OECS Free Movement Came Into Effect August 01, 2011
Basseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
August 12, 2011 (SKNIS)
Nationals of St. Kitts and Nevis are being encouraged to take into serious consideration the numerous possibilities available under OECS Free Movement.
During this week’s edition of SKNIS Perspectives, produced by the St. Kitts and Nevis Information Service, Samuel Berridge, Senior Trade Policy Officer and National Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) Focal Point, said that nationals should have no apprehension when it comes to who will be chosen to fill local positions.
“The whole regime is a blessing in disguise, Berridge stated. “It forces you to become competitive ““ to be effective in your service delivery”¦ and we have some complaints about persons coming in and taking our jobs, but the fact is if we bring our service to a certain level, we will become competitive. There are to be regulations, but competition is not a bad thing in and of itself. And I like to point out that although people can come, we can also go ““ it’s reciprocity.”
OECS Free Movement came into effect August 01, 2011, among independent member states of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. According to an OECS press release dated August 05, 2011, member st ates “agreed that, from that date, they would permit OECS citizens to enter their territories and remain for an indefinite period in order to work, establish businesses, provide services or reside.”
The foundation for OECS Free Movement was laid with the Revised Treaty of Basseterre which established the OECS Economic Union, which entered into force on January 21, 2011. It was on this date that the OECS Authority of Heads of Government agreed upon the implementation date.
Mr. Berridge noted that free movement is not a new concept.
“This is free movement the likes of which we have not seen since before independence,” Berridge emphasized. “You know when they had one governor in the Leewards Islands in Antigua, ““ Police, Teachers and Nurses were transferred to the various islands, there was unfettered movement. What we are trying to recapture is the type of movement that took place prior to independence, when the barriers first came up.”
The implementation of the CSME in 2004 and its enactment in 2006 removed some of the limitations to free movement but that initiative in itself still required certain restrictive guidelines.
“Now they complement each other ““ both regimes they call for freedom of movement of skills and persons,” Mr. Berridge outlined. “Now the OECS regime is much wider, it’s much broader, it takes us to places that the CSME had not taken us to before. We all appreciate that the OECS Economic Union is more tight and much more integrated than the wider Caricom. We have our own Central Bank, our own fiscal and monetary policies “¦ Now with the CSME there are some fundamental differences. With the CSME, Freedom of Movement is divided into categories of skills and it’s a phased approach that we are taking. So at the moment there are 10 categories of skills but persons must have a skills certificate in order to move and work because the skilled certificate removes the requirement for you to have a work permit.”
According to the mentioned OECS Press Release, OECS citizens travelling within the Economic Union should enter the same immigration lines designated for Caricom Nationals and provide the immigration officer with a valid photo identification card that bears the nationality of the holder, for example, a passport, driver’s license, voter’s registration card or a national ID card. A completed Immigration Entry/Departure Form must also be submitted. “The immigration official shall grant entry for an indefinite period, save and except in those circumstances where the citizen poses a security risk or there exists some other legal basis for prohibiting entry to the citizen,” the release states.