St Helena : St Helena Considers New Immigration Bill
Submitted by Saint Helena Herald (Nathan Prince) 16.04.2008 (Article Archived on 30.04.2008)
A draft Immigration Control Bill was published today for public consultation. The purpose of this Bill is to modernise and simplify the laws relating to immigration, and the controls on working and landholding by immigrants.
St Helena Considers New Immigration Bill
A draft Immigration Control Bill was published today for public consultation. The purpose of this Bill is to modernise and simplify the laws relating to immigration, and the controls on working and landholding by immigrants. It is the result of lengthy informal consultations with Councillors and is now published for wider consultation before being put into its final form for presentation to Legislative Council.
A summary of the Bill will be printed in the St. Helena Herald and the Independent, and the full text is available from the Clerk of Councils and is made available in the Public Library. The Bill will be on the agenda for the public consultation meetings scheduled for April and May. Further publicity will follow.
Immigration Control Bill, 2008
Summary of Provisions
The purpose of this Bill is to modernise and simplify the laws relating to immigration, and the controls on working and landholding by immigrants; it is the result of lengthy informal consultations with Councillors and is now published for wider consultation before being put into its final form for presentation to Legislative Council.
There is no change to the definition of St. Helenian Status for children of St. Helenian parentage, the law on which was amended and clarified in November 2007 and is carried forward in Clause 15 of this Bill. However, the period of residence required to acquire status by grant is increased from 5 to 7 years.
The rules controlling immigrants’ entry to St. Helena are simplified by reducing the number of separate types of entry permission from 4 to 2, and the rules for obtaining work permits have been completely separated from those concerning entry to St. Helena. In future, an immigrant who wishes to work will require two separate permits – one to enter and one to work.
A new mechanism is provided, whereby an employer may obtain an ‘Immigrant Employment Certificate’ authorising the employer to employ a specified number of immigrants in specified work. This is an alternative to obtaining a separate work permit for each immigrant employee; each immigrant will, however, be vetted for suitability to enter St. Helena, since he or she will need an Entry Permit or a Residence Permit
The maximum penalties for offences have been significantly increased. In addition, where an immigrant works without permission, the immigrant (as well as the employer) will be guilty of an offence.
The law relating to immigrants’ landholdings, which was previously in a separate Ordinance, has been incorporated into the immigration legislation, and has been substantially revised. The previous law had been found to have a number of practical problems in its application, including defective enforcement powers and some inconsistencies between the strict letter of the law and the manner in which is was applied. The enforcement mechanisms are now by way of criminal offences, with one of the penalties available to the Court (in the most serious cases) being forfeiture of the land. Consistent with the new provisions for unauthorised working, both parties to an unauthorised land transaction will be liable to be prosecuted.
Exemptions are provided for certain types of land transaction. These include exemption for short leases and tenancies, including (but not limited to) short-term rental of holiday accommodation which technically requires a permit under the current law but has never in practice been required to have one. In addition, there are exceptions relating to mortgages, to make it easier for businesses to raise loan capital from off-Island lenders.
In addition to the above major changes, there are numerous minor modifications and clarifications.
Kenneth I Baddon