Immigrant fears that work-permit exemption for amnesty-seekers could be a gimmick to induce non-national voters

The recipient of an amnesty certificate fears the immigrant community is being conned by the Browne Administration in the matter of work-permit requirements.

According to the man, he was given a three-month extension by the Immigration Department, along with a one-year window in which to apply for citizenship. He says he was also advised that, within that year, he is to seek an extension every three months to preserve his regularized status.

The man says, however, that he is aware of a decision by the Cabinet which exempts applicants for amnesty from applying for work permits while they are being processed.

That notice was published on June 23, 2022.

However, the man reports that when he advised the Immigration Department of this exemption, officers there said they were unaware of the provision, and so they directed him to the Labour Department.

The man says that officers at that department acknowledged they had heard of the exemption via the media, but said they had received no official word or instruction on the amnesty applicants being relieved of the work-permit requirement.

In the absence of an official exemption, the man points out, no employer is going to take the word of an immigrant worker that he or she does not need a permit during the processing period.

He is further concerned that the citizenship-application fees, which used to be just over $1,000, have been doubled. If an immigrant cannot get a job without a work permit, he asks, then how can they afford to spend more than $2,000 to apply for citizenship.

Accordingly, the man says he fears the exemption notice is merely a political gimmick that is designed to trap the immigrant community into voting for the Antigua Labour Party in the upcoming elections.