(Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News)
Despite heated criticisms, the Government has finally arrived at a massive ceremony for hundreds of successful Residency and/or Belonger Status applicants under the fast track initiative.
The successful applicants will be awarded their certificates and cards at the Multipurpose Sports Complex on Monday, December 16.
The ceremony is the final phase of the Clear Path to Regularisation: Residency and Belonger Status initiative spearheaded by the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) since coming to power in February.
Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie has held firm to its plans by approving the grant of Certificates of Residence and Belonger Status to 400 applicants.
The approvals were granted at Cabinet meeting on October 25 after it was determined that the applicants met the legal requirements of Section 2 (4) and Section 3 of the Immigration and Passport Amendment Act, 2019.
Government had indicated that the first phase of comprehensive Immigration and Labour reform was clearing the backlog of applicants who had been living in the territory for very extended periods.
This move sparked heated debates in the community between expatriates and locals, prompting the Government to hold consultations with the community.
Despite the criticisms, the Government moved ahead with amendments to the Immigration and Passport Act that paved the way for Cabinet to have a say in a revamped process that effectively deals with the backlog.
The legislation was subsequently passed in the House of Assembly, during which time the Premier Andrew Fahie, announced that the process would be extended to provide status to third generation Virgin Islanders.
Hon. Fahie had particularly noted that not all of the applying expatriates will qualify for status.
According to Government, the Immigration Department had confirmed that the backlog of applicants residing here for 20 years or more is less than 800 persons.
Premier Fahie had stated that the much needed reforms to immigration cannot be embarked upon with the backlog hanging over the Territory’s head as it can compromise the smooth implementation of the reform programme that will be in the hands of the people.
He stated that the comprehensive reform programme is aimed at closing the floodgates that currently exist and which have, in some regards, compromised the interests of BVIslanders, leading to the fears that were raised during the consultation process.
Hon. Fahie shared that while all other previous governments sidestepped this difficult issue to the detriment of all BVIslanders, the current administration has taken the bold step of allowing every Virgin Islander to now shape the new proposed immigration policies and laws.