(Barbados Nation) “Short-sighted!” is how attorney-at-law Latchman Kissoon views the recent hike in immigration fees. The increases will see Caricom nationals paying in some cases twice more than they previously did for services from the Immigration Department.
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler announced the increase during his Budget presentation two weeks ago. He said at the time that Government was seeking to raise an additional Bds$4 million in revenue from the Immigration Department this financial year and this would be earned in fees charged.
The changes, which also affect the cost of the Barbados Passport, include a rise in the permanent resident application fee that moves from Bds$600 to Bds$1 200, the grant of application for immigrant status fee from Bds$600 to Bds$1 200, and the grant of permission to reside and work from Bds$800 to Bds$1 000.
The application fee for a work permit goes up from Bds$200 to Bds$300, while fees for all categories of immigrant workers have also been increased.
Kissoon, who founded the Guyanese Association of Barbados, said while Caricom citizens did not need visas, the hikes to them were “restrictive”.
“We are destroying Caricom at a time when we should be encouraging inter-regional travel,” Kissoon stated, pointing out that it cost more to get from Barbados to Jamaica than from Barbados to New York.
He said while he could understand the hikes for countries other than of the Caribbean, since Barbados was a tourist destination, he could not fathom the increases for Caricom nationals.
Asked if he felt that the fees were designed to restrict movement, particularly of Guyanese nationals, Kissoon asked: “What will be the idea behind it if we are talking about freedom of movement? Basically it is short-sighted.”
He added: “We are really overtaxing our people for simple things.
I agree that we need taxation, but what will happen if other countries raise their fees too? The next thing they will pass is a tax to go to St Lucy.”
In terms of Guyanese citizens who make up the majority of Caricom nationals who live and work in Barbados, Kissoon said because of the downturn in the economy and the high cost of living a number of them had left.
“My experience is that even Guyanese immigrants who got through are going back home because they are not finding jobs due to the slowdown in the construction industry. They can’t afford to pay rent. Guyanese are now going to Brazil because of the construction of the Takutu Bridge linking Brazil and Guyana. That is almost free travel and we are here killing Caricom.”
Kissoon said several Barbadians were now taking advantage of the land incentive being offered by the Guyana government which is leasing 15 acres of land at Bds$5 a year for 50 years.
And while he could not give specific figures, the lawyer said immigration fees in other Caricom countries were much lower than those in Barbados.
In terms of the fees for extensions, he said the process usually took years and it was unreasonable to ask people to pay the fee each time they applied.
But when contacted, Ivor Carryl, programme manager of the Caricom Single Market and Economy Unit, said he found no prejudice in the increase of fees.
“The impact on eligible Caricom nationals is negligible, particularly the part which deals with work permits. There is no prejudice since Caricom nationals don’t need a visa to enter Barbados,” he stated.