Government to establish inter-ministerial covenant to tackle immigration loopholes

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Philipsburg, Sint Maarten — On Friday 27th, 2021, the Ministries of Justice, VSA and TEATT met to lay the foundation of establishing a working agreement or covenant to tackle the various loopholes used to defraud the system to acquire certain things like residency permits. Ministers’ support staff and relevant department heads engaged in a highly-anticipated meeting to identify issues within the labor and immigration system that allows persons coming to the island to abuse the system and acquire residency.

The meeting served to introduce certain talking points and discuss the way forward with the intention of developing a joint covenant between all three Ministries that will tackle many aspects such as the employment-related immigration matters from the Ministry of Public Health, Labor and Social Development (VSA) and the abuse of the Business Director’s License from the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic and Telecommunication (TEATT) to acquire residency.

A covenant was first created in 2020, between the Minister of Justice and the Minister of VSA to cooperate on issues affecting both the labor and immigration systems. A task force was developed with representatives from both ministries to enhance the coordination and work relation specifically between the Immigration and Border Protection Services (Justice) and the Division of Labor, Affairs and Social Services (VSA) on employment-related immigration and to specifically address the ongoing issue whereby employers are employing persons who are not legally registered on the island. Representatives of the Ministry of TEATT were also invited to specifically discuss the misuse of the Business Director’s licenses that persons are requesting in order to acquire residency status on the island.

The issue of the abuse of the Director’s license for residence purposes is an on-going issue. Persons are paying for Directors’ licenses but the physical businesses are non-existent. The individuals continue to pay for the renewal of these licenses which is completed at the Receivers Department and not at the Ministry of TEATT. For this reason, the Government of Sint Maarten lead by the three respective ministers are moving forward to have a covenant established to continue to tackle this issue in a holistic manner.

Another manner in which the ministries will work together is on joint controls. Currently the Ministry of TEATT controllers are visiting businesses to ensure they are legally operating their business. Within short, the Mobile Unit of the Immigration and Border Protection Services will be joining the controllers of TEATT to ensure the business are employing Dutch nationals and persons with legal status.

The respective members of staff from each ministry will be meeting in a subsequent meeting just after the holidays to proceed with the discussions and ensure the draft covenant covers all relevant areas needed to properly regulate processes while upholding laws and policies. This working agreement once firmly established to be most effective will then be signed by the Honorable Minister of Justice, Anna E. Richardson, the Honorable Minister of TEATT, Ludmila De Weever and the Honorable Minister of VSA, Richard Panneflek.