Residents who have been living in the British Virgin Islands for 10 years or more can now be considered eligible to receive belongership status after the Cabinet committed to using the existing legislation.

Despite the legislation outlining a 10-year minimum as the threshold required for residents to become eligible for belongership status, governments over the years have been using a 20-year policy.

This disparity was highlighted in the recent Commission of Inquiry Report, which sought to provide recommendations to address the longstanding issue.

Recommendation B33 of the Report called for a review of processes for the grant of residency and belongership status, and in particular the open discretion currently held by Cabinet to make grants.

It said as part of that review, the position with regard to the length of residence required for belongership applications based on tenure should be clarified and confirmed by statute.

Premier Dr. the Honourable Natalio Wheatley during Thursday’s sitting revealed that Cabinet had taken the step to use the 10-year duration as stated by the law until the review was completed.

He said, “We have set the target of having a suitable reviewer – to be agreed by the Governor and the Premier – in place by 1st September, 2022. Cabinet committed that from 1st June, 2022, the existing legislation on residency threshold – minimum of 10 years – would be followed pending completion of the above-mentioned review.”

Immigration Department will be adhering to the law

Premier Wheatley also assured the public that the Immigration Department will be abiding by the 10-year requirement, adding that resources have been pumped into the department to strengthen its administrative systems.

“I can report that the Immigration Department has been adhering to this recommendation and has discontinued the use of the previous response given to applicants who did not meet the 20-year requirement,” Dr. Wheatley stated.

He added, “A project commenced on 29th May, 2022, to strengthen administrative systems within the Status Unit to be better positioned to process applications. Additionally, the Board has been reviewing the processing guidelines.”

Premier Wheatley said in the coming months, his government expects to engage in discussions on the difficult, but necessary subject of immigration reform.