An overhaul of work permit regulations which will “reduce red tape and demonstrate that Bermuda is open for business” could come into effect by the end of the year.
According to Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy, the revisions, compiled by Government after extensive consultation, have been drawn up to attract foreign businesses to Bermuda and include the creation of new categories of work permit for exempt companies.
A new Bermuda Employment Visa (BEV) will allow exempt companies to employ some foreigners without needing to advertise or to apply for a standard work permit, although companies applying for a BEV will have to be accredited.
A new Global Entrepreneur Work Permit will allow entrepreneurs looking to start up a business in Bermuda to obtain a work permit — and the right of residency on the Island — while they are setting up their business.
And a new Business Permit will allow brand new companies to Bermuda to obtain work permits without advertising during the first six months of setting up.
At a press conference this morning, Mr Fahy stressed that the changes also brought in tough compliant measures for companies including satisfying Government that they have informed all unsuccessful Bermudians, spouses of Bermudians, and PRC holders of the outcome of their applications, prior to the submission of a work permit application.
“Overall, we believe these changes will demonstrate to the local and international community that Bermuda continues to be open for business as we continue to cut down on the red tape which hinders our growth as an international business domicile,” the Minister said.
“For example, employers will now only need to produce chest X-rays for TB for employees coming from high risk jurisdictions and will be able to complete work permit forms in Microsoft word. However there are quid pro quos as identified above which we believe will give opportunities to Bermudians whilst assisting business in their goals.”
The Minister’s full speech is set out below”
“One of the Government’s main goals is to restore economic health to Bermuda, to create new conditions that enable Bermudians to find work and career opportunities.
“The Ministry of Home Affairs plays a critical role in achieving that goal. Specifically its mission is “to improve the economy by addressing the needs of the local and international business community and the career aspirations of Bermudians”.
“This morning, I would like to review a new Draft Work Permit Policy for Bermuda, which I believe will greatly further our efforts in this regard.
“The revision was undertaken to keep Bermuda current in an ever-changing, highly competitive world.
“And it has been developed over the last year through consultation with stakeholders and the community at large. The work was led by the Work Permit Stakeholder Group, which is comprised of representatives from employer and employee groups. Their work will continue as we seek feedback on the draft policy.
“As Minister I am also continuing this consultative process, having already presented major changes to the Labour Advisory Council, the BIU, the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR) and The Association of Bermuda International Companies (ABIC). I will be making further presentations this week and next to the Chamber of Commerce, the Bermuda Employer’s Council, the Bermuda Hotel Association and the Bermuda Human Resources Association.
“These meetings have been extremely helpful to us, as each organisation has provided excellent feedback on the proposals.
“We also look forward to receiving feedback from the public before finalising this document. People can view the document on the Government website www.gov.bm and have until October 17th to send us their views. They can do this by emailing [email protected]
“I’d now like to run through some of the principal changes in the draft policy.
“New categories of work permits are proposed, such as the Bermuda Employment Visa and the Global Entrepreneur Work Permit.
“A Bermuda Employment Visa (BEV) will make it possible for exempted companies to employ a limited number of foreign nationals without needing to advertise or to apply for a Standard Work Permit. The total number of BEVs issued to an exempted company will be limited to 20 percent of the total Bermuda-based workforce of that exempted company. Companies that wish to participate in obtaining a BEV will need to be accredited. Accreditation will include a process requiring the creation of workplace opportunities for Bermudians in the form of training programs and succession planning. BEVs will essentially replace ten year work permits and can be applied for one to seven years.
“The new Global Entrepreneur Work Permit has been created to enable individuals who are planning new start-up companies in Bermuda to apply for work permits. This will enable that person to live in Bermuda while conducting their business planning.
“Other changes proposed in the draft policy include the New Business Permit. These would allow brand new companies to Bermuda to obtain work permits without advertising during the first six months of their existence. If ten or more permits are required, then information will be asked of the new company regarding their growth strategy and how they intend to employ Bermudians. This information will be taken into account when further permits are applied for. Our aim with this policy is to attract companies to relocate to Bermuda. The knock on effect, of course, is more people on the ground, renting homes and apartments, paying taxes, eating in our restaurants and generally contributing to Bermuda’s economic well being. I must reiterate that this will apply to new companies coming to Bermuda with new staff coming, not as a vehicle to shift employees already in Bermuda to a new subsidiary.
“Other policy changes include the requirement for employers to do the following:
•They must satisfy Government that they have informed all unsuccessful Bermudians, Spouses of Bermudians, and PRC holders of the outcome of their applications, prior to the submission of a work permit application.
•They must ensure that all jobs are advertised on the Government Job Board, with their advertisements running for eight consecutive days);
•They must ensure that where an established graduate training programme or an established exchange internship programme exists, that Bermudians, spouses of Bermudians, and PRC holders are given equal opportunities to participate in related programmes; and
•They may be asked to participate in initiatives led by the National Training Board to boost the number of Bermudians employed in job categories where there are currently high numbers of work permit holders. Employers who employ more than five work permit holders may be invited to participate in such initiatives.
“Other policy changes will require businesses to provide additional information to the Department of Immigration. Restaurants, for example, will need to outline the minimum weekly take-home pay for their workers, and beauty salons will need to include sick and holiday pay information in their contracts of employment.
“The draft policy also proposes to end the practice of giving refunds to unexpired periods of work permits. This will remove more red-tape at the department and encourage employers to apply for the length of permit they actually require.
“These new policies will complement the powers already given to the Chief Immigration Officer in terms of levying civil penalties for rogue employers and employees.
“Overall, we believe these changes will demonstrate to the local and international community that Bermuda continues to be open for business as we continue to cut down on the red tape which hinders our growth as an international business domicile. For example, employers will now only need to produce chest X-rays for TB for employees coming from high risk jurisdictions and will be able to complete work permit forms in Microsoft word. However there are quid pro quos as identified above which we believe will give opportunities to Bermudians whilst assisting business in their goals.
“Bermuda must be seen to be competitive. However, being competitive does not mean selling out on opportunities for Bermudians. By ensuring our Immigration Policies are transparent and fair we aim to attract new business to Bermuda to stimulate continued growth. These policies will make Bermuda more competitive but also go a long way to encouraging employers to train Bermudians and put them on a career path that meets their needs and ambitions.
“The Department of Immigration is often on the front line and often catches the blame when things go wrong. I wish to make it clear again those complaints are taken seriously, whether anonymous or not. However I must take this opportunity to also say that most employers do want to hire Bermudians. Whilst there are some rogue employers out there, most want qualified Bermudians. It is better for their business planning and growth strategies. I believe that the policy changes will make employers even more responsible and cognizant of their responsibilities to the local work force.
“The intent is for the new policy to come into effect on December 1st, 2014. As there will be new fees associated with the new work permits, this will require legislative approval, which we plan to Table into the Legislature in November. New work permit application forms will be available online only as will further information on the accreditation process for BEVs.
“I have given today just a small snapshot of the proposed changes to the policy given the natural time constraints of a press conference.
“The aim of these policy changes is to help turn around the economy in ways that benefit Bermudians directly and indirectly, to cut red tape, to make the system more user friendly and transparent and to provide new training and career opportunities for Bermudians.
“Again I invite members of the public to read the policy document so that you are well informed going forward.”