The Department of Labour and Workforce Development, above, has taken over the responsibility of processing “Executive Work Permits” for high earners, government announced last Thursday. The process was previously facilitated by the then-Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour. (File photo: JOEY WALDINGER)

Government is changing the way it processes “Executive Work Permits,” which are for employees who earn an annual salary of $100,000 and up.

Moving forward, the responsibility for processing EWP applications will rest solely on the Department of Labour and Workforce Development, government announced last Thursday in a press release.

The release didn’t explain how the applications were processed previously, but when the initiative launched in 2018 the government stated that it would be “facilitated” by the then-Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour — which has now been rebranded as the Ministry of Financial Services, Labour and Trade.

At the time of the launch, the programme primarily catered to workers earning a minimum annual salary of $100,000. However, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the eligibility criteria were temporarily broadened to include all employees in the financial services sector irrespective of their salary, according to the Thursday press release.

Now, the department is reverting to the initial eligibility criteria.

In-person submissions

The submission requirements have also changed.

Previously, applications had to be sent to a designated email address. Now, they must be delivered in person to the Processing Unit on the first floor of the labour department, according to the press release.

The release added that the department is committed to processing EWP applications within 14 working days.

To facilitate the submission process, applicants can schedule appointments either online through the website, or by contacting the Public Service Customer Service Care Centre at 468-3701. Processing fees for EWPs will remain at $150, while the usual application fee of $50 will also apply.

On a case-by-case basis, the department will also consider expediting work permits for applicants who do not meet the $100,000 salary threshold but require expedited processing within the 14-day timeframe due to urgent and unforeseen circumstances, according to the release. The costs are the same.

The press release didn’t disclose the timeframe for processing regular work permits, and the department didn’t respond to a message.

New minister

The change follows recent promises from Deputy Premier Lorna Smith, who said she’s aware that the work-permit process is taking too long.

“It is all-pervasive. I have met with the labour commissioner to discuss the matter and to make sure the time is reduced significantly,” she said in response to a question during a May 16 press conference alongside Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley.

Ms. Smith — who is also the minister of financial services, labour and trade — added that the government should use technology to streamline the process and said that she’s in touch with someone who can assist the government in accomplishing this goal. Staffing, she said, continues to be an issue across the territory.

Dr. Wheatley said Ms. Smith has his full support in providing the resources necessary to address the department’s needs.

Longstanding promises

Such promises, however, are not new.

In September 2016, then-Labour Commissioner Janice Rymer said her agency’s goal for the start of 2017 was to process work permits through the Labour and Immigration departments in four weeks and renewals in two.

The goal wasn’t met, and Hurricane Irma in 2017 set back those plans and led to longstanding processing delays that were further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Online system flopped

A much-anticipated online system rolled out in July 2021 and accepted applications for new permits and renewals alike. But it stopped accepting renewals in December 2021 before completely shutting down in February 2022. It has not resumed.