Fred Mitchell, Minister of Immigration and Foreign Affairs, held several meetings throughout Abaco on the cusp of “more consistent and thorough checks of the immigration status of residents” in line with new administrative measures which came into effect November 1, 2014.
Mr. Mitchell said this exercise “is about protecting the integrity of the larger Bahamas and each of its communities.”
“It’s the way of life you are trying to protect and if it is subverted in any way – we want to try to guard against that,” he said.
He said that the new measures are being undertaken for two reasons, the first of which is integrity, and the second is that “we have an international obligation to know who is in our country and whether they have a right to live and work here; for national security reasons which impact our relationship with countries that border us.”
“We have a responsibility to be sure that the people who come here, don’t leave this country and use it as a launching pad for illegal activities in other countries,” he added.
Mr. Mitchell indicated that within 90 days the immigration department in Abaco would carry out exercises to enforce the new measures and advised persons to ensure that they have on hand evidence of their right to live and work in The Bahamas, such as passport, voter’s card, work permit or residency permit.
As of November 1, 2014 no applications will be accepted in The Bahamas for first-time work permit applicants who have no legal status in The Bahamas.
All first-time applicants for work permits without legal status in The Bahamas will have to be certified as having been seen by The Bahamas Embassy of their home country or the nearest Consular Office of The Bahamas, with no exceptions.
This does not apply to renewals once those are made before the current permit expires.
Mr. Mitchell also said that the Passport Office will no longer issue Certificates of Identity to those persons born of non-nationals in The Bahamas. Those individuals who have valid Certificates of Identity must now obtain the passport of their nationality and apply for a residency permit which will show that they have a right to live and work in The Bahamas.
Mr. Mitchell added that they have spoken with the Haitian ambassador and they have been assured that the Haitian Embassy can produce passports for their citizens.
He also discussed that there is a special residency permit available for those individuals who have the right to apply for Bahamian citizenship at the age of eighteen and before their nineteenth birthday. The processing fee is one hundred dollars and the annual permit is twenty-five dollars.
He said that these permits will only be issued to those persons whose parents are lawfully in The Bahamas, allowing the holder to live, work and go to school in The Bahamas until such time as their citizenship status is determined. These are obtained upon application at the Department of Immigration.
The public is asked to be patient as the new policies unfold.