Premier Donaldson Romeo announced Thursday, that his government has removed the savings option until June 1 2020 for non-nationals residing here for 12 years or more, wishing to apply for their permanent residency permit.
He made the announcement during a press conference in which he provided updates on a number of key policy issues.
Presently, the Immigration Act provides that non-nationals (a label that is most often used for CARICOM citizens) are eligible to become permanent residents of Montserrat after eight continuous years of residence with a few conditions.
Premier Romeo said the decision was taken that for residents living here more than 12 years, between now and June 1, 2020, they have removed the savings requirements of the conditions. According to the Act, the applicant must show “proof that he has maintained a savings account with an average monthly balance of at least $5,000 during the 6 months immediately preceding his application”.
The Head of Government noted that all other requirements remain. He added that the Cabinet decision was based on economic and humanitarian grounds, acknowledging that non-nationals are investing in homes, paying rent, and setting up businesses.
Economist Peter Queeley, who also leads the Montserrat United Labour Party (MULP) questioned why the premier’s government has only offered a moratorium and why 12 years rather than the eight as enshrined in law. He called for the complete removal of the savings option, especially as it relates to “CARICOM nationals who have worked and contributed to the economy in various ways including paying taxes and social security.”
When asked why other residents from North America and Europe are still required to pay for a visa extension every six months although they live here permanently, the premier said his government is aware of the concern and aims to address it as part of wider Immigration reforms.
Premier Romeo’s government will officially end once parliament is dissolved by the first week in September. The moratorium runs into a new government’s term.
The relevant section of the Immigration Act is noted below.
Eligibility and Condition for grant of permanent residence on the basis of 8 year’s residence
4. (1) A person may apply to the Governor in Council for a permit of permanent residence if—
(a) he entered Montserrat on or after 1st January, 2003;
(b) he has been ordinarily resident in Montserrat for the period of 8 years immediately preceding his application;
(c) he provides proof that he has been gainfully employed during the 6 months immediately preceding his application for permanent residence;
(d) he provides proof that he has maintained a savings account with an average monthly balance of at least $5,000 during the 6 months immediately preceding his application;
(e) he produces a Medical Certificate from a Medical Practitioner registered in Montserrat certifying that he is free from all notifiable communicable diseases specified in Schedule I to the Immigration (Health Certificate) Regulations: Provided that a certificate from a Medical Practitioner other than a Medical Practitioner registered in Montserrat may be accepted in exceptional cases at the discretion of the Governor in Council;
(f) he produces character certificate from the Police Department of the country or countries where he resided for the last 12 years; and
(g) he satisfies the Governor in Council that during the 8 years immediately preceding his application he has not been absent from Montserrat in excess of 90 days during any one year.
(2) The power conferred upon the Governor in Council by subsection (1) extends to— (a) a minor child accompanying the person referred to in that subsection if proof is produced that the minor child has been ordinarily resident in Montserrat and is living with him at the date of his application; (b) the dependant of a person who has been granted a permit of economic residence in accordance with the Immigration (Economic Residence Permit) Regulations.