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KINGSTON — The Senate, on April 7, approved amendments to a bill, which will exempt certain categories of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nationals from the work permit requirement.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Senator the Hon. Dorothy Lightbourne, who piloted the Foreign Nationals and Commonwealth Citizens (Employment) (Amendment) Act, said the changes are in keeping with Chapter Three of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, establishing CARICOM and the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

Some of the categories of workers, who will be exempted from work permits, are: self-employed persons, nurses, teachers, holders of associate degrees, artisans with vocational qualifications, and household domestics.

“I would like to emphasise that CARICOM nationals, who do not fall within the classification of the limited categories of skilled nationals, service providers or persons seeking to exercise rights of establishment, must still get a work permit or work permit exemption from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security,” Senator Lightbourne said.

The accompanying Regulations were also amended to require that persons exempt under the Principal Act will now have to apply to the Labour Minister for certificates stating the nature of the exemptions.

“This provision is really important because it addresses the current gap in the law where, although it clearly provides for exemption certificates in specified cases, it does not mandate that the relevant categories of persons apply to the Minister to access the exemption,” the Justice Minister said.

The amendments to the Principal Act, also seek to remove the requirement for exemption certificates to be issued to persons, who wish to transact short-term business-related activities within the island.

In addition, provision has been made for an increase in fines and penalties for breaches of the work permit requirements.

“Sections three, two A and B, creates an offence where foreign nationals work without a valid work permit and where an employer has such a person in his employment in contravention of the Act. The applicable fine at present is the sum of $200, but this is being increased to $500,000,” Senator Lightbourne informed.

Also, the fine for refusing to produce a work permit without reasonable excuse, or to permit or submit to fingerprints being taken by an authorised person or a constable, has been increased to $250,000 up from $50.

In her remarks, Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte noted that the Act is a fulfilment of Treaty obligations.

“So, I commend the Government at this time for taking this step to make free movement a better reality for the peoples of Jamaica,” Senator Malahoo Forte said.

Opposition Senator, Navel Clarke in his comments stated that he was in support of the amendments “and I think it is augurs well for the kind of relationship that the CARICOM partners have establish and we hope that we will grow from strength to strength."

 

By LATONYA LINTON, JIS Reporter