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Bermuda Work Permit & Immigration Policies
If you are a non-Bermudian, i.e. a non national of Bermuda, you will need a work permit to live and work in Bermuda. You yourself can not apply for the work permit. It's your employer, i.e. the company hiring you, will need to apply for the work permit once they have confirmed the job to you. The work permit is then issued by Bermuda's Department of Immigration for that employer only and not for any other employment. It may take several weeks to months to process the work permit.
Over 20% of the Bermuda population are expatriates and working in Bermuda on work permits. Bermuda presently has a resident population of about 65,000. Annually over 10,000 work permits of 1-5 years validity have been issued in Bermuda over the past few years. And this excludes temporary work permits. However, to work and live in Bermuda, you will need the work permit regardless of your nationality and job role.
Validity of the Bermuda Work Permit
The work permit normally has a validity between 1 to 3 years (in exceptional cases it can be for longer period). The period depends on the job skill. Higher is the job skill requirement that are difficult to get in Bermuda, longer will be the validity. After the expiry of the work permit, the employer can apply for renewal. However, there is a maximum term limit of 6 years after which renewal is not possible. Having completed 6 years, you should be ready to leave Bermuda.
Update Nov 2011: 10-year work permit is now being issued for critical roles.
Update February 2013: The work permit term limit has been eliminated by the new OBA (One Bermuda Alliance) led government. Which means there will be no longer any term (or time) limit for a work permit. However as before, a foreign national will continue to require and obtain a work permit in order to work and live in Bermuda. Elimination of the term limit does not mean offering permanent residency or citizenship to a foreign national. This move has been made to attract better expat participation in order to grow the island's economy. However, when a company applies for a work permit for a non-Bermudian, it needs to specify a period and pay up for the fees accordingly. A work permit for longer period has higher fees.
Note: Earlier in November 2011, the term limit was increased from usual 1-3 year to 10 years by the PLP government. However there were several stringent criteria that the company and the job role had to fulfill in order to get the 10 year permit. Firstly the role should have been critical to success of the company and growth of Bermuda's economy, and the company should have had at least 50% Bermudian employees. There could be exceptions and the term limit waived in case of key staffs like CEOs, CFOs, senior management staff, or other key skills that were in real shortage in the island but essential for business. The exceptions also depended on the hiring company's profile. If the employer demonstrates that they were Good Corporate Citizens by consistently following best practices as prescribed by the Department of Immigration, then their applications for key staffs could get a waiver of term limit.
Preference of employment in Bermuda
By government policy, all companies should advertise for their jobs at least on three separate days in a local news paper. Bermuda's only daily is The Royal Gazette where generally the job advertisements are made.
Employers also sometimes advertise in other media including in foreign newspapers like in US, Canada, UK etc. And, they must give first preference to Bermudians. Which means that an eligible Bermudian if available, should get the first consideration for the job. This is to ensure that locals are given preference for a job before an external skill is hired.
Only in the case where the company is unable to find a local Bermudian to fulfill the job requirement, should they consider expatriate applications. So does it mean that job prospects in Bermuda are very limited? No. There are number of areas where Bermuda has shortage in skills.
Once the requirement of the job role ceases or your role becomes redundant, unless a substitute job is available or a new job is found within a stipulated time, one needs to leave the island.
Prior to Feb 2013 when the work permit expired, before the renewal application could be made by the employer, they needed to again check for eligible Bermudian for the position through advertisements. So again a Bermudian would be given a preference.
How to get a Bermuda Work Permit?
Remember, you can not and should not look for a job while on a visit to Bermuda as a tourist. This will be futile and no company will entertain that. As per policy, you can apply for the job only from outside Bermuda. Once the job is offered, only then the employer can apply for the work permit on your behalf.
Department of Immigration issues the work permit to the hiring company and they should in turn send that to you. When you enter Bermuda, you should have the original work permit with you and the required work visa (as may be applicable depending on your nationality).
Remember that work permit can no way result in immigration or automatic right of abode for any national even though you may end up staying in Bermuda for years. The only exception can be if you get married to a Bermudian while in Bermuda, and live together for a minimum of 10 years, then you can apply for citizenship.
There is no set period for processing the Work Permit. It can take from weeks to several months. You will need to fill up a detailed questionnaire form and send it to your employer. The hiring company needs to furnish a lot of details like your medical history, medical evidence that you can work in subtropical region, you can sustain constant high humidity, have no non-permissible disease like HIV, tuberculosis etc., have a clean previous employment record, and much more.
If you are applying for a professional job in Bermuda, check if the employer has received the Good Corporate Citizen status. A company with such status consistently meets a set of criteria and comes in the good book of the government. This will help in much faster and smoother processing of your work permit by Department of Immigration.
Can you change your job and use the same work permit?
An employer makes the application for a work permit, pays the application fees, and then the work permit is issued by the Department of Immigration only for that employer and the applicant employee. So the same work permit can not be used to change your job and get a new employment. Any potential new employer has to make a fresh application for a work permit for you. Also note that an expat can not hold more than one jobs in the island.
Secondly while on the island, an expat needs to work in the same company for minimum of 2 years before one can apply for a change in job. And no more than 1 change is allowed in a period of 5 years. However there can be exceptions though. Only in cases where you can demonstrate that you have been treated unfairly or made redundant by the employer, can you change your job. If you quit your job, another work permit is not issued and you will need to leave Bermuda.
If you are applying for a professional job in Bermuda, you should have a minimum bachelor degree and preferably higher degrees like masters or doctorate. There are some job categories for which work permits are issued, for some categories it is restricted and for some it is not issued at all. Check out Bermuda Employment Opportunities to know what may be your chances of getting a job and a work permit in Bermuda.
Remember, you can not start your own company in Bermuda or own a business with a work permit. Doing business in Bermuda will require separate documentation, you will need to find a local partner who needs to own at least 60% stake in the business.
Getting Families and Children to Bermuda
Your spouse can come and live with you in Bermuda if you have a work permit. However, if your spouse wants to work in Bermuda, he or she has to go through the same process to get a separate work permit. Otherwise the spouse would need to stay without work. In case your spouse has managed to get his or her own work permit, the renewal of that will be conditional on renewal of your own work permit.
If you have more than two children, you are unlikely to be considered in a private sector job and also perhaps in a public sector job. That's because Government of Bermuda discourages this tiny island to get over populated. A child born to non-Bermudians in Bermuda does not become a citizen of Bermuda.
Today in some job categories like in case of waiters, a non-Bermudian employee can not bring in spouse or children to Bermuda.
Having come to Bermuda on a work permit, you will generally not be able to own a home and will need to stay in rental accommodations. However there are exceptions though. Property prices in Bermuda for expatriates are far higher and limited to the top 5% valuations of real estate for a single family dwelling. So, if you are moving to Bermuda, check out Living in Bermuda to know what to expect and prepare for as you take the big leap in life.
Bermuda Department of Immigration
Chief Immigration Officer
Phone: (441) 295-5151 Ext 1444
Personal Services Manager
Phone: (441)295-5151 Ext. 1393
1) Check out Bermuda Jobs to know all about job scene in Bermuda.
2) Check out Bermuda Economy to know about overall economic conditions of Bermuda.
By Raj Bhattacharya
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