Justice, VSA and TEATT Ministries to launch pilot project regulating the immigration status of foreign workers

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Philipsburg – With the joint controls that were conducted in February 2022, by the multidisciplinary team consisting of the Immigration and Border Protection Services (IBP), the Sint Maarten Police Force (KPSM), Customs St. Maarten, and the Inspectorates of TEATT and VSA, it was observed that a number of non-national employees have been working at various establishments for a lengthy period of time without the required documentation (residence and work permit). As a result, the Justice, VSA and TEATT Covenant Task Force was renewed on May 4th, 2022, with the mandate to launch a pilot project which will allow the business community an opportunity to regulate the legal living status of their tenured non-national employees. These are foreign workers who have never held a residence permit for Sint Maarten or whose residence and/ or employment permit has expired past the period of the “tolerance term,” (90 days period) thus subjecting them to all apply as first-time applicants.

Based on the feedback the government received from business owners, one of the reasons they have chosen not to apply for the relevant residence or employment permits for their non-national employees was that the process is cumbersome and time-consuming to receive the required documentation. As such, the pilot project will be executed in two phases. The first phase of the project has an initial timeframe of six months with the goal to reduce the amount of time it takes for the decision-making period per application to a maximum of 30 days from the time of submission of an application to the pickup date of the residence and/ or employment permits. This period will not include the five-week window of a vacancy publication.

The pilot project is exclusively for new applicants who can prove the working relationship between the employee and the employer. This can be done by providing a signed labor agreement, payslips, proof of insurance coverage, or private medical insurance if applicable. Moreover, in accordance with the “Guidelines” of the Minister of Justice on the application of the National Ordinance of Admissions and Expulsions (LTU), persons who are applying for their residence and employment permit as a first-time applicant must in principle do so abroad. However, this ‘off-island requirement’ can only be waived for the applicant by formally requesting this exemption from the Minister of Justice via a letter. The letter must include the reason for the request, whilst asking the Minister for six weeks to have their legal status properly regulated under this project.

The business community is urged to gather their required valid documents and to ensure that they are in possession of a valid business and director’s license in order for their non-national employees to benefit from this pilot program, thereby regulating their legal living status. Once the pilot project has been launched, a ‘one form application’ for employers will be downloadable from the Government of Sint Maarten website and hardcopies will be made available. All interested businesses are invited to begin the process on November 1st, 2022. More information will be provided via press releases and possible Information Sessions