Immigration and Foreign Affairs Minister E.P. Chet Greene is hitting back at critics who deem the upcoming amnesty for immigrants to be a political ploy by his government. Greene, during his budget speech presentation on Tuesday, spoke to the importance of granting amnesty to those who have been in the country for years and have been continuously contributing to its growth. He mentioned that far too many times, families have been short-changed due to gaps in the system.
Greene went on to say that with the increasing need for a larger labor force, due to a rise in developmental projects, it is a ‘no-brainer’ to help migrants who abide by the laws of the land.
“Budget 2022 makes it clear that we do not have sufficient labor to satisfy our development needs next year and the years to come. Yet we know we have a pool of labor already in the country – persons who are tried and tested, and who meet the day-to-day requirements and stay out of trouble.” Greene explained.
Applicants who have resided in the country for a continuous period of four years, but who have not yet completed seven years, will be granted residency, while persons who have gone over that seven-year mark will be cleared to citizenship. In 2015, Antigua and Barbuda passed the Immigration and Passport (Amendment) Act 2015 under which illegal immigrants could seek amnesty to have their time in the country extended. The Citizenship Act requires that a person seeking citizenship be ordinarily resident in Antigua and Barbuda for no less than seven years, of which not less than five years in total must have been spent in the country.
In considering whether an application for amnesty should be granted, the Cabinet would look at whether the applicant has any criminal convictions, his or her family ties in the country where applicable, and any other information it deems relevant to the application. The amnesty period will run from March 1-April 30.