By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
CABINET has approved a recommendation from the Economic Recovery Committee to introduce an extended stay visa programme so foreigners can work or study in The Bahamas for a year.
Kenwood Kerr, ERC co-chair, said in a statement yesterday: “The Extended Stay Visa Programme is a remodelLing of the current annual residence regime, to expand its qualifying criteria and to make it easier and faster for persons to get consideration and approval.”
Under the programme, people from abroad could apply for a visa online and be get permission to live and work here for one year.
“Persons will not be able to be engaged in work locally while resident in The Bahamas,” the ERC statement said. “The initiative will be marketed to small firms who may want to shift operations for the full year. It will also target university students – a segment not highlighted in other similar initiatives. Successful applicants will have to demonstrate financial means to support themselves while in The Bahamas.”
Barbados made waves last month when it introduced the programme at a time when traditional tourism is suffering around the world because of the COVID-19 crisis. Barbados is charging people $2000 for an individual visa or $3000 for a “family bundle.”
Following that country’s announcement, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar told The Tribune similar out-of-the-box thinking was necessary here.
Mr Kerr said: “The Bahamas has had an annual residency programme for some time. However, given the move to remote work and study from home protocols in response to COVID-19, the ERC saw an opportunity to recast the programme - and to expand it to accommodate university students whose schools will be offering remote learning for the upcoming academic year.”
“If we get to 1,000 successful applicants and they spend $30,000 on average within the economy on rent, food, and entertainment, that is equal to a much needed $30 million injection into the economy. Moreover, our marketing will showcase our Family Islands where the potential impact on those smaller island economies will be even more pronounced.”
Details of the local programme are still being finalised and will be launched when the country reopens to international commercial traffic. The ERC said it will work with officials to ensure a “seamless and rapid application process where applicable will be able to get a response in a matter of days.”
The ERC is aiming to release the full set of its recommendations by next month.
Co-chair Marlon Johnson said: “It is important to remind the public that the ERC’s first set of recommendations came through the budget exercise, as was highlighted by the Prime Minister in his contribution to the budget debate in June. In addition to the Visa initiative, the ERC will be providing recommendations to the government regarding the next phase of the reopening of the economy. It will also submit an interim report by the Orange Economy Subcommittee, with recommendations on how the Government can boost the viability of the creative and cultural arts as a direct contributor to the economy.”
“We recognize that people are anxious and eager to see the final recommendations of the ERC. We want to let the public know that the ERC and its sub-committees are hard at work, gaining feedback as broadly and as comprehensively as possible. We remain confident that the ERC’s final report and recommendations will represent well considered positions that will be able to contribute significantly to the Government’s plans for robust and sustainable economic growth.”
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