Hon. Dr Kedrick Pickering, Deputy Premier and Minister of Natural Resources and Labour
Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
After much talk, the government of the British Virgin Islands has released the finalized, amended pay scheme for work permits. The scheme, which sees an increase in the fees, will take effect on May 15, 2017.
The new arrangement and the breakdown of required payments and categories were disclosed by Deputy Premier and Minister of Natural Resources and Labour, Hon. Dr. Kedrick Pickering, during the sitting of the Second Session of the Third House of Assembly of the Virgin Islands, today, April 18.
As announced, under the new fee structure, special consideration was made for domestic workers in the Territory, where they are now required to pay 1% of their annual salary.
The scheme will see expatriates who earn up to $25,000 per annum, pay a fee of 3% of their annual salary, while persons who earn between $25,001 to $50,000 will pay a total of 5%, and persons who earn $50,001 and above will pay a total of 7%.
The Minister also noted that persons who earn in excess of $150,000 will be charged 7% of their annual salary.
He added that there will be a fee cap at $10,000, which means that no work permit will cost in excess of $10,000.
Persons will also see the introduction of a $50 application fee, in addition to the $75 fee that is currently in place for the issuance of the work permit card.
With such increases, Hon. Pickering spoke to the possibility of persons attempting to challenge the system, by understating their income to benefit from lower work permit fees. To this end, he stated that the Department of Labour is strictly against the occurrence of this practice, and has put measures in place to discourage this happening.
“With the new structure requiring higher income earners to pay higher fees, we recognize that there is a potential risk for person to understate their income to benefit from lower work permit fees. We [Department of Labour] have taken steps to discourage this practice by including a penalty of 10% of the annual income for understating income.”
Mention of this increase was first made by the Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon. Dr. D. Orlando Smith during his 2016 budget speech in February of this year.
Premier Smith announced at the time that some fees in several government departments have remained the same for decades, and a decision was taken to augment some fees as part of the 2016-2018 fiscal strategy.
As mentioned by Hon. Pickering, “The work permit fees have been at the same level since 1981,” adding that “the BVI government has amended the work permit fee structure to one that is progressive and based on income.”
Along with the amendment to the fees, the department is also making a number of improvements to their services, according to Minister Pickering.
“The government is taking steps to give customers better value for money. As we prepare to increase the fees, the Labour Department has already started measures to improve operational efficiency and customer service.”
He further noted that persons who are employed within the department have been engaged in training with staff of the Financial Services Implementation Unit, to implement ways to improve customer service through more efficient processes.
The changes made so far within the department and their services provided, include faster processing of work permits renewals for expats in the BVI.
“Persons seeking renewals can now expect their applications to be processed within two weeks, to help facilitate this process. The Labour Department is introducing a new single page renewal form, which replaces the first and second schedule application that were being used since the Labour Ordinance of 1975.”
He added that the department will also be moving to process new work permits within a 4-week time period, which requires the staff to streamline processing with the Department of Immigration.
These changes, he expressed, falls within the limits of the BVI Forward campaign, under the initiative to reform immigration and labour.
“The changes must become institutionalized within the respective departments, so that government can continue to reap the benefits of investing in the Financial Services Consultancy and Implementation Programme.”