By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Democratic National Alliance’s (DNA) leader yesterday urged the Government to “up” its new short-term work visa policy to greater than two weeks, while commending it for “progressive” reform.
While backing the Christie administration’s move to abolish the requirement that foreign workers obtain a short-term work visa, provided they are coming to the Bahamas for less than two weeks, Branville McCartney said that timeframe could still act as a “deterrent” for executives attending or setting up conferences.
A former Immigration minister himself, Mr McCartney told Tribune Business: “I saw one good thing the Government has done, which is people coming in, from an Immigration point of view, are not needing a permit if they are going to be here for less than two weeks.
“I think that is very good, it is progressive in that regard, and I commend the Government for that. It’s a step in the right direction.”
However, he added: “I think the Government should up it to more than two weeks. That is a deterrent to persons coming over for meetings, coming over for conferences, setting up conferences and exhibitions.
“I think they should be more flexible, but I commend them for taking that step.”
Mr McCartney also backed the Christie administration for bringing forward the legislation to facilitate stem cell research and therapy in the Bahamas.
He added: “I think that can be a tremendous industry. I look forward to that moving forward.”
The move to do away with the short-term work visa for stays of two weeks or less is designed to facilitate the smooth entry into the Bahamas of high-level executives who may be coming in to attend Board meetings at local subsidiaries or investments, client meetings or conferences and other exhibitions.
THE Ministry of Financial Services, in announcing the new policy, said it did not apply to expatriates coming into the Bahamas for employment or financial gain.
The Ministry said in a statement: “The Ministry of Financial Services and the Department of Immigration are committed to maintaining the Bahamas as a world-class international financial centre.
“In this regard, the movement of foreign persons through and within the Bahamas to facilitate international business, finance and trade is expected and encouraged.
“The Ministry of Financial Services and the Department of Immigration are pleased to advise the public of the Immigration and Entry Procedures for short-stay (less than two weeks) business and client meetings in the Bahamas, where there is no financial gain - for instance, employment involved.
“However, to facilitate the ease of entry into the Bahamas, the Department of Immigration recommends that the travel details of such visitors be advised to the airport superintendent of immigration at least 72 hours prior to the expected date of entry.”
Financial Services Minister Ryan Pinder said: “Through consultations with the financial services industry we became aware of the need for clarification of certain matters related to Immigration policy, and especially for those who come to the Bahamas for short-term business trips who don’t come for any kind of compensation or remuneration.
“They may be Board meetings, meetings with a lawyer but nothing related to compensation or employment in the Bahamas.”