WEDNESDAY, NOV 24: Madam President, I am pleased to advise Honourable Members of the status of term limits in Bermuda.

Honourable Members will know that much has been said about term limits on work permits.  The primary purpose of which is to discourage the expectation that work permit approval is tantamount to permanent residence rights. 

Madam President, Honourable Members will no doubt recall that when the policy was first considered there were about 8,000 non-Bermudians on one-to-five year work permits in the workforce at that time.  These in turn had 4,000 dependants between them.  The pattern of employment in Bermuda was such that half of the non-Bermudians who arrived in any given year were still in Bermuda three and a half years later.  Of those, half (a quarter of the original arrivals) were still here seven years after arrival.  Of those, half (one eighth of the original entrants) were still in Bermuda after ten years, and so on.

Madam President, there was increasing concern from the community that non-Bermudians who worked in Bermuda were being allowed to stay for such a long time that they and their children acquired a legitimate expectation of permanent residence status.  It is important to remember that terms limits on work permits were implemented to control and monitor the grant of work permits for extended periods to address the legitimate expectation issue.

Madam President, I am pleased to report that out of all the decisions made on 6,817 active work permits wherein decisions have been made or wherein the employer has been informed that the work permit holder will be subject to term limits:

  • 2,394 work permits (35%) have been granted waivers;
  • 2,386 work permits (35%) have been granted extensions; and
  • 2,037 work permits (30%) are subject to the standard term limit of 6 years.

Of the 2,386 extensions that have been granted:

  • 113 are conditional on their spouse’s waivers or extensions;
  • 446 were granted 1-year extensions giving them a total of 7 years;
  • 304 were granted 2-year extensions giving them a total of 8 years;
  • 1,189 were granted 3-year extensions giving them a total of 9 years;
  • 71 were granted 4-year extensions giving them a total of 10 years;
  • 58 were granted 5-year extensions giving them a total of 11 years;
  • 196 were granted 7-year extensions giving them a total of 12 years; and
  • 9 were granted 8-year to 10-year extensions giving them a total of 14 to 16 years.

Madam President, to be clear, this is not the total number of work permit holders.  It is rather the number that represents those applications that have been made for exemptions or extensions or wherein the Department of Immigration has confirmation that the work permit holder is subject to term limits.

The total number of one-to-five year work permits is 10,127.  The additional work permits or the balance is attributable, but not limited to, the judiciary, special category or parents of Bermudians, as well as those permits where no application has been made for an extension.   It should be noted that this 10,127 work permits excludes temporary and periodic work permits.

Madam President, the work permit number is not a static number as work permits are terminating and others are being approved on a weekly basis.  The number is however reflective of the contribution of non-Bermudians to the local workforce.

The Government is confident that by placing Labour and Training, Bermuda College and the issuance of Work Permits, all under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, a better assessment of the workforce needs can be accomplished.  In short, the amalgamation of these Departments under one Ministry will better ensure that fairness and equality exists as we strive to reach the delicate balance between allowing in the appropriate cases, the contributions of our guest workers to live and work in Bermuda, whilst at the same time, taking steps to best ensure that qualified, Bermudians are not displaced in the process. 

Madam President, the work permit data provides invaluable information that is to be used as a guide to understanding the needs of the workplace.  It is this information that should serve to educate an empower Bermudians to train in specific areas. 

To help balance the scales and facilitate the process, the Government through the Department of Labour and Training, we will take further steps towards ensuring that those Bermudians who are genuinely seeking employment, yet lack the skills required for same, will be provided with the right training to meet the needs of our employers.  And, those skilled Bermudians, who lack employment opportunities, will be provided better access to employers. 

Madam President, an enhanced training and employment placement programme to meet the needs of Bermuda’s prospective employees and employers is eagerly awaited by the community and I am pleased, on behalf of the Government, to have been given the opportunity to usher in its implementation. 

Thank you Madam President.