In the near future, teachers from abroad, hired to work at one of Saba’s two schools, will no longer be required to request a working permit. They will only have to apply for a residency permit. Dutch State Secretary of Social Affairs and Labour Tamara van Ark announced on Friday that the regulation to regulate foreign labour in the Caribbean Netherlands will have to be adapted to arrange this exemption for teachers, specifically for Saba.
“Point of departure is that the interest of continuity of education on the island prevails above the interest of the (hypothetical) possibility of local labour supply,” Van Ark stated in a letter she sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament regarding the issuing of work permits (“tewerkstellingsvergunningen” or TWVs) for Saba. The State Secretary acknowledged that a small economic community like Saba, greatly depends on workers from outside, and that as such it is important that the process of issuing TWVs goes smoothly and is done in a careful manner.
The Saba government has complained about the lengthy process in the past, and received support from the Second Chamber in its endeavors to acquire more autonomy in this area. Van Ark stated that she closely worked with the Saba Executive Council to analyse the bottlenecks in securing personnel in a timely manner and to see where the process can be sped up.
A careful assessment of the work permits process showed that the authorities resorting under the Caribbean Netherlands National Government Department RCN that handle work permits, namely Immigration IND and Social Affairs and Labour SZW, is well-operated within the legally set terms. Transferring this task to the Public Entity Saba would mean that the latter would have to acquire an ICT system to handle work permits, including the buying of a licence for the so-called Foreign Management System (FMS). Personnel would have to be secured and trained to handle this task, which means an additional burden.
The State Secretary and the Executive Council agreed to focus on the concrete improvement and smoothing of the process from vacancy to residency permit. Aside from the exemption for teachers, it was agreed to extend the list of five hard-to-fill occupations for which the compulsory five-week term of first seeking a local employee is skipped. On this list since November 2018 are doctors, teachers, cooks, dive instructors and positions with salaries of more than US 550,000 per year. This list will he further extended with a number of professions for which the local publication of the vacancy will no longer be needed. The Public Entity Saba will indicate the professions that will be added to this list.
It was also agreed that the requests in the priority categories will automatically be treated as urgent requests. Van Ark promised she would look into having urgent requests for work permits receiving automatic priority in the FMS system. The State Secretary acknowledged that it was of “great importance” for Saba to prevent that requests in priority categories got stuck or delayed, “for it could have enormous direct consequences if a teacher or doctor had to wait too long to start working on the island.”
Furthermore, it was agreed that the RCN unit SZW and the Public Entity Saba will provide more information to employers about the process from vacancy to permit. “These measures should smooth the process on the short term,” said Van Ark. An evaluation of the measures will take place in two years.
The Daily Herald
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