WEDNESDAY, APRIL 4: The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry today offered the following in response to recent public comments emanating from the Chamber of Commerce regarding the Ministry’s work and term limit policies.

And the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Hon. Patrice K. Minors said she wants to assure both the local and international business sectors that her Ministry is “striking a balance in these trying times between ensuring that companies are afforded the resources that they need, and ensuring that Bermudians that are available for employment obtain a job for which they are suitably qualified”.

That said, Minister Minors confirmed that an internal Work Permit Policy review has commenced.

The objective of the review is to update and clarify the Work Permit Policy and eliminate the nuisance factors associated with work permit processing such as exaggerated processing times. It should be noted that there are times where delays are attributable to efforts taken to ensure that Bermudians are given every opportunity to apply for jobs.

It is anticipated that new procedures will reduce the processing time for a substantive work permit from 10 weeks to 4 weeks. In fact, clients may have already started to experience quicker processing times as a result of some preliminary changes that have already been implemented.

Minister Minors said, “The Chamber will be aware that the Incentives for Job Creators Act became operational in January 2012 and is aimed at creating a climate that will help keep companies in Bermuda as partners in our country’s long-term future.

“Companies that have invested in Bermuda and Bermudians have been encouraged to apply for the benefits, which extends to concessions including having up to five senior executives exempt from work permit control. These executives can apply for a Permanent Resident’s Certificate once they meet the eligibility requirements.

“To further ease the recruitment burden and maintain jobs in Bermuda, the 10-year work permit was introduced on the 1st of November, 2011. To date, two 10-year work permits have been issued and a number of potential applications are pending.”

Minister Minors continued, “The environment has changed since the approval of the initial longer term work permit policy with additional pressure to retain jobs here in Bermuda. It is therefore anticipated that the criteria for the 10-Year Work Permit will be extended to senior management teams and/or heads of departments within major companies.

This proposed expansion of the eligibility criteria to include Heads of Departments will further complement the Incentives for Job Makers Act 2011.”

On the subject of term limits, Minister Minors said, “This is an area that has been the subject of much discussion.

The purpose of the term limit policy is to discourage the expectation that work permit approval is tantamount to permanent residence rights in Bermuda.

“The reality is that at least 35% of work permit holders have been granted waivers from term limits and another 35% have been granted extensions. The practical effect is that the policy establishes clarity with respect to the residency issue but is flexible enough so as not to negatively affect the continuity of service of key employees for businesses.”

The Government continues to stand by its unifying message of “Let's Build One Another Together”, and thus further consultation with stakeholders as it relates to the Work Permit Policy Review is anticipated in the coming weeks.