Persons who have been working in the Territory for five years or more and are changing employers, will no longer be required to leave the Territory during the transition process.
The Government of the Virgin Islands, through the Immigration Department, has introduced changes to the Immigration and Passport Ordinance (Cap 130) to allow the Chief Immigration Officer to grant permission to persons to remain in the Territory for the purpose of seeking employment.
Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE, who also holds the portfolio for immigration, brought the Bill to the House of Assembly during the Eighth Sitting of the First Session of the Third House of Assembly on Wednesday, April 20. He explained that the amendments were necessary to reduce any detrimental social effects and unnecessary financial hardships on families, businesses and the economy.
Explaining the changes, Acting Chief Immigration Officer, Mr. Ian Penn stated, “The amendments to the Immigration and Passport Ordinance (Cap. 130) allow persons who are changing employers to obtain permission from the Chief Immigration Officer to remain in the Territory and seek further employment.”
Mr. Penn added that only persons who have worked in the Territory for a period of five years would ordinarily qualify. Persons who have held entry permits for one to four years will not be considered unless they can demonstrate exceptional circumstances where the amendment may apply.
Also amended under Section 31 is change of status, granting permission to persons who have resided in the Territory without being employed for at least three years, to change their immigration status to seek employment. These changes are likely to be subject to an increase in fees.
The Immigration Department is responsible for ensuring that all persons entering the Territory qualify as desirable visitors. Additionally, the department ensures that individuals’ residency, employment and business activities are monitored, regulated and controlled, while providing professional and courteous services.