NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The immigration department is short of $5 million that has yet to be paid by foreign workers whose work permits have been approved, according to immigration minister Brent Symonette.
All persons approved for work permits who have not yet paid their permit fees will be arrested and deported, Symonette revealed.
The immigration minister addressed media outside of Cabinet office on Tuesday morning.
He stressed that the immigration department’s stance on all overdue permits is one of zero tolerance for work permit applicants who have yet to fork over the mandatory fee which all foreign workers are required to pay.
Symonette said a communication has been distributed to alert all qualifying applicants that their permits have been approved and that the next step of payment is required.
“There is a life expectancy of those letters of 30 days. If a person does not come in and pay for their permit, they will be considered as an illegal immigrant and deported, irrespective of the number of times they have previously had a work permit,” Symonette warned.
“You get the letter, you pay your fees, or you will be deemed to be an illegal immigrant. That will be strictly enforced.”
The immigration minister was unable to confirm the exact number of foreign workers who have outstanding work permit payments.
However, Symonette confirmed that the immigration department has made significant progress with addressing its backlog.
“We are down to six weeks response time on work permits, one third are being emailed to applicants and the other two-thirds are being sent through mail,” he noted.
“We are working on permanent residency and citizenship now.
“The commission that [assesses] persons born in The Bahamas who apply between 18 and 19; they are down to 233 applicants that are outstanding who have completed their files.”
The immigration department has been plagued with backlog issues for a number of months, however, Symonette has confirmed that the digitization of the department, in tandem with other government agencies, has helped to streamline various processes within the immigration department.