Nassau, Bahamas — Minister of Immigration Fred Mitchell announced on Thursday that all non-Bahamian students will be required to have a student permit or a passport with a residency stamp when local schools open in fall 2015.
The requirement will also apply to children who are born in The Bahamas but have foreign parents.
The new rule is a part of the wider immigration policy that focuses on reducing the number of illegal immigrants living in The Bahamas.
“In immigration, new rules are being introduced,” Mitchell said at the Bahamas Business Outlook.
“For example, all schools will be asked to be sure that any foreign national in a Bahamian school has a student permit to be in The Bahamas as of the opening of the fall term.
“The annual permit costs $25 with a processing fee of $100 and every non-national should have one.”
Mitchell said the Department of Immigration is also considering changes to work permit applications.
“In a few months, we hope to attach conditions to the work permits which will say that if you get a work permit you also have to have health insurance for the worker and adequate housing,” he said.
“If you cannot demonstrate that, then the work permit will not be granted. This is being put out for discussion.”
Mitchell said he hopes that requirement can be implemented by April.
The government implemented its new immigration policy on November 1.
The policy requires all non-Bahamians to have passports of their nationalities and evidence that they have permission to live and work in The Bahamas.
The Department of Immigration will not issue certificates of identity to non-nationals born in The Bahamas.
The department also will not accept first-time applications for residence or work permits from those who have no legal status in The Bahamas.
Mitchell said on Thursday it’s important for Bahamians to be onboard with the policy changes.
“None of these policies can be successful if they do not have the broad support of the Bahamian people,” he said.
“It is in fora like this that we seek that support. We think that immigration reform is underway and we look forward to serving the public in the national interest.”
Mitchell said there is a need for a national discussion on immigration matters, including citizenship. He said he also hopes to triple the size of the Department of Immigration within the next three years.
Mitchell said the department has a staff of 300 people.
However, he said there will need to be a review to determine whether an increase could be supported by the government.
He acknowledged that the department is not very efficient when dealing with the processing of applications.
The minister said a staff increase would “dramatically improve” the efficiency of the department.
He acknowledged that the department suffers from management issues, a problem that he is amplified across the public service.
He said improvements must be made across the board.