- Persons, who seek to obtain CARICOM (Caribbean Community) Qualifying Certificates illegally, can now be fined up to $1 million and/or be imprisoned for up to 12 months.
- Previously, offenders could be fined up to $500,000 and/or be imprisoned for up to six months for intentionally or recklessly making a false statement.
- The free movement of skills regime, as provided for in the Revised Treaty, grants to specified categories of CARICOM nationals, entry to other member states to work, or seek employment.
Persons, who seek to obtain CARICOM (Caribbean Community) Qualifying Certificates illegally, can now be fined up to $1 million and/or be imprisoned for up to 12 months.
This follows amendments to the Caribbean Community (Free Movement of Skilled Persons) Act by the Senate on Friday (October 18), which will, among other things, increase the penalties for breaches to deter non-compliance with the Act.
Previously, offenders could be fined up to $500,000 and/or be imprisoned for up to six months for intentionally or recklessly making a false statement for the purpose of obtaining a qualifying certificate or to use a qualifying or other certificate which has been cancelled.
The Bill, which also seeks to broaden the categories of skilled nationals able to access jobs in regional countries, also makes provisions for the introduction of a single certificate system whereby CARICOM member states recognise valid qualifying certificates issued by other CARICOM members.
Piloting the Bill, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. A.J. Nicholson, said the Caribbean Community (Free Movement of Skilled Persons) Act establishes the legislative arrangements for free movement as required by the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, and that the amended Bill will bring Jamaica’s legislative framework for the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) into further compliance.
“In 2009 when an appraisal was done by the CARICOM Secretariat across the CSME regime, Jamaica was found to be strongly compliant. It is therefore in keeping with our policy to ensure compliance with our obligations under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that we have this Bill before us,” he said.
The free movement of skills regime, as provided for in the Revised Treaty, grants to specified categories of CARICOM nationals, entry to other member states to work, or seek employment.
“Successive decisions of the Community organs, in particular, the Conference of Heads of Governments, have seen the practical implementation of the free movement regime in phases, with the ultimate goal being free movement for all categories of skills,” the Minister said.
“However, although administratively the implementation has moved apace in Jamaica, the legislative framework has lagged behind somewhat, thereby requiring the formalisation of some aspects of the regime through these amendments,” Senator Nicholson added.
The Bill is also being amended to facilitate additional categories of skilled workers who are currently being accommodated administratively, such as teachers and nurses, with respect to the issuing of Skilled Nationals Certificates. Previously, only five categories of workers were allowed free movement.
The categories were: University of the West Indies (UWI) degree holders, media workers, musicians, artistes and sportsmen. It is being proposed that some of the existing categories of university graduates be broadened to include other tertiary level institutions which have since been accredited.
“This change is necessary as the university landscape has expanded considerably since the Act was promulgated in 1997. Without this amendment, otherwise qualified applicants would be disenfranchised if these accredited universities, from which they graduated, were not recognized,” he said.
Additionally, the Bill also proposes the implementation of fees to provide necessary financing for administrative services for the processing and issuing of qualifying certificates.
Senator Nicholson noted that while CARICOM Qualifying Certificates are issued free of charge to the applicant (who can be either a Jamaican or any other qualified CARICOM national), there is a very high administrative cost involved in preparing the certificates.
“Our counterparts elsewhere in CARICOM provide these services at a cost, which ranges from US$8 in Guyana to US$51 in Barbados and US$94 in Grenada. The Minister’s powers to make Regulations pursuant to Section 11 of the principal Act is, therefore, now being invoked, thus enabling the establishment of a fee payment structure to offset these expenses,” he said.
Under Regulation 2 of the Caribbean Community (Free Movement of Skilled Persons) Act, persons will now be required to pay a non-refundable application fee of $2,000 for the issuance of a certificate.
In addition, applicants will be required to pay a processing fee of $8,000, and a further $2,000 for each dependent.
To have certificates amended, persons will have to pay $2,000, and in the event that a certificate has been lost, stolen or destroyed, applicants will be required to pay $3,000 to replace the document.