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Monday, October 31, 2011

New rules for Turks and Caicos Islands visas

The visa application system in the Turks and Caicos Islands will undergo a major overhaul and changes will include a new requirement that all applications must be made at UK posts overseas.

This was announced in a Government press release which stated that applications will be decided by a visa referral unit in the TCI. Further work will be done to expand the countries whose nationals will require a visa to enter the TCI, and to improve security features.

The press statement, which outlined a number of changes in the Immigration Ministry, said that the Employment Services Department will launch new job placement services in November. The Department will publish on its website and in leaflets clear guidelines on the process for registering as unemployed, and the services offered to employers and employees to match people to vacant posts. The Employment Officers will be located downstairs in Sam’s building on Provo.
The Department will also streamline labour clearance and work permit procedures through the setting up of a single front office and a new back office function. Customers and staff will be able to continue to feed in their ideas for improvements to policies and processes, which will be published. The structure and arrangements for collecting work permit fees will be reviewed.

Conciliation and arbitration services are being enhanced and a guide to procedures will be published shortly. It was also noted that the Borders are being strengthened with clear published entry criteria, a stronger intelligence base, enhanced passenger profiling and improved partnership with police and customs. The recently launched National Contingency Plan for Irregular Migrants will remain in place, and work will continue to get the coastal radar system fully operational by April next year.

Enforcement and compliance are being improved with comprehensive training for officers based around new written procedures and guidance. The Ministry’s enforcement and compliance staff are being brought together into a single unit, and they will place renewed emphasis on compliance activity with employers and develop a planned and systematic approach to the deportation of people who are in the islands illegally.

Options for a long term multi-purpose detention centre are being looked at. In the meantime a new security contract for the existing centre is being procured and discussions are being held with the owner to ensure compliance with minimum standards.

The issue of trafficking in human beings is also being tackled through the drafting of an Ordinance which will make trafficking a specific criminal offence with stringent penalties, the release added.

Meantime, the Border Control Ministry is also developing a paper for the Advisory Council, drawing together for a wider public consultation, the options for new criteria for PRC and a fair and transparent process for acquisition of Turks and Caicos Islander status. There will also be discussions with other government departments, the Human Rights Commissioner and community groups about which documentary evidence is acceptable to confirm the facts in order for births outside hospital to be registered.

The Change Programme is led by Permanent Secretary Clara Gardiner, Under Secretaries Sharon Taylor and Willette Swan, and the Commissioner of Labour Michelle Fulford-Gardiner. It is supported from the UK by a Senior Immigration Adviser, Lorraine Rogerson and two recently arrived Change Managers; Simon Excell, Border Control and Enforcement; and Kerstin Thompson, Policy and Casework, both of whom provide advice, mentoring and training.

The change programme is being carried forward within the context of the wider public service reform agenda.

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