Today I will be addressing two topics regarding the Department of Immigration: The English Speaking Work Permit Policy and the referral of work permit applications for tennis personnel to the Bermuda Lawn Tennis Association (BLTA).
In order to provide greater assurance that Bermudians who work in the sport of tennis are given fair opportunities for gainful employment in Bermuda, the Department of Immigration has introduced a new process of referring work permit applications for tennis personnel to the Bermuda Lawn Tennis Association (BLTA).
This means that, going forward, employers must send a copy of the work permit application (with all supporting documentation) to the BLTA at the same time they submit the work permit application to the Department of Immigration.
The BLTA must provide a written response to employers within 10 working days from the date the application is referred to them. Employers must submit the response to the Department of Immigration. If a response is not provided within this timeframe, then employers must provide formal written notification to the Department of Immigration to advise that no response was received, including all relevant details relating to the referral; i.e. name of prospective work permit holder, job title, and the date of referral to the BLTA.
The Minister can exercise discretion over the response from the BLTA; i.e. he may or may not agree with the response.
It should be noted that the referral process will cause the Department’s processing timelines to be extended.
Now, I will move on to the next topic…regarding the English Speaking Policy….
The English Speaking Work Permit Policy, currently out for consultation, seeks to ensure that foreign nationals hired by employers to work in serving positions - whether it’s in a restaurant, a hotel or a rest home - can communicate effectively in English.
Also, it is dangerous, for example, to have a non-English speaker employed in a job where one has to read prescriptions or the labels of dangerous chemicals.
It is for those reasons that the Department of Immigration is seeking to put into effect the English Speaking Work Permit Policy.
The job categories that are being targeted by the new policy are those in industries where the job holder interacts with the public or in jobs where lives could be threatened if the person cannot speak or read English, namely:
(a) Restaurant/Food Service and Hotel Workers: such as cleaner/houseman; room attendant; pot washer; cook/chef; waiter; food and beverage server; maitre’d; kitchen porter; counter person; counter chef;
(b) Health Professionals, including but not exclusive of: physician; pharmacist; nurse; nursing aide; physiotherapist; occupational therapist; radiological technician; social worker; and
(c) Caregivers in Nursing Jobs: nursemaid/nanny/child caregiver; caregivers of geriatric employers and patients in nursing homes.
For workers from countries where English is not the first language, a condition would be placed on the work permit under this new Policy stating: “Applicant must provide evidence he or she has successfully passed an ‘English as a Second Language’ programme.”
The employer would be required to show evidence that the applicant has successfully passed an ‘English as Second Language’ programme by submitting the document with the work permit application.
Under this Policy, the Department of Immigration would investigate complaints from members of the general public that work permit holders cannot speak or understand English. In circumstances where the individual is already working in Bermuda and where a complaint is lodged against him/her, he/she will be brought into the Department of Immigration and given an English language test. If the test results indicate that the person is deficient in their understanding of and/or ability to speak English (i.e. they fail the test), the employer and employee will be advised that the Minister is considering revoking the work permit; both parties will be given 14 days to provide a written response as to why the Minister should not revoke the work permit. If the language test results indicate that the person is proficient in their understanding of and/or ability to speak English (i.e. they pass the test), they will be allowed to continue to reside and work in Bermuda for the duration of their work permit. In this case, the Department of Immigration reserves the right to recall the work permit holder for re-testing at any time.
As mentioned earlier, the English Speaking Work Permit Policy is in circulation to key stakeholders for consultative purposes; the deadline for feedback is October 12, 2018. Depending on the extent of the feedback, I expect that this Policy will be implemented by October 19, 2018.