The British Virgin Islands (BVI) government has informed non-nationals that they should leave the British Overseas Territory (BOT) if they have been terminated from their jobs and are unable to find alternative work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am aware that in a time like this, many persons may be disheartened and frustrated by the decision to have them return to their home country, and though we are walking by faith and not by sight, the reality shows a future filled with bleak times for the world,” Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Minister Vincent Wheatley told the Parliament on Friday.
He told legislators that previously, people residing here who have been terminated and would like to seek alternative employment would have had the option to apply to the acting chief immigration officer for the option to receive a conditional permit under Section 31(1)(c) and 31(1A) of the Immigration and Passport (Amendment) Act, 2016.
He said this would allow a qualifying person residing for a period of five years or more, and not having a previous conditional permit within the last three years, to remain in the BVI while seeking employment for a period of three months.
But Wheatley told legislators that the authorities are mindful that not all employees who have been terminated will qualify for a conditional permit and would still recommend that an application be made for the review of the chief immigration officer, if a viable alternative job is available, for his review and discretionary decision.
“However, Mr Speaker, the reality is, some will not be able to find alternative jobs and without financial or family support, will be required to leave the territory. With a reducing job market and the government’s commitment under the Labour Code 2010 Section 2(b) which states “the legitimate employment interest of Virgin Islanders and Belongers shall be paramount … .
“We, therefore, ask that persons falling within this category of being released from permanent employment, being unable to find alternative work and unable to obtain a conditional permit, begin to make the necessary arrangements to return to their homeland or an approved receiving jurisdiction of their choosing.”
The Labour Minister said that these persons should also register with the Immigration Department, giving the particulars of their departure to allow for their exit to be properly recorded, thus assisting in a smooth re-entry when the opportunity presents itself.