Good Day to members of the media and the listening public. Thank you for your attendance and for watching this press conference.
Today I announce that effective tomorrow, Tuesday, September, 1st 2020, the Repatriation & Mixed Status Families amendments to the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956, will be brought into force. In addition, effective Monday, September 14th, 2020 the Department of Immigration will be receiving applications for the matters covered under this legislation.
As background, please note that this is not a new initiative. On March 16th and 18th 2020, the legislation was approved by the House of Assembly and the Senate, respectively. The legislation received Royal Assent on March 19th, 2020. These amendments were the product of a collaborative effort from both sides of the political aisle and was passed in a Bi-partisan manner.
The delay in bringing this legislation into force was due to the COVID-19 crisis and to allow the Department of Immigration time to address operational and process issues to ensure that persons applying under this legislation would have an improved experience, and that applications could be processed quickly
The Government stated in the 2018 Throne Speech that it would enact legislation to address the issue of persons born to Bermudians overseas who were ineligible for Bermuda Status and also the plight of many Mixed Status Families as a part of Immigration Reform.
Some of the guiding principles used in crafting these amendments included the desire to ensure the law:
- Did not negatively impact existing persons who have Bermudian Status but was fair;
- Was in alignment with the European Convention on Human Rights; and
- Did not lead to the separation of Mixed Status Families.
The two primary aims of the legislation are to correct the fact that:
- Bermudians experience difficulty obtaining Bermudian Status for their loved ones, who are born overseas; and
- That current Immigration law is unfair for some families in Bermuda, because it creates differences in rights between family members, with some family members having no rights even though they were born in Bermuda.
There is significant interest within the community regarding this legislation and today I hope to assure the public that this Government understands the human aspects of this important subject. We understand that this is not simply about the passage of a piece of legislation amending an Act from 1956, but it relates to matters like:
- legally residing in Bermuda;
- working in Bermuda;
- purchasing land in Bermuda; and
- being free to fully participate in Bermudian life.
These are all matters that impact people, in a deep and personal way and ties directly to their hopes and aspirations for a life in this country. For persons impacted by this of all colors, backgrounds and socio-economic classes, this represents an opportunity for them to obtain the same legal standing as their brothers, sisters, or parents.
In many cases, this will allow them after many years of uncertainty to finally have official documentation to prove that the place of their birth, and the only place that they have ever called home is indeed, their home.
Defining Mixed Status
For those who may not know, a Mixed Status Family is a family where one or more parents has Bermudian Status or holds a Permanent Resident’s Certificate, but their son, daughter, or spouse does not have either Bermudian Status or hold a Permanent Resident’s Certificate. Another example would be where 3 siblings were born in Bermuda, but due to the date of their birth, one sibiling would have status and the other 2 siblings would not.
There is no typical scenario that holds true for every Mixed Status Family. The individual circumstances will differ by person and by family. To better assist the public to understand the types of situations persons may be in, it is only possible to provide examples of the two issues the legislation seeks to address:
- Repatriation; and
- Mixed Status Families
1. The Repatriation Issue
The Repatriation Issue is the problem of the burden of the paperwork Bermudians must complete for their children to obtain Bermudian Status when those children are born overseas.
Moving forward, for children born overseas to a Bermudian parent, the parents of these children will not be required to prove that they were domiciled in Bermuda at the time of the child’s birth for up to two generations of children born overseas.
What this means, is that if a Bermudian has a child born overseas, that child is automatically Bermudian at birth without the need to fulfil any other requirement. And if that child born overseas in turn has a child of its own, that second generation born overseas would also be Bermudian from birth.
To address the issue retroactively, the legislation was not changed. However, for a child born overseas prior to the commencement of this legislation, although the requirement remains for the Bermudian parent to prove that they were domiciled in Bermuda at the time of the birth, the Department of Immigration is streamlining the process to make it less burdensome for Bermudians to apply and be granted Bermudian Status.
2. Mixed Status Families Issue
The Mixed Status Families issue addresses three problems:
- Problem 1 is the issue of two siblings born from the same parents in Bermuda but on different dates. However, one child has acquired Bermudian Status and the other has no status whatsoever.
- Problem 2 is the issue of a child born of Bermudian parents that has not qualified for Bermudian Status because at the time he was eligible to apply, he was either too young or too old.
- Problem 3 is the issue of Permanent Resident Certificate holders under one portion of the Act are able to pass on the PRC to their children, but other PRC holders granted under another portion of the Act are not able to do so.
The solution in the legislative amendments allow persons with no normalized immigration status to qualify for Bermudian Status, or a PRC.
In the case of persons obtaining PRC, a two year window that allows for the children of PRC holders to obtain a Permanent Resident Certificate. The two year period will run from September 2020 to August 2022. After this two year period, the legislation will reverts back to normal.
Issues related to residing in Bermuda, working and owning property are issues that are very personal in nature. Persons are eager to apply and to have their situation normalized. Before we become inundated with telephone calls and emails from the public asking about their particular circumstances and if they will be eligible to apply please note the following.
It is not possible to provide a specific answer to an individual who has a specific set of circumstances, in the absence of a complete submission, however frequently asked questions will be produced to serve as a guide. Each application will be determined based on the information presented and on the merits.
I encourage you to review all the information that will be released in the coming days and if you believe that you are eligible, please apply.
Today I have provided a lot of information and the Government intends to provide more detailed information over the course of the next several days because we know the public will have further questions. Our plans are as follows:
- We will launch a page on the Immigration Department's website that will provide:
- an explanation of Mixed Status Families and the types of persons eligible to apply;
- application forms that may be downloaded;
- the list of fees;
- instructions on how to remit payment;
- Frequently Asked Questions; and
- contact information
- We will also run radio adverts to inform the public of this initiative
- We will also release info-graphics that explain the pertinent points outlined today, on multiple media channels
- We will hold a follow up Facebook Live chat on this topic next week to further address the public's questions.
Ultimately these legislative changes are intended to bring Bermuda in line with international standards or law and policy. The Progressive Labour Party Government was elected with a mandate to lead. We took the approach of bi-partisan collaboration to make changes to our immigration policy.
The mandate of the Minstry of Labour is to have more persons living and working in Bermuda. These changes fit into that mandate, while reducing red-tape and decades old headache for many. The certainty for mixed status families will help our economy by allowing more persons to participate and invest in our local economy.
Most importantly this change will allow persons who were born to Bermudian parents and, up until now were unable to get Bermuda Status, to finally be able to get that status so that they can repatriate to Bermuda and help the Bermudians here build our economy.
Before I close today I must offer my thanks to the Department of Immigration who have worked tirelessly over the last several months since the re-opening of the Department following the Shelter-in-Place.
There was a significant volume of applications that had accumulated. The Department has diligently worked through this significant bottleneck. In addition with the launch of the One Year Residential Certificate, additional operational duties have been assumed. This is at the same time the Department is making substantial changes to improve processes.
I acknowledge the efforts of the Acting Chief Immigration Officer, Ms. Marita Grimes for her efforts up to this point.
There is still much to be done in immigration reform and as the Minister responsible for Immigration, I have a great interest in continuing the work to improve processes within the Department as it is critical to the supply of labour, as one of the important inputs for economic growth. We very much encourage Ms. Grimes and the entire Immigration team to continue the good work of improving processes and therefore the overall customer experience.
Now the Department faces a new challenge as the volume of applications under the Repatriation and Mixed Status as Families legislation is expected to be significant. We will provide further details on the application process and on the expected turn-around-times however it is sufficient to say at this time that we will fully examine every application and this will take time.