Foreign Spouse Law Changes Still Unfair To Bahamian Women
NASSAU, The Bahamas – An Amendment to the Immigration Act was passed in the House of Assembly, providing for eliminating the five-year period for a foreign spouse to seek citizenship in The Bahamas.
“We seek to provide an enabling power, as right now it is not possible to give anything other than the five years,” said the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell who introduced the amendment and wrapped up the debate on Wednesday, August 8, 2012.
“It is important for the Government to move the process along and make it better than it was before,” he said.
The Immigration Act was amended on February 3, 1997 to provide for Resident Spouse Permit, under Section 29 (3).
The permit entitles foreign spouses of Bahamian citizens to apply, if married for less than five years. And once granted, the Resident Spouse Permit is issued for a period of five years from the date of marriage, at a cost of $350 including a $100 non-refundable processing fee.
The purpose of the spousal permit was to serve as a filler to reduce the number of persons applying for citizenship and give foreign spouses of Bahamians a period of “trial-ship”, before applying and eventually becoming permanent residents or citizens.
Section 5 (1) of the Bahamas Constitution states that any woman who, on July 9, 1973 is or has been married to a person who becomes a citizen of The Bahamas, or who having died before July 10, 1973 would, but for his death have become a citizen of The Bahamas, shall be entitled, upon making application and upon taking the oath of allegiance or such declaration in such manner as may be prescribed, to be registered as a citizen of The Bahamas.
Section 10 states that any woman who, after July 9, 1973 marries a person who is or becomes a citizen of The Bahamas shall be entitled, provided she is still married, upon making application in such manner as may be prescribed and upon taking the oath of allegiance or such declaration as may be prescribed, to be registered as a citizen of The Bahamas, provided that the right to be registered as a citizen of The Bahamas, shall be subject to such expectations or qualifications as may be prescribed in the interest of national security or public policy.
“The existing policy is that when the Bahamian spouse of a foreign national applies for a Resident Spouse Permit within the first five years of marriage, the Department acknowledges receipt of the application in writing and invites both husband and wife to visit the office for an interview,” Mr. Mitchell said.
The application file is reviewed by the Director of Immigration and a decision is made to issue one of the following: Resident Spousal Permit $250, General Work’s Permit, $1,000 and Permit to Reside, $25.
The advantages to the proposed legislation is first, the new permit will eliminate the limitation period of five years, and those approved for such permits will have the option to apply for citizenship.
Furthermore, the introduction of this permit will be a financial savings of $250 for Bahamian families for an indefinite period, as opposed to five years and will reduce/eliminate long lines and crowds seeking services at the Immigration Office.
As regards to those already in the system, a policy decision will be taken to request holders of spousal permits to apply for extension under the new amendment.
By LINDSAY THOMPSON
BAHAMAS INFORMATION SERVICES