Friday, October 24, 2014

Bahamas Immigration Policy Update

Fred Mitchell - Minister of Foreign Affairs & Immigration

" I wish to remind the public that the constitution of The Bahamas does not give citizenship at birth to those born here of foreign parents."

I wish to give a brief statement in response to the feedback on the administrative measures announced by me in the House of Assembly on Immigration.

I said that there would be certain changes expected on 1st November following a period of feedback.

Nothing that has come back by way of feedback on the policies indicates that there is a need to change that administrative starting date. The date will therefore stand as the commencement date of the policy.

The policy is not aimed at any national group in The Bahamas. It is generic in nature. It seeks only to better ensure that the people who live and reside in The Bahamas have the lawful authority to do so, either because they are citizens of The Bahamas or they have permits to reside or work here.

I repeat that with immediate effect, we are no longer accepting applications for first time applicants for residence or work permits from those who have no legal status in The Bahamas. Those persons also will no longer be able simply to demonstrate that they have departed The Bahamas. This is in response to the increased suspicion of fraud in connection with these applications. In order for such a first time application to be processed, where the individual has no legal status in The Bahamas, the applicant must be seen and certified as having been seen by an officer of the nearest Bahamian embassy if there is no Bahamian embassy in the applicant's home country. The embassies are in a position to process these certifications.

Secondly, all those who are not nationals of The Bahamas who live in this country beginning 1st November will be required to have the passport of their nationality and evidence that they have permission to live or work in The Bahamas.

This may represent a broad class of people. I wish to remind the public that the constitution of The Bahamas does not give citizenship at birth to those born here of foreign parents. Those children have a right to apply at their eighteenth birthday and before their nineteenth birthday for citizenship of The Bahamas. Up to the time they are granted citizenship, in law they are not Bahamian citizens. This means that these people will be required to have a residence permit to reside lawfully in The Bahamas.

This is a requirement for which there will be no exceptions, save and except where someone is stateless. In the case of a stateless individual, the Government will provide an identity document but otherwise the practice of issuing certificates of identity is to cease on 1st November. When the currency of existing certificates of identity expires, they will not generally be reissued or renewed.

We will speak with the all embassies in The Bahamas and we anticipate that embassies will be able to meet that demand for passports.

We anticipate also that in the case of one national group it may take administratively some three months to meet and process that demand and for the Department of Immigration to process the volume of applications for resident permits.

In any event, we expect that by 15th January 2015, most people will have complied with this requirement and certainly that children will have complied for the start of the school term in 2015. If any citizen has a difficulty, they should contact their local embassy for assistance with particular problems.

These measures are for the general good and will provide a more secure form of documentation for all who work and live in The Bahamas. I would therefore urge all citizens residing lawfully in The Bahamas to comply with these new measures.

Those who are not here lawfully should expect increased vigilance and enforcement on the part of the law enforcement authorities in The Bahamas.

I wish to thank the public for their support of the measures, and for the responsible manner in which these have been accepted.

In particular, I would wish to commend the continuing dialogue with leaders of the Haitian community and for their efforts to ensure compliance with these administrative measures.

The door remains open for continued comment and dialogue as we seek to make The Bahamas a more secure place to live.

Bahamas News Ma Bey