to aggregate periods of residence is similar to that discussed above for LTRs.
The application fee will be $10,000 (it was originally proposed that the cost of this application would be much lower, or possibly free).
In addition, the current August 31, 2022, expiry date for applications under Section 31B by a child or spouse of a PRC holder is to be abolished.
Although PRC does not provide all the benefits of Bermudian Status, and while some observers expected more comprehensive legislative developments in this area, these changes will no doubt be welcomed by many individuals who will have a new option for securing their long-term future in Bermuda.
Further, the employers of those individuals will see a benefit, as they will no longer need to bear the financial and administrative burden of renewing their work permits.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.