Minister of Immigration and Financial Services Brent Symonette.
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
IMMIGRATION Minister Brent Symonette said yesterday amendments to the Immigration Act will not allow foreigners to compete with Bahamian businesses, but instead will add millions to the economy.
During debate of the amendments at Parliament, Mr Symonette said $430m in salaries could potentially be generated in The Bahamas with $16.5m added to the National Insurance Board.
The amendments will establish two separate visas – a BH1B visa for for a principle employee and a BH4S permit for spouses and dependents.
It ties into the Commercial Enterprises Act and applies to those specialty skill sets defined under that law.
It also allows for exemptions for short-term visas.
The bill was initially tabled on March 27.
“The idea here is this is to come in to meet with a local company and get back out,” Mr Symonette told the House of Assembly yesterday. “This is not meaning that a person can come in and do an audit for a company and go back out.”
He also said: “The intent is not giving competition or take away work from Bahamians.
“The officer at the airport will see the stamps in your passport and at that point will say work permit needed. While some may feel we are allowing people in the back door that is not what the bill does. The bill allows for denial of entry and prosecution.
“We have to find a way of developing The Bahamas and creating extra revenue.”
Mr Symonette further revealed to the House that as of September 2018, 78 percent of persons who applied for a work permit were processed.
He said the turnaround time is now down to three weeks when it was much more before.
The minister further credited this to the newly installed computer system at the Department of Immigration.