Bahamas: Labour Regulation
Foreigners wanting to work or trade in the islands must obtain a work permit from the Immigration Department. In the case of an employee, the employer makes the application and must show that there is no suitable Bahamian candidate for the position. This includes advertising in newspapers; employers are also expected to have training programmes for Bahamians in the skills they are likely to need.
Work permits are usually issued for one year, renewable, although for senior executives it can be three years.
Normally an application will not be processed if the prospective employee is already in The Bahamas, having entered as a visitor.
Work permit fees range from BSD350 to BSD10,000 per year depending on the category. In March 2013, the Immigration Minister announced that the Government is considering raising the work permit fees 'substantially'.
Where work permits have been granted, each employer will be required to identify a suitable Bahamian to understudy the expatriate so that the Bahamian trainee will fill the expatriate’s position within a reasonable time frame.
Each permit issued by the Immigration Board relates to a specific post. Permits are not altered by the director of immigration to reflect change of employment or residence. However, a person holding a work permit may make application for a new one (his new employer having been unsuccessful in recruiting a qualified Bahamian to fill the post) without having to leave the islands.
The renewal of a permit on expiration is not automatic. Generally, no expatriate may be continually employed in the country in any capacity for more than five years. However, there are likely to be cases where hardship will be caused by rigid implementation of this policy; according to government, this factor will be kept in mind in applying the regulations.
In early 2007, it emerged that the Bahamas financial services industry had developed an immigration framework designed to help the jurisdiction compete with other offshore financial centres for a finite pool of skilled workers. The proposals were drawn up following discussions between the Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB), responsible for promoting the jurisdiction's finance industry internationally, and the Ministry of Immigration, Labour and Training (MILT). Two primary 'financial services industry' contacts have been appointed within the Department of Immigration, with the turnaround period for the processing of completed FSI work permit applications now pegged at 6 weeks.
The MILT will also consider a more flexible work permit system that reflects the availability of workers in certain occupations and may grant shorter work permits for employment in areas where there is an acute shortage of skills in just the Bahamas, and medium- to long-term permits for jobs where there is a worldwide shortage of qualified candidates.
In November 2007, Minister of State for Immigration, Elma Campbell announced that the government’s comprehensive immigration policy was “well underway”, and was addressing the challenges facing the Department of Immigration in the areas of illegal migration and the processing of work permits.
Since the launching of the new immigration policy, the Immigration Board convenes weekly in New Providence and twice a month in Grand Bahama.