Jamaica to expand free movement categories

KINGSTON, Jamaica: Government is moving to expand the categories of professionals who will be able to pursue employment in other Caribbean territories without the need for a work permit.

Labour and Social Security Minister Pearnel Charles said that drafting instructions have been issued to the Chief Parliamentary Counsel for amendments to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Free Movement of Skilled Persons Act to add teachers, nurses, artisans and household workers to the list of people who qualify for the skills certification that allows them to move freely in other territories.

The legislation, which has been enacted in all CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) states, currently applies to university graduates, media workers, artistes, musicians, sportspersons, managers, technical and supervisory staff attached to a company and self-employed persons/service providers. Their spouses and immediate dependent family members are also exempt from work permit requirements.

Charles said that the amendments to the Jamaica law will enable those professionals in possession of Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) certification to move freely within the 15-member CARICOM grouping. He also announced that a single certification system is to be implemented shortly, which will replace the current process, which requires immigrating nationals to apply for a new certificate when seeking employment overseas. Holders of certificates, he advised, will, instead, have their documents verified.

Meanwhile, the labour minister is expressing confidence that an amendment to the Foreign Nationals and Commonwealth Citizens (Employment) Act, to remove the requirement for exemption certificates to be issued to persons who wish to transact short-term business-related activities within the nation, will result in increased competitiveness and productivity locally.

He explained that the amendment, which came into effect in May, exempts specific foreign nationals, who come into the island for visits not exceeding 30 days, or an aggregate of six months where they make more than one trip, from having to apply for the certificate.

“The amendment will, no doubt, encourage the movement of workers with various skills sets and redound to the collective good, in terms of increased competitiveness and productivity,” said Charles. “It must be pointed out, however, that this exemption to the special class of business travelers will not apply to the majority of migrant labourers, who will still have to apply for a work permit.”

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