A new amendment bill to go before Parliament, upon its approval the bill would bring major changes to laws surrounding citizenship in Barbados.
Citing a declining population, a growing elderly group that puts a strain on the National Insurance Scheme funds, and the urgent need for economic growth, Cabinet is to expand the categories of people who can become Barbadians.
This revelation was made by Home Affairs Minister Edmund Hinkson whilst addressing a ceremony to formally induct new citizens in the Horatio Cooke Auditorium of the National Union of Public Workers.
Hinkson outlined seven areas of immigration change that Cabinet approved, also making note that additional changes are being contemplated which would be announced later.
The key changes to the citizenship law the Home Affairs Minister highlighted are:
1. Citizenship will be available to a grandchild or a great-grandchild of a Barbadian citizen. Currently, only parents are allowed to grant citizenship by descent to their offspring.
2. Permanent residents may be able to receive citizenship after “three years of ordinary residence in Barbados” or a total of 1,095 days. Ordinary residence will be defined as lawful residence for half of the year, 183 days in every year.
3. Permanent residents who have already been living here for more than seven years will be “grandfathered into citizenship”
4. Spouses and dependents who accompany a CARICOM Skilled National living and working here would be entitled to first become permanent residents and then ultimately citizens by way of time spent in Barbados. Skilled nationals living here for the past seven years will be able to apply for permanent residence.
5. Cabinet has agreed to reduce the length of time of those who marry Barbadians can register for citizenship by marriage – even though the Constitution currently entitles women who marry Barbadian men an automatic entitlement to register as a citizen. Hinkson did not indicate whether any constitutional amendments were coming.
6. A two-stage route to merit-based citizenship through permanent residence will be available to people who “who have highly desirable employment skills, who are willing to open a business, or who have substantial capital, money, willing to invest significantly in our economy and hence providing much-needed employment to Barbadians”.
7. Those who can prove they have been residing in Barbados for four years will be eligible for permanent residence.