Citing a declining population, a growing elderly group that imperils National Insurance Scheme funds, and a need for economic growth, Cabinet is to expand the categories of people who can become Barbadians, Home Affairs Minister Edmund Hinkson has revealed.
By January, a new bill to amend the Immigration Act will go before ministers that on passage in Parliament would bring into law the most sweeping changes in the pathway to citizenship since Independence in 1966.
At a ceremony to formally induct new citizens in the Horatio Cooke Auditorium of the National Union of Public Workers, Hinkson outlined seven areas of immigration change that Cabinet approved and will now make their way into draft legislation.
More changes are being contemplated and are to be announced later, he said.
The key changes to the citizenship law the Home Affairs Minister highlighted are:
– Citizenship will be available to a grandchild or a great grandchild of a Barbadian citizen. Currently only parents are allowed to grant citizenship by descent to their offspring.
– Permanent residents may be able to receive citizenship after “three years ordinary residence in Barbados” or a total of 1,095 days. Ordinary residence will be defined as lawful residence for half of the year, 183 days in every year.
Hinkson said: “This will be another platform for people to become citizens of Barbados other than by birth, descent, adoption or marriage.”
– Permanent residents who have already been living here for more than seven years will be “grandfathered into citizenship”
– Spouses and dependents who accompany a CARICOM Skilled National living and working here would be entitled to first become permanent residents and then ultimately citizens by way of time spent in Barbados. Skilled nationals living here for the past seven years will be able to apply for permanent residence.
– Cabinet has agreed to reduce the length of time of those who marry Barbadians can register for citizenship by marriage – even though the Constitution currently entitles women who marry Barbadian men an automatic entitlement to register as a citizen. Hinkson did not indicate whether any constitutional amendments were coming.
– A two-stage route to merit-based citizenship through permanent residence will be available to people who “who have highly desirable employment skills, who are willing to open a business, or who have substantial capital, money, willing to invest significantly in our economy and hence providing much needed employment to Barbadians”.
– Those who can prove they have been residing in Barbados for four years will be eligible for permanent residence.