Work-permit holders and other non-nationals seeking to re-enter the territory are asked to apply at least two weeks ahead of their intended travel date, according to a Sept. 4 update on the Covid-19 pandemic from Health and Social Development Minister Carvin Malone.

“These lead times will allow immigration and health officials to carry out the necessary verification procedures,” Mr. Malone said.

Last week was the first opportunity for many expatriates stranded abroad to return to the territory once they have been approved by government, as part of the second phase of the “Restricted Border Reopening Plan” that took effect Sept. 1.

This milestone came just as the Virgin Islands moved to the orange “Manage It” phase of its pandemic response as a result of increased Covid-19 transmission in the community. As of Monday, the total number of confirmed cases in the VI was 63, with 52 active.

Mr. Malone has not said how many expatriates have returned or have applied to return.

June opening

In early June, borders reopened to Virgin Islanders, belongers and permanent residents, and on Aug. 21 the minister said 994 people had registered to return, 783 of whom were verified by the Immigration Department.

He did not specify if any of the registrants were expatriates.

He added that 597 people had completed mandatory quarantine by that time. He has not provided updated figures since then.

On Sept. 4, the minister also said Virgin Islanders and belongers who still wish to return to the territory should register through www.bvitravel.vg at least a week in advance of their travel.

Returnees

According to the mid-August decision, the current border rules allow for the entry of work-permit holders; work-permit exempt residents; students from H. Lavity Stoutt Community College and locally based medical schools; government employees and teachers with exceptional approval; dependents of belongers, permanent residents, work-permit holders and work-permit-exemption holders; and “persons desirous of conducting business in the territory.”

Cabinet also empowered Mr. Malone to grant approval for people to cross the borders for emergency medical procedures.

Natural Resources Labour and Immigration Minister Vincent Wheatley was empowered to give approval for a few categories of people to return after Aug. 15, such as the children and spouses of belongers, residents and work-permit holders.

Additional categories of people are allowed to enter the VI for no longer than five days, including aviation crew; maritime crew; health care practitioners and medical staff; emergency maintenance, repair and other technical personnel; other essential specialised workers by approval of the ministers of health and labour; and diplomats.

Accommodations

Throughout this month, government quarantine accommodations will be available for free to all returnees regardless of immigration status.

Starting Oct. 1, however, expatriates entering the territory will have to pay $2,500 to quarantine in government facilities — a fee that won’t be charged to nationals, naturalised citizens or permanent residents.

Meanwhile, all returnees wishing to quarantine at home have to pay $3,500 per household — a fee that took effect Aug. 15.

Mr. Fahie said that the charges help cover the costs of 24-hour security and administrative expenses. Those who left and returned for medical reasons are exempt from paying.


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