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Bermuda's Department of Immigration offices for the purposes shown. Royal Gazette newspaper photo.
By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) at e-mail exclusively for Bermuda Online
To refer to this webfile, please use "bermuda-online.org/employwp" as your Subject.
Bermuda does not issue Work Visas for those seeking employment in Bermuda. Instead, a Work Permit from the Bermuda Government, issued to a Bermuda Immigration-approved Bermuda-registered and Bermuda-operating employer, not employee, is required by all non-Bermudian applicants for the specific full time or limited period or consulting or representative or pastoral (religious) position they accept from a specific local employer - and every time they change jobs. All part time and seasonal positions are unlikely to be approved. Since 2007, most work permits for non-strategic employment have a maximum 6 years duration and are not guaranteed for that period of time because the Bermuda Government reserves the right at all times to revoke or shorten the period of a Work Permit in the event a Bermudian is available, willing, qualified in every employable way and competent to take over that job. Newcomers who are not Bermudian or married to a Bermudian must be prepared to leave Bermuda when a Work Permit expires and/or is stopped or revoked.
Anyone who is not a Bermudian and seeks employment in Bermuda needs to first find a prospective Bermuda-based employer. Do so at http://www.theroyalgazette.com/section/jobs. Then, if/when employment is offered by that specific employer as a result of a successful reply to that specific advertisement, the employer, not a prospective employee, obtains a Work Permit application from Bermuda Immigration, sends it abroad to the home address of that prospective employee, who completes it and sends it back to that employer who then formally submits the Work Permit application. It's always an employer, not any prospective employee, who submits a Work Permit application to Bermuda Immigration - usually at considerable cost to the employer concerned. A prospective employee must therefore be very sure to select only one prospective employer to make that application.
Bermuda is very small - less than 21 square miles in total area - with a resident population of 66,900 and isolated, more than 600 miles east of the USA. With a population of about 3,400 per square mile - one of the highest populations in the world per square mile, higher than in Bangladesh and Bahrain and exceeded only by Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Macau, Monaco, Singapore and Vatican City - and very crowded compared to all other islands - it is also a place where most Bermudians have far better employment opportunities and at higher salaries than almost everywhere else, due to Bermuda's long-established role as both an international business centre (some would say tax haven) and tourism resort. So restrictions apply here for non-Bermudians that don't apply anywhere else. These aspects must be appreciated as factors in limited upward mobility for many non-Bermudians. Bermudianization of their jobs in Bermuda is something most imported employees have to expect at some point. Many Bermudians have two or three jobs, to make ends meet. But this is not allowed for people who are not Bermudian.
All guest workers and work permit holders in Bermuda irrespective of rank or seniority are required to sign a declaration acknowledging that they are not entitled to permanent residency on the Island. Those already in Bermuda were required to sign the declaration by April 30, 2013. The declaration policy was introduced to allay fears of a potential surge in permanent residency applications from guest workers who can, if their work permits to do so are renewed, now remain employed in Bermuda indefinitely. But not if they are not in work-permit approved employment or if their work permit is revoked.
British laws do not apply in Bermuda, Bermudian laws do. Note how the work permit and term limit policies work, because they are not the same thing.
Non-Bermudians - sometimes known as expatriates - are only allowed a Work Permit for one employer, not several. This is a Bermuda-only stipulation that is not in effect in the USA or Canada or Europe or most other places. It means that non-Bermudians are not allowed to work for more than one employer, so cannot act as employers of or consultants to any other Bermuda-based employer or entity.
Non-Bermudians and their families are usually required to leave the island if/when they lose their jobs.
Non-Bermudians allowed Work Permits in Bermuda are not allowed to emigrate to Bermuda. Instead, they come for as long as they are approved for a Work Permit, then must leave unless they marry and co-habit with a Bermudian and are permitted to stay because of that and can wait 10 years to become a Bermudian as the direct result of that same enduring marriage.
Work permits are granted for anywhere from one year to a current five-year maximum for most, subject always to the prior approval of the Bermuda Work permit authority. They are not long-term international assignments often given to professionally qualified staff and their families.
When a work permit comes up for renewal, the employer must advertise the job and give full consideration to qualified Bermudian applicants. If there are no qualified Bermudians, non-Bermudians can be rehired, assuming they have not exceeded their six-year term limit or any extension granted to it. But even a person who had received an extension (or a full waiver) of the term limit is not exempted from having his or her job re-advertised and being replaced by a non-Bermudian. That's because the sole purpose of term limits is to avoid creating a situation where Bermuda has a large population of non-Bermudians who have been on the Island for decades demanding more rights. Thus the ten-year work permit, if and when ever granted (considered in March 2010 and approved in principle, for a fee of $20,000, but highly unlikely to be issued except perhaps in special cases) is fairly limited in its scope, although for those who have a waiver already, it will give some security to them and to their employer.
Do not enter Bermuda as a tourist but then look for employment while here. If you are not Bermudian by birth (with at least one parent a Bermudian) or by written status, apply for a job outside Bermuda directly to an employer, in response to a specific written newspaper (not in any other way) advertisement in a Bermudian or American or British or Canadian newspaper and quote the advertisement's specific reference number for the vacancy well as the newspaper in question. Telephone applications or general enquiries will not be accepted or acknowledged.
Newcomers - prospective employees living beyond Bermuda - with no prospective Bermuda employer yet should consider buying a subscription to the Electronic Edition of Bermuda's only daily newspaper The Royal Gazette, Bermuda's only daily newspaper, to reply directly to specific advertisements issued by specific employers that match their qualifications. Only send resumes in reply to specific advertisements, those with a reference number and "reply-by" date.
All non-Bermudians seeking professional employment are expected to hold at least a graduate degree from an accredited university, or an appropriate Masters degree, or a PhD, and based on academic and professional qualifications and current relevant work experience will already be earning at least £50,000 to US$100,000 a year in gross salary - much higher with a Masters or PhD degrees. Without these basic academic and professional qualifications, you are either extremely unlikely to be allowed to come.
Under no circumstances can you start your own company in Bermuda to get employment in Bermuda, not even if you buy a home.
Work Permits apply to all non-Bermudian guest workers, regardless of rank or seniority or professional or other qualification, when approved after due consideration by the Bermuda Government and their respective employers - in that order - to live and work in Bermuda.
Britons - those from the UK who are not Bermudian by birth or status - as a foreign as any other foreigner from any other country and need a Work Permit. It should be noted carefully that all expatriate non-Bermudians including Britons who are not also Bermudian who come here are not "immigrants" but on Work Permits for no longer than a Bermuda-permitted period of time (see below). They have no automatic right of abode after 4 years as they do in Britain. Britons and European Economic Community (EEC) citizens do not have any of the same rights to live, be domiciled, be employed and retire here as they do in the United Kingdom or EEC.
In general, the following apply in 2013:
Government's controversial work term-limit policy will remain in place limiting most imported non-Bermudian work permit holders to an absolute maximum of six years providing no qualified-in-every-way Bermudians are available and apply for their jobs. But some expatriates identified as key members of staff will soon be able to get Work Permits for longer.
The term-limit policy was first implemented in 2001. It limits guest workers to a maximum of five or six years of employment on the Island unless they are deemed key workers, married to someone deemed a key worker or married to a permanent resident certificate holder. That policy was introduced by the former Progressive Party (PLP) government which was defeated in the December 17, 2012 General Election. The new One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) government which assumed office the next day wants to change this at least in part. In January 2013 it was announced the OBA is moving ahead with its general election promise of a two year suspension of term limits under new Home Affairs Minister Senator Michael Fahy. But Mr Fahy also plans to impose meaningful penalties on employers who flout immigration rules. Term limits proved to be one of the more controversial policies of the former Progressive Labour Party Government. Its original purpose was to discourage the growth of long term residents who would then have an expectation of being given Bermudian status, but critics said that it discouraged foreign investment and stifled economic growth, while doing little to reduce unemployment of Bermudians. The term limit suspension policy will be taken later in 2013 to Cabinet for approval. It doesn’t necessarily mean to say Bermuda will re-institute term limits in two years time, it is saying to suspend the present policy pending a better one that deals with the legitimate expectation of residency — which is the reason why term limits were put in place — but also to implement policies that are not just good for job growth but policies that protect Bermudian jobs. The main reason given for the term limits policy was to protect Bermudian jobs but if those policies worked properly then Bermudians should be employed under existing work permits legislation. The present system has not worked. Opportunities for Bermudians must be paramount, but on the other hand when there are no Bermudians available for a job there is the need for a guest worker. In many cases, such as can be demonstrated in sectors of international business in Bermuda, a work permit holder creates jobs for Bermudians.
See October 16, 2012 Royal Gazette Newspaper editorial on this at http://www.royalgazette.com/article/20121016/COMMENT01/710169913.
Work Permits are issued solely by the Bermuda Government's Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs/Department of Immigration and solely to employees if/when/once their application for a specific position to be filled has been officially approved. Under no circumstances should any resumes or specific questions about employment or salary scales or expectations be sent to to this author. Send them solely to your prospective or actual Bermuda-based employer. Only you, your current or future employer and the Bermuda Department of Immigration have the right to know such personal and confidential details.
When issued, a Work Permit is always for one job only with one employer, at one location. Non-Bermudians are never allowed to have more than one job, to freelance or advise other employers.
All work done in Bermuda, even for a British or US or Canadian or any-other-country firm, must be done either by a Bermudian individual, or if not Bermudian then someone on a Work Permit approved in advance by the Bermuda Government for a particular term. This will be the responsibility of the Bermuda client or Bermuda-based representative or contact to arrange. To avoid the severe problems that will certainly arise if this is not followed, all non-Bermudian firms or businesses or individuals must wait until the Work Permit is approved before they send anyone to Bermuda. Your Bermuda client, especially a law firm, will be aware of the procedure to apply, the fact that some Work Permits can take months to approve, who and what and where it covers and the process thereafter.
If/when your application is approved by the employer and the employer - not you - is issued a Work Permit to employ you, enter Bermuda with your copy of the Work Permit issued to your employer showing your name. If you enter as a married non-Bermudian couple, don't assume that only one of you needs a Work Permit. Both of you will need to find employers and obtain Work Permits unless one of you will not be employed, period.
2014. October 1. An overhaul of work permit regulations which will “reduce red tape and demonstrate that Bermuda is open for business” could come into effect by the end of the year. According to Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy, the revisions, compiled by Government after extensive consultation, have been drawn up to attract foreign businesses to Bermuda and include the creation of new categories of work permit for exempt companies. A new Bermuda Employment Visa (BEV) will allow exempt companies to employ some foreigners without needing to advertise or to apply for a standard work permit, although companies applying for a BEV will have to be accredited. A new Global Entrepreneur Work Permit will allow entrepreneurs looking to start up a business in Bermuda to obtain a work permit — and the right of residency on the Island — while they are setting up their business. And a new Business Permit will allow brand new companies to Bermuda to obtain work permits without advertising during the first six months of setting up. At a press conference this morning, Mr Fahy stressed that the changes also brought in tough compliant measures for companies including satisfying Government that they have informed all unsuccessful Bermudians, spouses of Bermudians, and PRC holders of the outcome of their applications, prior to the submission of a work permit application. “Overall, we believe these changes will demonstrate to the local and international community that Bermuda continues to be open for business as we continue to cut down on the red tape which hinders our growth as an international business domicile. For example, employers will now only need to produce chest X-rays for TB for employees coming from high risk jurisdictions and will be able to complete work permit forms in Microsoft word. However there are quid pro quos as identified above which we believe will give opportunities to Bermudians whilst assisting business in their goals.” The Minister’s full speech was: "One of the Government’s main goals is to restore economic health to Bermuda, to create new conditions that enable Bermudians to find work and career opportunities. The Ministry of Home Affairs plays a critical role in achieving that goal. Specifically its mission is to improve the economy by addressing the needs of the local and international business community and the career aspirations of Bermudians. This morning, I would like to review a new Draft Work Permit Policy for Bermuda, which I believe will greatly further our efforts in this regard. The revision was undertaken to keep Bermuda current in an ever-changing, highly competitive world. And it has been developed over the last year through consultation with stakeholders and the community at large. The work was led by the Work Permit Stakeholder Group, which is comprised of representatives from employer and employee groups. Their work will continue as we seek feedback on the draft policy. As Minister I am also continuing this consultative process, having already presented major changes to the Labour Advisory Council, the BIU, the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR) and The Association of Bermuda International Companies (ABIC). I will be making further presentations this week and next to the Chamber of Commerce, the Bermuda Employer’s Council, the Bermuda Hotel Association and the Bermuda Human Resources Association. These meetings have been extremely helpful to us, as each organization has provided excellent feedback on the proposals. We also look forward to receiving feedback from the public before finalizing this document. People can view the document on the Government website www.gov.bm and have until October 17th to send us their views. They can do this by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org I’d now like to run through some of the principal changes in the draft policy. New categories of work permits are proposed, such as the Bermuda Employment Visa and the Global Entrepreneur Work Permit. A Bermuda Employment Visa (BEV) will make it possible for exempted companies to employ a limited number of foreign nationals without needing to advertise or to apply for a Standard Work Permit. The total number of BEVs issued to an exempted company will be limited to 20 percent of the total Bermuda-based workforce of that exempted company. Companies that wish to participate in obtaining a BEV will need to be accredited. Accreditation will include a process requiring the creation of workplace opportunities for Bermudians in the form of training programs and succession planning. BEVs will essentially replace ten year work permits and can be applied for one to seven years. The new Global Entrepreneur Work Permit has been created to enable individuals who are planning new start-up companies in Bermuda to apply for work permits. This will enable that person to live in Bermuda while conducting their business planning. Other changes proposed in the draft policy include the New Business Permit. These would allow brand new companies to Bermuda to obtain work permits without advertising during the first six months of their existence. If ten or more permits are required, then information will be asked of the new company regarding their growth strategy and how they intend to employ Bermudians. This information will be taken into account when further permits are applied for. Our aim with this policy is to attract companies to relocate to Bermuda. The knock on effect, of course, is more people on the ground, renting homes and apartments, paying taxes, eating in our restaurants and generally contributing to Bermuda’s economic well being. I must reiterate that this will apply to new companies coming to Bermuda with new staff coming, not as a vehicle to shift employees already in Bermuda to a new subsidiary. Other policy changes include the requirement for employers to do the following: They must satisfy Government that they have informed all unsuccessful Bermudians, Spouses of Bermudians, and PRC holders of the outcome of their applications, prior to the submission of a work permit application. They must ensure that all jobs are advertised on the Government Job Board, with their advertisements running for eight consecutive days. They must ensure that where an established graduate training programme or an established exchange internship programme exists, that Bermudians, spouses of Bermudians, and PRC holders are given equal opportunities to participate in related programmes. They may be asked to participate in initiatives led by the National Training Board to boost the number of Bermudians employed in job categories where there are currently high numbers of work permit holders. Employers who employ more than five work permit holders may be invited to participate in such initiatives. Other policy changes will require businesses to provide additional information to the Department of Immigration. Restaurants, for example, will need to outline the minimum weekly take-home pay for their workers, and beauty salons will need to include sick and holiday pay information in their contracts of employment. The draft policy also proposes to end the practice of giving refunds to unexpired periods of work permits. This will remove more red-tape at the department and encourage employers to apply for the length of permit they actually require. These new policies will complement the powers already given to the Chief Immigration Officer in terms of levying civil penalties for rogue employers and employees. Overall, we believe these changes will demonstrate to the local and international community that Bermuda continues to be open for business as we continue to cut down on the red tape which hinders our growth as an international business domicile. For example, employers will now only need to produce chest X-rays for TB for employees coming from high risk jurisdictions and will be able to complete work permit forms in Microsoft word. However there are quid pro quos as identified above which we believe will give opportunities to Bermudians whilst assisting business in their goals. Bermuda must be seen to be competitive. However, being competitive does not mean selling out on opportunities for Bermudians. By ensuring our Immigration Policies are transparent and fair we aim to attract new business to Bermuda to stimulate continued growth. These policies will make Bermuda more competitive but also go a long way to encouraging employers to train Bermudians and put them on a career path that meets their needs and ambitions. The Department of Immigration is often on the front line and often catches the blame when things go wrong. I wish to make it clear again those complaints are taken seriously, whether anonymous or not. However I must take this opportunity to also say that most employers do want to hire Bermudians. Whilst there are some rogue employers out there, most want qualified Bermudians. It is better for their business planning and growth strategies. I believe that the policy changes will make employers even more responsible and cognizant of their responsibilities to the local work force. The intent is for the new policy to come into effect on December 1st, 2014. As there will be new fees associated with the new work permits, this will require legislative approval, which we plan to Table into the Legislature in November. New work permit application forms will be available online only as will further information on the accreditation process for BEVs. I have given today just a small snapshot of the proposed changes to the policy given the natural time constraints of a press conference. The aim of these policy changes is to help turn around the economy in ways that benefit Bermudians directly and indirectly, to cut red tape, to make the system more user friendly and transparent and to provide new training and career opportunities for Bermudians. Again I invite members of the public to read the policy document so that you are well informed going forward.”
Listed below are what are believed to be the 2013 work permit term limit categories that allow expatriate workers to stay beyond one year. Non-Bermudian employees on Work Permits, in their best interests, should note these carefully and ask their employers how they, as employees, stand and in what category their employers are.
The first phase of revised work permit policies, with a series of changes to work permit fees, went into effect on April 1, 2013 under the authority of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Legislation modifying the cost of fees was passed in the House of Assembly, applying to all businesses and organizations that employ guest workers.As a result of the changes:
One-year work permit fees have increased from $721 to $800. This lower-rate increase is hoped to encourage businesses to seek shorter permits and increase the frequency of jobs being advertised — giving Bermudians an opportunity to apply for the post.
Two-year work permit fees have increased from $1,442 to $2,000.
Three-year work permit fees have increased from $2,163 to $3,000.
Four-year work permit fees have increased from $2,884 to $4,000.
Ten-year work permit fees have decreased from $20,000 to $15,000.
The changes also establish new ‘special categories’ of work permits including the global work permit and the new business work permit, which will be the regular rate, but with an additional $750 processing fee.Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy stressed that the changes are the first in a broader revision of the policies, with the second phase commencing following a wholesale review of the current policy by the Work Permit Stakeholder Group. “We are working very hard to grow the Bermuda economy so that there is opportunity for all. It that regard, preserving, protecting and providing jobs for Bermudians is our top priority. And we see these reforms in the work permit policy as key in protecting Bermudian jobs. As I’ve said previously, ensuring social and economic equity for everyone is a critical goal for this Government. We understand that the amendments to the Work Permit Policies will not solve all of our current unemployment issues, but we genuinely believe it is a step in the right direction.”
Work Permit violations and penalties
In June 2013
Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy announced plans to strengthen the Department
of Immigration's enforcement powers on work permit violations. The Chief
Immigration Officer now has specific authority to impose civil administrated
penalties. The objective is to introduce progressive disciplinary measures for
employers who violate the Act. Two specific civil penalty regimes now apply.
This includes the establishment of absolute offences which will be dealt with as
ticketable offences and also non-ticketable offences wherein civil penalties
will be pursued by the courts. Fines for less serious offences will be up to
$5,000 for work permit violations. The courts however, have the authority to
issue fines up to $25,000.
Other factors relating to
Children limitation. If you and your spouse, both as non-Bermudians, have more than two children, or you are single parent with more than two children, you will not generally be considered for private-sector employment - and probably not for public-sector employment either in Bermuda unless under very special circumstances deemed acceptable to the Bermuda Government. This makes sense for an island of only 21 square miles in total land area, with the third-highest population any per square mile or square kilometer. From the environmental point of view, there have to be some restraints. Further, since 2003 some work-permit holders - for example, waiters - are no longer allowed to bring in their spouse or any children. One of the Immigration Department's concerns is that a 2-children family of a newcomer brought in to do a job not in the highest of professional categories would use accommodation that should be available to working-class Bermudians. On an island already with probably the highest accommodation costs in the world for all classes of Bermudians - see Cost of Homes in Bermuda - Immigration has advised that further restrictions may apply to more newcomers.
Citizenship limitation. There is no chance whatsoever of becoming Bermudian by citizenship Be aware there is no chance for citizenship (namely, becoming a Bermudian) unless you marry a Bermudian, stay married and live together and then wait ten years to apply.
Film companies. If not Bermudian and planning to film in Bermuda, the company will need to register with the Bermuda Department of Immigration & Labor; have a local (Bermudian) agent; and secure Work Permits for all non-Bermudian personnel coming to Bermuda.
Importing workers from developing nations is difficult or impossible because of a requirement that the UK, US or Canada must first issue a transit visa, even after they are granted work permits by Bermuda Immigration. Without transit visas they cannot come. Neither the Governor nor Deputy Governor can help as issuing transit visas did not involve Government House and that they have no influence over it. The USA is also withholding transit visas for some workers bound for Bermuda. The US Immigration Department states that in order to get a transit visa via the USA applicants must demonstrate strong social, economic and/or family ties outside the United States.
Those from overseas who arrive married and with their spouses and any child or children should note that when one spouse is offered employment, the employment contract applies only to the person employed. The other spouse must make his or her own arrangements with his or her own employer if they wish to be employed - and if - which can be a big if - they are allowed to accept employment locally. All spouses should be aware that if they do not have a degree - sometimes not just a degree but a good, relevant degree - it is extremely unlikely they will be able to obtain any remunerated employment in Bermuda. One of the many problems with recruiters or head-hunters - including some used by Bermuda-based banks, insurance companies, accounting firms and law firms - is that they are untruthful or evasive, instead of being forthright and honest, to both new work-permit holders and their spouses who also hope to get employment in Bermuda. They advise - wrongly - that spouses will have no problems finding employment. Its a ploy to have a new recruit say "yes" to on offer of employment. They don't say, as they should, that under no circumstances will any non-Bermudian be allowed to get any kind of employment in a "proscribed area" and that in all other areas, Bermudians take preference, in the priority order shown above, then the 5 other priority orders apply. This evasiveness or outright deception serves no purpose in the long run, because if the spouse is unhappy in Bermuda, and unable to find employment, chances are that the contract will be broken and both employee and spouse will leave the island. As it happens so frequently, it should be built in to the contract of employment that in the event a spouse is unable to find suitable employment for which she or he is qualified and able, the employee should be allowed to break the contract for cause, claim damages and compensation and leave the country without any blemish whatsoever by both the Bermuda-based employer and Bermuda Government.
A new Work Permit policy is now in effect. It is designed to reward employers who are " good corporate citizens" and be firm, fair, flexible when appropriate, and faster. But for most employers, there will be a maximum length of six years for Work Permits, with no renewals after that and no automatic renewals before that.
"Good corporate citizens" and "key" staff. Key staff can be CEOs or CFOs or other senior managers. From April 2007 only Work Permits of "key" senior staff in the private sector will be allowed - and only at companies which pass the Immigration tests to become "good corporate citizens". Expatriates presently in Bermuda on Work Permits will have to leave unless they fall into this category - which will vary according to the individual rating of employers with Immigration. (NB: Law Librarian and Knowledge Manager positions have been added to the exempted professions under the Immigration Act, meaning that there is reasonable hope of a 3-year, instead of 1 year, Work Permit). The fact they may be needed by employers will not, by itself, count. If there is a genuine need, new expatriates will be allowed in to replace them for a limited period. This policy is likely to apply more to private sector expatriate employers and employees than to public sector employees.
The criteria for their companies to be regarded as "good corporate citizens" will include:
The person is the best in the world, or:
The person has rare commercial expertise that cannot easily be found in Bermuda or world-wide, or
Without the particular expertise of a person, the business could be seriously injured, or
The person has crucial business contacts which can be revealed, or;
The person is directly responsible for creating well-paying jobs for Bermudians, or
The person is directly responsible for training Bermudians in worthwhile upwardly mobile careers and the business relies greatly on his or her skill.
The documentation new arrivals must complete, whether visitors or Work-Permit approved, is a lot more detailed than in any other jurisdiction. It may not occur to some non-Bermudians that Bermuda is a foreign country to all non-Bermudians including Britons and that that the procedure they must go through is similar to - but more complex, regulated and restricted than - the proper process for admission of non-nationals for employment in the USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, etc. Remember that unlike in the above where persons are treated as immigrants, non-Bermudians are not given any of the rights or privileges of immigrants, or eventual citizenship, even when they have been in Bermuda for decades, unless they marry and stay married to Bermudians. Only some qualifying non-Bermudian spouses of Bermudians are exempted from the need to have a Work Permit - and after they have been married to the same person for a qualifying number of years.
New Non-Bermudian employees are advised not to give notice to their overseas employers until they are notified their Work Permit has been approved. Some Work Permits can take many months to be issued or re-issued. There is no set period. Initially, they are in huge detail, include a medical history, medical evidence the person can work in the sub tropics, does not have tuberculosis or any other known disease such as HIV or AIDS; can stand the constant humidity, has a complete and verified previous employment record and much more. Some international and local companies have brought delays on themselves and prospective employers by attempting to skirt strict rules affecting non-Bermudians. As a result, their applications are more closely examined. They include some very big corporate names.
All persons newly arrived in Bermuda on Work Permits should expect their parents or adult children not with them or fiancées or fiancés or in-laws to have only short (three weeks) of stays. Also, they will not be covered in Bermuda by any health Insurance plans hold by their Bermuda-based hosts.
#1. Bermudians - by birth or status - official grant in writing. If a Bermudian applies for a position, meets the qualifications specified, he or she is employed in preference to all others.
#2. A non-Bermudian with Spouse Employment rights by marriage to a Bermudian, if he or she is living together with his or her Bermudian spouse who is ordinarily resident in Bermuda, or is a widow/widower of and lived in life with a Bermudian.
#3. A divorced parent of a Bermudian - someone the other parent of whom is a Bermudian.
#4. A working resident's certificate holder.
#5. A non-Bermudian with a qualifying Bermudian connection (for example a resident Bermudian sibling. Note that children born in Bermuda to parents neither of whom are Bermudian are not Bermudian themselves).
#6. Other non-Bermudians. Including persons who have worked in Bermuda before and whose children are born in Bermuda but not Bermudian because neither parent is Bermudian.
This is how the Bermuda Government's Department of Immigration rates their chances. Know that thousands of Bermudians return home each year to work after university or work experience abroad. Why? Because Bermuda has the third highest standard of living in the world. So employers tend to advertise internationally only those posts which Bermudians are unable or unwilling or unqualified to do.
In Bermuda, employers don't have to publish help wanted advertisements if they fill vacancies from within by Bermudians.
But for non-Bermudians a number of conditions have to be met before work permits are issued.
Under no circumstances or in only very special and pre-approved by Bermuda Immigration circumstances (for example, if you are married to a Bermudian for longer than three years or such other item as may be applicable) can non-Bermudians (non nationals) find employment in Bermuda in any junior clerical or lower management or middle management administrative, or clerical or technical or management fields. They include all construction workers, allied trades, the following and any more not published below deemed appropriate to stop or discontinue by the Bermuda Department of Immigration:
|Airline Ground Agent||Bank Teller||Bartender|
|Broadcaster or newspaper columnist (if you live in Bermuda)||Butler or chauffeur||Cable linesman|
|Carpet installer or layer||Carpenters||Cleaner|
|Construction Tradesmen||Disc jockey||Electricians|
|Entertainer/ Musician||Fisherman||Floor Supervisor|
|Housekeeper||House painter||Landscape gardener|
|Landscape gardener||Independent or freelance consultant||Kitchen and bar porter|
|Mechanic (including car or moped/scooter)||money lender||Office receptionist|
|Packer at grocery store or other||Part-time anything||pawnbroker|
|Photographer||Postmaster or postal supervisor, postal carrier, post office clerk, postman/women||Plumber|
|Presenter on radio||Pot washer||Salesperson|
|Sales manager||Ship or branch pilot||Self-employed in any capacity|
|Skilled laborer||Stone cutter||Store or shop clerk|
|Summer or seasonal jobs of any kind||Swimming pool serviceman||Sound equipment operator|
|Taxi-driver||Technician||Telephone linesman or mechanic|
|Travel Agent/ Consultant||Wall Paper Technician||Waiter|
In January 2012 it was announced that a new or added-to work permits exclusions policy, supplementing the list above, is likely to be legislated soon by or on behalf of Patrice Minors, Economy, Trade and Industry Minister. Government is looking at extending the categories of employment that are closed to work permits. The Minister is considering ending work permits to jobs such as masons, carpenters, electricians and plumbers, while adding jobs such as waiters, servers, landscapers, secretaries and caregivers to a “restricted” list “where employers will have to first demonstrate that they have hired a certain percentage of Bermudians including trainees before a work permit is considered.”
Unless holders who are newcomers marry Bermudians, they will never be allowed to vote in Bermuda, even if they stay in Bermuda long enough by the standards of other countries (three to five years) to vote.
Nor may they own real estate property at the same price as Bermudians. They are limited in applying for ownership of real estate - to the top 5 percent in value of real estate in single family dwellings or condominiums.
Their children, despite being born here, will not be Bermudians unless a parent is and will never qualify for any of the grants or bursaries or scholarships awarded to Bermudians. Parents or a single parent of infants and small children require landing permits from the Bermuda Government's Department of Immigration for their offspring to re-enter Bermuda after a visit abroad.
If a guest worker quits a job voluntarily or otherwise while on contract or later, there is no right of expectation to be given another Work Permit with a different employer. If a guest worker quits after less than a year, he or she is unlikely to be able to find another job and will have to leave. In general, he or she will be expected to stay with that employer for at least three years if his/her Work Permit is extended for that long. But the 6-year cap on Work Permits means that non-Bermudians may be allowed to go to another employer after three years if the next employer is a good corporate citizen. Honesty and openness - not falsely complimentary references - are expected from Immigration by employers as to why that employee is leaving. If he or she gets a failing grade, they will not be allowed to get another job and will have to leave. An otherwise good employee will not be allowed to quit one job as an employee to go into competition - as an employer or partner or employee - with the firm that hired him or her, without Immigration justification. But it works both ways - if an employer falsely accuses an employee of being bad to block another employer from getting a new Work Permit for that person, it will rebound on the bad employer and affect its own character from a Work Permit perspective. Good non-Bermudians should not be afraid to tell Immigration when they have been treated badly.
A non-Bermudian is not automatically entitled to a replacement Work Permit. There is an appeal process but factors that count include a report from a current or previous employer. There is no recourse if an appeal against a Work Permit revocation or lack of renewal is denied.
Non-Bermudians do not have the Human Rights laws enjoyed by Bermudians.
Work Permits do not accord immigrant status to those approved. They merely give permission for approved persons to live and work in Bermuda as guest workers for the stipulated period of time and any approved renewal, or during the pleasure of the employer and with the agreement of the Bermuda Government. Most Work Permits are now for a maximum period of three years and are not renewable.
Work Permit requirements are the same for nationals of all countries including Britain. Applications for Work Permits made by Bermuda based employers for vacancies in administrative, management, professional and technical categories are considered on their merits. But these depend entirely on specific employers applying in the pre-ordained way for permission to employ non Bermudians and receiving consent, with Work Permits issued when approved.
There are Bermuda Government fees for each type of Work Permit issued and renewals. Fees are the responsibility of employers. They are payable to the Bermuda Immigration authorities, when the employer submits the application and full set of accompanying documentation. Relatively few Work Permits are approved for up to 5 years initially. They depend on the seniority and sensitivity of the advertised post.
Employers are also required to hold valid at all times round trip tickets back to their country of origin of all Work Permit approved employees and their dependents, or to make equivalent arrangements in terms of a cash deposit with the Bermuda Department of Immigration. This is in case Work Permit approved persons are ever declared undesirable and a deportation order is issued. It ensures the deportation will not occur at Government's expense.
Originals of Work Permits, naming the new Work Permit holders, have to be sent by Bermuda based employers to new Work Permit approved employees. They must have the original in their possession when they arrive at a Bermuda port of entry such as the Bermuda International Airport, for inspection by Bermuda Department of Immigration officials.
A copy of the Work Permit, naming the stipulated employer, is generally retained by that employer. Note the emphasis on the stipulated employer, a deliberate policy. It is extremely unlikely a Work Permit will be issued allowing a person to work for more than one employer. It virtually excludes any possibility of any Bermudian arriving and setting up operations as a consultant to other organizations. So the Work Permit is extremely specific. It should not be compared to a Green Card holder in the USA who can jump from employer to employer without further Government involvement.
Whenever a Work Permit approved person wishes to change an employer, the new employer must go through exactly the same advertising of the position and Work Permit application process for that person as the original stipulated employer - and again pay the requisite Work Permit fee. However, there is generally no need for a duplication of the Bermuda Immigration Questionnaire documentation.
Employees with Work Permits who wish to leave Bermuda temporarily, for example when traveling on business or for vacation purposes, must obtain Re-Entry Permits for their return. Their employers know the procedure and will assist with it. Re-Entry Permits are also required for non Bermudian spouses and children. Again, this is an employer's responsibility. Each Re-Entry Permit application involves a cost.
The Bermuda Government is easily the biggest employer in Bermuda, employing both direct Government employees and Bermuda Government owned organizations (quangos). Anyone wishing to be considered for most Bermuda Government positions must complete an application form from and send it directly to the Department of Personnel Services, Floor 3, Global House, 43 Church Street, Hamilton HM 12, Bermuda. Teachers at Bermuda Government-supported schools should submit their details to the Ministry of Education at 7 Point Finger Road, Paget DV 04, Bermuda. As with all other jobs, qualified and capable Bermudians get preference, with non Bermudian wives or husbands living locally having the next priority. There is little or no chance of obtaining any local summer or seasonal or part time employment if you or a parent are not Bermudian.
There are many expatriates (non-Bermudians) employed in the Civil Service excluding the Hospitals, Bermuda Police Service and quangos. They include "contract officers" meaning an officer employed under a written contract for a fixed period. All members of the Bermuda Civil Service - employed by the Bermuda Government - come under the Public Service Commission Regulations 2001. The Bermuda Government is committed to a policy of Bermudianization and a new training initiative has started to ensure Bermudians are skilled and trained to take senior positions in the Government.
In the Bermuda Police Service, Police Headquarters are 10 Headquarters Hill, Devonshire DV 02, Bermuda. P. O. Box HM 530, Hamilton HM CX. (441) 295-0011. Fax (441) 299-4459. To apply for employment as a Police Officer, phone 299-4304, or fax 299-4485, or e-mail email@example.com. It is paid for by Bermuda taxpayers, not the United Kingdom. With 460 full time officers, mostly from Bermuda, Britain and Caribbean. It also has about 100 civil servants and industrial staff. If it cannot find enough Bermudians or those married to one, the Bermuda Government periodically recruits from overseas policemen between 19 and 49 years old for the Bermuda Police Service. Its mailing address is Police Recruitment Officer, P. O. Box HM 530, Hamilton HM CX. Telephone (441) 299-4290. Policemen in the United Kingdom are not "seconded" to Bermuda, they must interrupt their service and if they are wise, apply before they resign if they wish to have a job to come back to when their Bermuda contract ends. If necessary, newcomers may come from Canada also.
With a decent Bachelor's degree, Bermudian government employees currently earn from US$75,445 a year. In 2013, average household income was estimated to be $78,800. The average salary per person island-wide in 2013 was US$ 66,000. The great majority of the Bermuda Government positions at the higher salaries are also held by Bermudians. Basic salaries mentioned in job vacancies are the same, whether for Bermudians, others resident here and non-Bermudians who have not yet arrived. It is up to non-Bermudians to decide whether their much lower costs of living in their countries make it worthwhile to accept a Bermuda posting at a much higher cost of living.
Return travel for candidate, spouse and up to two children, and shipping and resettlement allowances are provided by the Bermuda Government. Because of the high cost of living in Bermuda, recruiting families with more than two children is discouraged. Employment for a spouse is sometimes available (especially if the spouse has a professional qualification) but is not guaranteed.
The Bermuda Government assumes responsibility to find suitable, furnished accommodation for expatriate non-Bermudian contract officers (one bedroom for a single or married person, three bedrooms for a family with two children), and rent in excess of 25% of the contract officer's salary is fully subsidized. Candidates are expected to remain at the accommodation provided for at least three months but thereafter may choose to move into accommodation of their own choice. Rent in excess of 25% of the employee's salary will continue to be subsidized within reason.
Other Bermuda based employers, including the Government owned and operated medical King Edward VII Memorial Hospital and the other hospital it owns and operates, often recruit academically and professionally qualified, full time, adult employees with relevant job experience when there are insufficient adult full time Bermudians with the appropriate qualifications to fill specific posts.
NB: Non-Bermudians who work from home for Bermuda-based employers are required to have Work Permits, if they don't already have them for their employer at their place of work.
The article below was written for the Royal Gazette on September 11, 2012 by Attorney Michael Hanson, an Associate and member of the Employment and Immigration team within the Litigation & Insolvency Group at Appleby (Bermuda) Limited. "In the USA, Canada, Europe, etc it has long been accepted and even approved by their tax authorities that working from home, using computers and the internet or in other ways digitally or otherwise, is not a privilege but a right. In the United States alone, estimates are that roughly six million employees will work from home a majority of the time, and about 63 million employees work from home occasionally. But not in Bermuda. Here, it is regarded legally as a privilege, not a right. Thus employers must be aware of the issues they face whether they currently have home-working employees or are considering such an arrangement in the future. Unlike the United Kingdom and other jurisdictions, there is no specific legislation in Bermuda that encompasses flexible or home-working. Indeed, the term “home-worker” (or similar) is not defined in Bermuda's Employment Act 2000 (“the Act”). Because of this, home working is a privilege rather than a right in Bermuda. However, irrespective of where someone works, if a person is employed for more than 15 hours a week wholly or mainly in Bermuda for remuneration under a contract of employment, they are an “employee” for the purposes of the Act and fall under its remit (there are a few exceptions to this). As home-workers are protected by the same employment legislation, what does this mean practically for employers? Firstly, the contract for a home-worker should be drafted to reflect their place of work — that is, their home. Further, most employers will require the employee to attend at the office from time-to-time (for client meetings or disciplinary issues, etc) and this should be clearly included in the contract. Holiday entitlement should not be different to that of any office-based employee. Home-workers will be entitled to the full-time minimum of two weeks holiday (as stipulated by the Act) unless employers allow further time. The same applies for paid sickness absences and other benefits. Employers must also remember that a home-worker’s house is their castle. There is no implied legal right that an employer can enter the home of an employee without the employee’s consent. Therefore, the employer should reserve the right of entry in the contract of employment, for example, to enter the employee’s home in specific circumstances, such as installing computer equipment or to recover any confidential information. The implied duty that employees should not disclose confidential information or use any such information for any purpose other than the employer’s business interest applies to home-workers. However, in practice, confidentiality is much more difficult for an employer to police or monitor when the employee is not in the office. Employers should include an express confidentiality clause in the employee’s contract, making clear what information is confidential and how the employee should keep that information secure at their home. For example, the employer may want to consider passwords that would stop access to its data by the employee’s relatives or household members and provide items such as a locking cabinet or shredder to ensure that company documents are secured or discarded properly. An employer will be able to impose significant protection concerning all work an employee does in respect of or on behalf of their employer and access to that information should be agreed. However, an employee’s contract must be reasonable. For example, a clause providing that an employer can enter an employee’s house at any time, day or night, to check their home computer would not be a reasonable or a fair contract term. Elsewhere in the world, it is generally recognised that more women than men seek working-from-home arrangements, mainly as it is accepted that women often bear the majority of child care responsibilities. There are no statistics for this in respect of Bermuda but it is unlikely that Bermuda is any different. Employers must therefore be very wary of possible discrimination under the Human Rights Act 1981 (“the 1981 Act”) when considering an employee’s request to work from home. If a request to work from home is not considered seriously because it comes from a man, when the same request made by a woman would be properly considered by the same employer, then a claim of direct sex discrimination under the 1981 Act could apply. There is no specific legislation in Bermuda that requires employers to seriously consider any flexible working request. However, while there is no direct duty on an employer in this regard, given the above, it is advised that any such request be considered seriously in terms of whether it is a viable alternative to office working. But it should always be remembered that allowing employees to work from home requires a huge amount of trust, as they cannot be monitored to any great degree to ensure that they are doing the job that employers pay them to do. "
For any category of personal or corporate or office staff. It should be assumed these are always payable by the employer individual or organization. This is purely a representative, not a complete, list. For further details, apply to the Bermuda Department of Immigration, Chief Immigration Officer, Ministry of Labor, Home Affairs & Public Safety, Government Administration Building, 30 Parliament Street, Hamilton HM 12, Bermuda. Telephone Work Permit Officer at (441) 297-7940 Fax: (441) 295-4115.
|Part-time Permit, for one year or less, instructors or private tutors already resident in Bermuda, for activities not exceeding 9 hours a week|
|Part-time Permit, for one year or less, for activities not exceeding 9 hours a week|
|A short-term permit, for more than 5 persons, in addition to the fee below|
|A one-year permit, for one year or less, for a child care worker engaged to provide child care services in the home, for each child cared for|
|A short-term Permit, for a single period of 14 days or less, per person (up to 5 persons)|
|As a self-employed traveling representative to engage in local business|
|To work with the above|
|Part-time Occasional Permit, casual part-time models, for activities not exceeding 100 hours in any twelve-month period|
|A Temporary Permit for a specific job for a period not exceeding 3 months|
|A one-year Permit, for any period less than 18 months|
|A two-year Permit, for 18 months or more but less than 30 months|
|A three-year Permit, for 30 months or more but less than 42 months|
|A four-year Permit, for 42 months or more but less than 54 months|
|A five-year Permit, for 54 months or more but less than 66 months|
2013. About 12,200. The figures for active permits do not take into account the number of people on Island with temporary work permits for seasonal jobs or those awaiting full work permits. They are different from the number of permits issued in any given year. The reduction in Work Permits has been reflected in more empty rental properties and reduced consumer spending. It has contributed to an overall reduction in income and revenue generation across the board. One reason given is the number of large reinsurance companies re-domiciling from Bermuda, plus the impact of the global economic crisis. Government has recently announced that some key workers will soon be exempt from work permits and able to get permanent residency for themselves, their spouses and their children. Some senior executives and those responsible for making decisions "critical to the continuity of a company in Bermuda" will be able to get Permanent Resident's Certificates for themselves and their families after ten years on the Island. Some jobs are automatically eligible for a ten-year work permit. These will only be issued where companies can prove they have created jobs for Bermudians. The current term limit is six years for most non-Bermudians not working with privileged companies.
2012. About 11,900.
2010. The total number of one-to-five year work permits was 9,127. The decline compared to 2009 reflected Bermuda's overall economic situation. These exclude temporary and periodic work permits.
2009. 11,001 Work Permits were issued in Bermuda's private sector.
2008. Non-Bermudian workers - those who need Work Permits - totaled 12,968 or 32.4 percent of the workforce although included are 1,957 non-Bermudian working spouses of Bermudians. (The percentage of jobs held by Bermudians has declined steadily in recent years, from 73.4 percent in 2002 to 67.6 percent in 2008).
2007 - 11,730
2006 - about 9,800
2005 to 2006 - 8,400
2002 to 2004, about 7800
2001 - 7,900
2000 - 6,700
1999 - 7,412
1998 - 7,263
1997 - 6,907
1996 - 6,597
1995 - 5,998
While the above can offer generalities we don't speak for the government and suggest you get more details from the relevant government authority below. It can be reached by phone, fax, email and website. Bermuda Department of Immigration, Chief Immigration Officer, Ministry of Labor, Home Affairs & Public Safety, Government Administration Building, 30 Parliament Street, Hamilton HM 12, Bermuda. Telephone Work Permit Officer at (441) 297-7940 Fax: (441) 295-4115. Or contact your current or pending employer with any questions. (An employer is entirely and solely responsible for having your Work Permit and Contract of Employment approved by the Bermuda Department of Immigration).
November 21, 2014.
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