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Friday, March 31, 2006 

Thursday March 30, 2006 - Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, N.A.

Proposal soon to make application for work, residency permits more flexible

PHILIPSBURG--Lt. Governor Franklyn Richards and Labour Commissioner Louie Laveist have initiated discussions on making the application process and issuance of work and residency permits more flexible.

The discussions are taking place in the wake of calls by Laveist for a second grace period to give undocumented persons another chance to legalise their status.

Laveist told The Daily Herald Wednesday that he was putting together a proposal that would recommend elimination of the need for non-nationals to obtain a lot of what he called “unnecessary documents” when filing for their employment permits and especially for renewals.
He is also proposing that first time employment permits be issued for an initial period of three years, with the possibility of a two-year extension. He said authorities would assess the labour market to determine whether there were local persons to fill the positions in question at the end of the first three years and again after the two-year extension. At the moment first time permits are issued for a period of one year.

“The basic principle is for a lot of the unnecessary red tape to be eliminated and reduce the frustrations of government, businesses and the applicant,” he said. “It will be a win, win, win situation.”

His proposal will also entail re-examining the circumstances of non-nationals who for some reason or the other have been unable to renew their employment permits “through no fault of their own” or who have “fallen through the cracks” where their permits are concerned, with a view of having their permits issued.

Laveist said many non-nationals residing in St. Maarten for a number of years had been unable to renew their papers through no fault of their own. He said too that his proposal would also have considerations for young persons residing in St. Maarten for a number of years who were left in jeopardy and risked being repatriated once they reached the age of maturity and their parents could no longer sign for them.

Laveist said these issues had been raised with the Lt. Governor during his preliminary discussions with him on Monday. He said the discussions had been promising, but no commitments had been made.

He told reporters during Wednesday’s Executive Council press briefing that his proposal would be sent to Justice Minister David Dick. The “comprehensive proposal” will also be tabled before the Executive Council.

“We are examining ways and discussing how we can better serve the public with regard to the issuance of those two very important documents,” Laveist said during the press briefing.

He also spoke about plans to merge the Police Affairs office at the Sun Color building and the section of the Labour Department that handles employment permits, to make “it more client friendly” and make the application process “less frustrating.” He also wants the Departments to be more efficient, with employment permits being issued within the stipulated six-week period.

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