Cabinet says amnestied immigrants need no work permit while pursuing citizenship; Quinn-Williams hopes process is ‘official’ this time

The Cabinet is reiterating that non-nationals who have been granted amnesty do not need a work permit for employment during the period they are sorting out their citizenship.

This week’s Cabinet Notes say the Labour Commissioner; head of the Passport Division; Chief Immigration Officer; and a total of 14 officials were summoned and met with the Executive.

Reportedly, they discussed the manner in which the amnesty programme is being implemented and how the granting of citizenship and passports is executed.

“It was agreed that a person who has been granted an amnesty certificate for residency will not require a work permit in order to hold employment in Antigua and Barbuda,” the Notes say.

Reports say the residency certificate is valid for three years, in which time the immigrant may complete seven years of lawful residency here, leading to citizenship.

According to the Notes, the Immigration officers who deal directly with those applying for extensions of time or for amnesty said they practice very high customer-service standards at all times.

However, since a notice concerning the non-requirement for a work permit was circulated in June, non-nationals have complained that they have gotten the run-around from the government agencies.

They claim they were told they must pay for a work permit and must go to the Immigration Department every three months to regularize their status.

One non-national reported, last week, that both Immigration and Labour Department staff said the decision was never formally communicated to them. Hence, they could not implement the policy solely on the basis of a public notice or media reports.

A Rural North resident shared his frustration with United Progressive Party Candidate Pearl Quinn-Williams.

She says she reviewed the notice and observed that it was not signed. Accordingly, she is hoping that will not be the case this time around.

Reportedly the cost of obtaining citizenship has doubled, moving from just over $1,000 to more than $2,000. Hence, immigrants are concerned that, being unable to afford the initial cost, they will not be able to manage the increase.

Meanwhile, Quinn-Williams says her constituent believes this is another political ploy of the Antigua Labour Party Administration, designed to win the votes of the non-national community.

Reportedly over 4,000 persons applied for the amnesty, which ran for several months until June.

Meanwhile, Quinn-Williams is making a call for the Labour Party to stop using and exploiting non-nationals for political gain. She sees this practice as despicable.