The main opposition United progressive Party (UPP) says if it wins the January 18 general election, it will introduce legislation allowing for the exemption of work permits fees for nationals from CARICOM and the Dominican Republic.
It said that under the “One Caribbean” Act, effective, March 1, 2023, the new UPP government “will waive all work permit fees for nationals of CARICOM and the Dominican Republic, who have been working and resident in Antigua and Barbuda on or before January 1 this year.”
The party, which is one of three political organisations contesting the 17 seats in the election, said that work permits for these nationals will be replaced by the “One Caribbean Employment Stamp”, which will be transferable from one employer to another, within the same industry and same job class.
“The OECS Economic Union has been effective in bringing citizens of the OECS together as one people and one community. Work permits are not required for OECS nationals to work throughout the OECS, thereby expanding opportunities for job creation and the growth of regional economies,” said UPP leader, Harold Lovell.
The OECS groups the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Kitts-Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands.
Lovell said that by replacing work permits with the ‘One Caribbean Employment Stamp’, the ‘One Caribbean Act’ will extend similar opportunities to CARICOM nationals, as well as nationals from the Dominican Republic.
“Therefore, Guyanese, Jamaicans and other CARICOM nationals, as well as nationals from the Dominican Republic who have been living and working peacefully among us before 1st January, 2023, will no longer require a work permit. This represents further advancement towards the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) and regional integration,” he said.
The CSME allows for the free movement of goods, skills, labour and services and is regarded as an integral part in the development of the regional integration movement, CARICOM.
The UPP said that the One Caribbean Act is part of its One Caribbean Vision Programme, which provides a pathway to achieving a more effective and reliable immigration system that is simpler, fairer, yet also well enforced.
Other reforms under the One Caribbean Vision include amending the Antigua and Barbuda Constitution to allow people who have an Antiguan and Barbudan great-grandparent to secure their Antigua and Barbuda passport by descent.