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JIS News

Jamaicans are being encouraged to take advantage of the CARICOM Skills Recognition Certificate, which will allow them the freedom to live and work in another CARICOM member state.
Though the Ministry of Labour and Social Security issued the first Skills Certificate in 1997, the first Jamaican applicant at the Ministry did not surface until 2004. To date, the Ministry has issued 400 Skills Certificates with 147 going to nationals of Trinidad and Tobago.
The Skills Certificate replaces work permits and allows CARICOM nationals the freedom to work in member states under the Free Movement of Labour clause of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
Speaking with JIS News, Veronica Robinson, Senior Director for Work Permits at the Ministry, reveals that Jamaicans are not yet leading the pack of applicants at the Ministry’s offices. Only 78 Jamaicans have applied for Skills Certificates to work in other CARICOM countries.
This number, however, represents only those persons, who have applied for the document in Jamaica, since CARICOM nationals may apply for the skills certificate in either the home or the host country.
This means that a Jamaican citizen may choose to apply for the skills certificate here at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security or opt to do so in the member state in which he/she has been employed.
Highlighting what she viewed as one of the reasons for the relatively fewer number of applications for Skills Certificates from Jamaica, Mrs. Robinson pointed out that the absence of some countries from the list of the CSME member states accounted for this.
“When we tell interested applicants that the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas are not included in the list of states participating in free movement under the CSME, they are no longer interested,” she says.
Whilst Bahamas is a CARICOM member state, the country has chosen not to be included in the Single Market and Economy aspect of CARICOM. The Cayman Islands on the other hand, is an associate state to CARICOM, not a member state and is therefore by choice excluded from the impending CSME.
Jamaica, Mrs. Robinson notes, was one of the earlier facilitators of the Skills Certificate alongside Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.
“There have been 84 successful applicants from Guyana, 50 from Barbados, 15 from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 12 from Saint Lucia, nine from Antigua and Barbuda, eight from Belize and the rest are in lower single digits,” she outlined.
Although the Ministry did not disclose the categories for the applicants, it says that, ‘they fit into all the categories.’ These are: graduates from recognised universities, artistes, musicians, sportspersons, media workers and managers, technical and supervisory staff attached to a company or self employed persons.
Pointing out that his unit has been receiving queries about the Skills Certificate, Robert Miller, Head of the CSME Unit in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade tells JIS News that Jamaicans have enquired whether the certificate was applicable to North American states.
In his response, Mr. Miller encouraged Jamaicans to see the CSME as giving CARICOM nationals greater market and job access and reinforces the need for Jamaicans to apply for the Skills Certificate, which is a CARICOM document.
Both ministries agree that Jamaica’s comparatively small number of Skills Certificate applications is in part due to the popularity of Europe, especially Britain, North America, the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas as traditional work-related immigrant destinations.
Addressing the requirement that now exists for CARICOM nationals to apply for Skills Certificates for every state in which they wished to work, Mr. Miller says that this is changing. “The ministerial heads are now discussing that and they hope by January, to have one generic Recognition of CARICOM Skills Certificate, issued by all member states, eliminating any need to re-apply when relocating to another island. It won’t be country specific,” he promises.
This position to be taken in January is supported by the CARICOM Secretariat, which stipulates that the Certificate of Recognition of CARICOM Skills Qualification should facilitate a CARICOM national’s entry into another member state, apart from that which was issued by the host or home country.
As it now exists however, such an entry will last for six months. In other words, the Skills Certificate now allows for a third country entry, but only for a six-month stay in that third country, during which the CARICOM national’s qualifications will be reviewed by the receiving country (same third country). Once that member state is satisfied that the requirements are met, an indefinite entry will be granted.
Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda and Suriname are the only member states where the skills certificate is issued by the Ministry of Labour. In St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada and Guyana, the Ministries for Caribbean Community Affairs issue the Skills Certificates and in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, Belize and Barbados, the certificate is issued by the Ministries of Immigration.
As State Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Delano Franklyn disclosed to JIS News recently, the free movement of labour has proven to be one of the more difficult areas of negotiation in the ongoing CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) integration process.
It is also one of the areas, which has comparatively achieved a greater level of advancement, mainly because it was amongst those given earlier attention in the CSME integrative process.