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Immigration & Work Permits

Bahamas Immigration Laws & Work Permits

In regards to their immigration policy the Bahamas government immigration policy is basically nationalistic. The Bahamas welcomes millions of visitors and serves as host to numerous international investors each year so you can spend your money here, but if you wish to work here it is somewhat more difficult.

However, the Bahamian government does gives consideration to citizenship, permanent residency and work permits for non Bahamians provided they comply with the immigration laws and government policies.

The Process of Getting a Work Permit

According to the Bahamas government,

“Necessary work permits for key personnel will be granted. Businesses requiring permits for persons other than key personnel are encouraged to discuss these requests with The Bahamas Investment Authority in advance.”

Basically the rule is that no foreign immigrant may be offered a job that a skilled Bahamian is ‘qualified’ to do. Now ‘qualified’ is a very weasel word, which basically means that if you can push the right buttons then is no one qualified, and if you push the wrong ones everyone is qualified.

Basically any job that does not require a higher education is out of limits to foreigners (such as a bartender, bar-maid, housekeeper, etc.). Jobs which most Bahamians think they are too good for are easy to get (such as farm worker or gardener which is usually happily taken by Haitian immigrants).

Any employer that has job vacancies must first advertise them locally and if he becomes unsuccessful in finding someone then he will have to apply to the Department of Immigration for permission to recruit outside of the Bahamas. The prospective foreign higher will then be asked to present the necessary document to show his ‘qualifications’ such as a college degree.

Each person granted a work permit (fees for work permits go from $250 for a farm worker to $7,500 for professionals and executives) is required to place a bond to repatriate the employee and his dependents and to pay any public charges, including medical expenses, incurred by the employee.

Traveling salesman planning to do business in the Bahamas must obtain a work permit from the Dept. of Immigration, and a license from the local Licensing Authority. There are hundreds of salesman who visit here who don’t obtain a permit of course, but the Bahamians (many who probably work in government) who purchase their wares do not seem to mind. Breaking the law–from “buying numbers” to failing to follow traffic signs–is common, but not epidemic, to the mentality of some Bahamians.

From the Nassau Guardian (October 2003):

…the Department of Immigration also announced that persons doing work for which they were not authorized will also be prosecuted, in addition to persons found in possession of neither work nor residency permits.

…Minister of Labour and Immigration, Vincent Peet said that for years there was a degree of tolerance with persons who were overdue with paying their work permit and residence fees, with no “real” follow-up on expatriate workers….”All of this has been happening for years; but we are now becoming more focused on ensuring that the immigration laws of The Bahamas are enforced, and to this extent, we have now given public notice that these practices will no longer be tolerated and we are intent on enforcing all of our immigration laws,” he said.

Mr. Peet said that the normal process for an employer before applying for a work permit is to advertise locally and submit a labour certificate to the Department of Immigration to confirm and verify that there are no vacancies in The Bahamas for the position that is being advertised. The Department also ensures that no legal residents or Bahamians have offered for the position, he noted.

…There has been a “dramatic” decrease in the number of work permits issued by the Progressive Liberal Party Government compared to that of the Free National Movement, he said.

…The Department examines the “need” and “justification” of applicants before permits are granted, he said, noting that, “We have been more faithful with our Bahamianization policy, therefore I have been very slow with agreeing to grant a work permit, unless a very strong case is made for such a permit.” The average work permit is granted for one year, while some temporary permits are granted for three or six months, he said.

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The Philosophy of the Immigration Policy of the Bahamas Government

The government places much emphasis on Immigration matters due to the fact that the Bahamas is situated so near to Florida, Cuba, and Haiti, and the flood of illegal immigrants is quite high.

This is primarily because many Bahamian employers–if they had the choice–would rather higher these foreigners then local Bahamians, because they judge that the foreign worker is a better value for their money.

Conversely, the incompetent Bahamian businessman complains about foreign investors (who raise the local wage salaries as they compete for Bahamian labor) because they say that the foreigner ‘occupies’ a ‘position’ they would have had, i.e., Bahamian workers would rather work for the foreigner who pays them more and treats them better. He cries for the government to “protect” his business from foreign investors.

The end result of all this is that the overall quality of labor is poorer than it could be, and the quality of the available jobs are fewer–especially in ‘protected’ industries.

I say that no ‘position’ belongs to anybody, and I would rather have a foreigner working here who is honest and hard working then a drunk with a Bahamian passport.

As I see it the Bahamian policy should be one of complete open immigration, where the Bahamian employer who they will employ, and the Bahamian worker decides who they will work for, rather then some bungling government official in public office. In other words, free trade in both goods and people.

The moral principle here is that if a Bahamian wishes to spend his wealth on a foreigner, that is his business, and not the business of any other Bahamian–whether he be businessman, laborer, or misguided statist bureaucrat.

However, let me also point out that there are many Bahamians who are smart, intelligent, and capable of doing great work–you just have to find them. Unfortunately, many of them decide to leave the Bahamas in search of greener pastures.

If you want to buy a permanent home, getting permanent residence (without the right to work) is easy:
In order to speed up the entrance of foreign funds into the country, international applications for annual or permanent residence by major investors who purchase residences valued over $250,000 have practically automatic approval.

How to obtainin an annual residence permit: If you would like to reside in the The Bahamas on an annual basis you can do so if your spouse or dependent is a citizen of the Bahamas or if he/she is a permit holder, if you are a independent economic resident, or if  you are a resident home owner, or seasonal resident home owner.  You will also be asked to present  the necessary documents required.

Getting permanent residence: If you want to live here permanently you must be of “good character” (you can take it that this means they have no criminal record) and you should be prepared to show evidence of financial support. Accelerated consideration of applications for annual or permanent residence will be given to major international investors and fit and proper owners of residence valued at $500,000 or more.