Following the Cabinet’s Oct. 25 decision to award belongership to 400 people, a meeting concerning belongership is planned for 1 p.m. Monday at the Multi-purpose Sports Complex, according to an official at the Department of Immigration who declined to provide further information.
It is unclear if the 400 people will receive belongership at the session, and the Beacon’s attempts to obtain more information from the department and the Premier’s Office were unsuccessful.
Premier Andrew Fahie and his government have pushed a “fast-track programme” for belongership since shortly after winning power in the February election.
The original fast-track plan, which was scheduled to take effect in May, would have allowed foreigners who had lived in the territory for at least 15 years to apply to be permanent residents and belongers.
However, the 15-year time limit was bumped back up the original 20 years after an outcry from some Virgin Islanders who called the plan “flawed” and “illegal” and claimed that they had been excluded from the decision-making process.
The government nevertheless continued with its efforts to clear the backlog of some 800 applicants who have lived here for 20 years or more.
In early June the House of Assembly passed the Immigration and Passport (Amendment) Act 2019, intended to clear a path for the fast-track programme and other promised immigration reform. Debate on the bill was minimal, with most of the opposition — who also claimed not to have been consulted on the plan — absent.
Meanwhile, would-be applicants waited to hear if the programme would move forward.
At the end of July of this year, applicants for permanent residency and belongership were given three weeks to apply to the Immigration Department for consideration under the modified “fast-track programme” designed to clear the backlog of existing applications while also processing new ones.
On Aug. 1, the House of Assembly passed the Immigration and Passport (Amendment) (No. 2) Act, 2019 after it was considered clause by clause through a committee of the whole House.
Legislators said the law simplifies the application process.
In November meetings, the Cabinet also approved belongership status for more applicants “who have met the legal requirements,” according to Cabinet Office decision summaries, which did not provide numbers after the announcement about the Oct. 25 meeting.