Eighty expatriates living in the British Virgin Islands for varying number of years are now naturalised Overseas Territory citizens.
The naturalisation ceremony took place at Government House on Tuesday.
“It feels very good,” said Jamaica-born Otis McKenzie, who has been living in the territory for the past 15 years.
“It was a long process to get to this point, but it gives you the opportunity to have roots in the territory knowing that you can stay and be stable,” added Zory Nunez, a Dominican Republic native.
She has been living in the territory for the past 11 years and also applied for the document a few years ago after she married a local
Meanwhile, another Jamaica national – Claudette Gilbert – who has been a resident for the past 29 years also expressed her delight.
“This is one of the greatest things that has happened for me in the BVI. I am truly, truly happy and blessed. I am so grateful,” she said.
She said, with naturalisation, she will now be able to travel visa-free into the United Kingdom.
“I will be going to the UK to visit my mom and my sisters and brothers, and it will be much easier for me. I don’t need the visa, I have the real thing,” she said.
She applied for her naturalisation in 2015.
In the meantime, Governor Augustus Jaspert had congratulatory words for the 80
“You are now the newest British Overseas Territory citizens, and today marks a new milestone in your lives. To many of you, it might seem strange because you have been living here for many, many years but formally now I say welcome home,” the governor said.
He also urged them to continue to contribute positively to the territory.
“As you enjoy your new status, I encourage you to be the upright citizens and consider the opportunities that it offers.”
He said the new status also comes with responsibilities to the wider interest of society and the country.
Deputy Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley who delivered brief remarks said: “For many of you, the road to this place at this time was long and arduous.”
“I want you to reflect on the challenges of this journey perhaps, some difficulty with an employer, of course, the very inefficient Immigration process, the fear in the community of the unknown. Despite the obstacles that you may have faced, you have stuck with the process, and I admire your fortitude, your commitment to this place that you now know as home.”
Meanwhile, Registrar General Stephanie Benn told them to keep their certificates safe as they would require it for many reasons.
In addition to receiving their certificates, the 80 also said the oath of allegiance and pledged their unity to Her Majesty theQueen and to the BVI.
They will now be able to apply for a BVI passport.
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