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Gov’t approves new work permit fees, large penalty


Minister of Labour Dr Kedrick Pickering has announced a new work permit structure that will see many persons paying higher fees based on earnings.

Persons who give the Labour Department wrong information about earnings will be hit with a penalty amounting to 10 percent of their annual income.

“This is a new structure requiring higher income earners to pay higher fees. We recognize that there is a potential risk for persons to understate their income to benefit from lower work permit fees. However, we are taking steps to discourage this practice by including a penalty of 10 percent of annual income for understating your income,” Dr Pickering said in the House of Assembly this morning, April 18.

He announced that persons will also be required to pay a brand new fee when submitting a work permit application. “The new fee structure also introduces a $50 application fee, in addition to the $75 fee that is currently charged for the issuance of the work permit card.”

Dr Pickering, who is also the territory’s deputy premier, stated that work permit fees have remained at the same level since 1981, adding that the structure has been amended to one that is “progressive and based on income”.

Further outlining the new fee structure, Dr Pickering explained: “Under the new fee structure, special consideration has been made for domestic workers. They will pay 1 percent of their annual salary. For other workers, the fee for earnings up to $25,000 per annum will be charged at 3 percent.”

“The fee for earnings from $25,001 to $50,000 [per annum] will be calculated at 5 percent.”

“And the fee for earnings above $50,001 [per annum] will be calculated at 7 percent.”

“Earnings in excess of $150,000 will also be charged at 7 percent,” Dr Pickering further explained.

He added that there is a limit to the amount of work permit fee any one person will be required to pay. “There will be a fee cap at $10,000 which means that no work permit will cost in excess of 10,000.”

The labour minister said Cabinet has approved the new fee structure and changes, adding that they will become effective on May 15, 2017.

There were consultations

Dr Pickering, in the meantime, noted that the government held consultations with various sections of the economy before it decided to make the changes.

“It must be noted that Government did not arbitrarily raise work permit fees. We consulted with industry practitioners. You would recall that the Honourable Premier [Dr D Orlando Smith] first spoke about increased fees when he delivered his 2016 budget in December last year, and he announced that the changes will take effect in 2017.”

Dr Pickering added that, immediately after the premier’s announcement last year, Government officials initiated talks with various stakeholders to determine the “most equitable fee structure that is reflective of employee earnings”.

Dr Pickering added, “You got stakeholders [involved in the consultations] from financial services, the accommodation and beverages sectors of the tourism industry, construction and legal sectors, as well as the marine industry, among others. There was a collective approach to increasing work permit fees. We did not do this in isolation,” Dr Pickering further said.

He told the legislature that, in light of the higher fees, service delivery will improve at the Labour Department.

“It is important to note that Government is taking steps to give customers better value for money. As we prepare to increase work permit fees, the Labour Department has already started implementing measures to improve operational efficiently and improve customer service,” Dr Pickering said.

He stated that the improved services include faster processing of work permit renewals. “Persons seeking work permit renewals can now expect that their applications to be processed within two weeks,” he said.

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