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By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) exclusively for Bermuda Online
Bermuda citizenship, being Bermudian, is effectively in two parts. One is to be a British Overseas Territory member, meaning that all who are Bermudians by both birth and Bermudian parentage are British Overseas Territory citizens. This is under British UK law, not Bermuda laws. As it affects persons born in Bermuda neither of whose parents are Bermudian, it merely confirms where they were born but does not give them citizenship. The other part, where Bermuda laws step in, is that both parents or one qualifying parent of a child born in Bermuda must also be Bermudian by birth and descent, including having other family members born in Bermuda - or by formal award of Bermuda status awarded by the Bermuda Government, for the child to claim local citizenship as a Bermudian. This is covered under Bermuda laws (see references to "Acts" below) and is what Bermuda citizenship means.
This means that all persons born in Bermuda at (former) Bermuda-based American or Canadian or British UK military bases, which at the time were respectively and legally American or Canadian or British UK military property, assumed their nationality at birth, not Bermuda's, unless a parent was Bermudian.
Citizenship cannot be bought nor can it be bestowed under any circumstances other than those described above and below.
Many British United Kingdom nationals and British Overseas Territory members live and work in Bermuda. Most are welcome but all are treated as foreigners. Britons - those from Great Britain or non-Bermudian British Overseas Territory members - do not have the same freedoms here in residing and working without restrictions as they have in Great Britain, Ireland and rest of the European Economic Community. Britons visiting Bermuda on business or vacation or as professional newcomers, and non-Bermudian citizens of other countries, cannot get Bermuda citizenship or vote or buy real estate at the same price as Bermudians - unless they both marry Bermudians (see below) and wait 10 years. Any children born here to non-Bermudians are not Bermudian unless one qualifying parent is Bermudian, so they cannot apply for any local scholarships or grants for further education abroad (but many have, as non-citizens, been conscripted illegally into the Bermuda Regiment), or work without a Work Permit, or operate their own business in Bermuda, or reside without an appropriate residential certificate, or buy any property except the top 5% in market and assessment valuation.
Many Bermudians do not regard themselves as British - despite this being their only official nationality - but as Bermudian.
The Bermuda Government-mandated Acts concerned include:
Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956
Bermudian Status Register Act 1992
Bermudian Status By Birth Or Grant Register Amendment Act 1993
Bermudian Status By Birth Or Grant Register Act Commencement Day Notice 1993
Bermuda Immigration And Protection Amendment Act 1993
Bermuda Immigration And Protection Amendment Act 1994
Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2000
Bermuda Immigration And Protection Amendment Act 2002
Bermuda Immigration & Protection Amendment Act 2007
Bermuda Immigration and Protection (Designation of Eligible Condominium Units) Regulations 2007
Bermuda Immigration and Protection (Rental and Use) Regulations 2007.
Without Bermuda Status (local citizenship), persons also cannot buy any real estate as Bermudians can if they can afford it but are limited to the top 5 percent of property in assessed value and a particular kind and type of property only and must pay a substantial purchase tax on top of other taxes; cannot obtain any local scholarships from any organization; if of employable age are not allowed to take any employment but are limited to the kind of employment on a Work Permit approved by the Immigration authority of the Bermuda Government; and may not under any circumstances be an executor or executrix of any Bermudian-owned property not in the top 5% of Annual Rental Value. Moreover, any non-Bermudian spouses of Bermudians, who have not been living in Bermuda for more than 10 years with their Bermudian spouses, are not allowed under the 2007 Act to own or partially own as part of spousal rights or to be bequeathed in part or in whole any Bermudian homes or land. The attorneys of testators or legatees are required to tell them this and would-be executors are expected to know this. Non-Bermudians, including those deemed to no longer hold Bermuda Status, may only be executors of Bermuda property which is presently in non-Bermudian hands and as such is in the top 5% in Annual Rental Value. Nor are they - or any other non-Bermudian - allowed to be sole owners of a business in the local marketplace. They are not allowed, as non-Bermudians, or are no longer deemed to be Bermudians, to hold shares in Bermudian companies as Bermudians. They are prohibited from employing any ruse that will enable them to overcome this restriction. If they were once but are no longer Bermudian by Status and hold any Bermudian companies' shares in their names or on behalf of their mother or father or siblings - it is their legal responsibility to declare these to the companies concerned and as required by Bermuda Immigration to divest themselves of these holdings. All Bermudian companies are required by law to keep an exact and up-to-date register of Bermudian and non-Bermudian shareholders and to ensure that at least 60% are registered as Bermudian shareholders.
Many parents and grown children have been on restrictive Work Permits for more than 20 years. If as expatriates they marry a Bermudian spouse, they must wait for 10 years to get Bermudian status and pay a hefty fee. In contrast, Bermudians can apply for a UK passport, get full United Kingdom and European citizenship immediately they get the passport and live, work, vote and buy any property they wish there. This one-sided arrangement was a British Government decision taken without any referendum from the British people.
For decades now, it has not been sufficient for persons born in Bermuda to be regarded as Bermudian, unless one parent is also Bermudian (which does not include having Long Term Residency). Elsewhere, such as in the USA, Canada and UK, citizenship applies automatically to all children born there. But not in Bermuda - automatic citizenship does NOT apply to all children born here. Children born in Bermuda, without either parent being Bermudian by birth or status at the time, are not Bermudian unless they got Bermudian status and a Certificate to prove this in their own names and in writing in the period in the 1950s through 1991. Prior to 1991 - but no longer - a limited number of persons not born in Bermuda. or with parents not born in Bermuda, and without Bermuda spouses were given Bermuda Status in writing. Technically, it is the equivalent of full citizenship by law, while one lives in Bermuda. But it has term limits and persons once given Bermuda Status hare deemed to have lost it after more than the stipulated length of time living and working abroad.
Under Bermuda law, the only people who are irrevocably Bermudian are those born here with at least one Bermudian parent who was born in Bermuda. Those persons born in Bermuda with a Bermudian parent don't lose it - and some persons born to a Bermudian parent in Canada or USA - such as the Hon. Paula Cox (born in Canada), or last children of the late Hon. Frederick Wade (born in USA), or a daughter of Dame Lois Browne-Evans (born in USA), may not lose it either, depending on the laws of their country of residence, or when/if dual nationality is permitted . In the democratic countries beyond Bermuda, citizenship once given cannot be revoked unless at the particular request of the applicant.
Those not born here from a Bermuda-born parent may have had conditional Bermuda status, if they got documentation in writing to say so, otherwise they do not, not even when born here. They must have received Bermudian Status officially before 1991 (no longer issued except in the special cases to spouses and children of Bermudians) by virtue of residence up to that time. If, after getting a Certificate of Bermuda Status, they have spent more than a certain number of years (believed to be a maximum of 7) living and working away from Bermuda, their conditional Bermudian Status or citizenship is deemed to be revoked, even if they visit Bermuda on holiday (vacation) after that expired time.
Adult Bermudians not born in Bermuda of a Bermudian-born parent, or born in Bermuda from a parent or parents not born in Bermuda, or born abroad to a Bermudian will only be regarded as Bermudian if (a) they are on the registered voters list; (b) are on the Register of Bermudians; and (c) - like all Bermuda-born persons who have at least one Bermudian parent - if they have a Bermuda or British-UK passport which includes a stamp certifying they hold Bermuda status.
It is technically possible for someone not Bermudian to get a Bermuda passport, but it does not make them Bermudian. In most other countries, persons of good character who wish to become citizens can do so after 2-5 years, do not need a qualifying local connection; can buy any real estate they wish, at any price; and do not have to be a particular age.
See the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act. In contrast, some non-Bermudian residents with unblemished continuous residence have been there for periods exceeding 20 and 30 years yet have not been given citizenship. It means they are not allowed to vote, or to register to vote, in any election after they become 18 years old, even when they have been model residents for years. Those in this category are mostly from the USA, Britain, Canada, Caribbean and Europe, but some are from Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Philippines and elsewhere. Without citizenship, persons also cannot buy any real estate as Bermudians can if they can afford it; are limited to the top 5 percent of property in assessed value and a particular kind and type of property only and must pay a substantial purchase tax on top of other taxes; cannot obtain any local scholarships from any organization; if of employable age are not allowed to take any employment but are limited to the kind of employment on a Work Permit approved by the Immigration authority of the Bermuda Government; and may not under any circumstances be an executor or executrix of any Bermudian-owned property not in the top 5% of Annual Rental Value. Their attorneys are required to tell them this and would-be executors are expected to know this. They should also check with the Bermuda Government to see if it is permitted or not for them to benefit in any way financially from any Bermudian-held estate. They may only be executors of Bermuda property which is presently in non-Bermudian hands and as such is in the top 5% in Annual Rental Value. Nor are they - or any other non-Bermudian - allowed to be sole owners of a business in the local marketplace.
They are are not allowed, as non-Bermudians, to hold shares in Bermudian companies as Bermudians.
They are prohibited from employing any ruse that will enable them to overcome this restriction. If they were once but are no longer Bermudian by Status and hold any Bermudian companies' shares in their names or on behalf of their mother or father or siblings - it is their legal responsibility to declare these to the companies concerned and if required by Bermuda Immigration to divest themselves of these holdings as all Bermudian companies are required by law to keep an exact and up-to-date register of Bermudian and non-Bermudian shareholders and to ensure that at least 60% are registered as Bermudian shareholders.
A non-Bermudian who marries a Bermudian and wishes to apply for local citizenship (Bermuda Status) must (a) have been married to the same Bermudian for 10 (ten) continuous years; (b) during that marriage, been ordinarily resident in Bermuda for at least seven (7) years, the last two (2) years of which must be continuous to the date of application; (c) have been living together with the Bermudian spouse as husband and wife continuously for the two (2) years immediately before the application; and (d) be of good character and conduct.
When the application is made, the Bermuda Government issues a public notice in a local newspaper of record giving notice of the application, the name and address of the applicant. Any person who knows if any of the provisions have not been fulfilled, or why Bermuda Status should not be granted to the applicant, should send a written statement to the Chief Immigration Officer, Department of Immigration.
In comparison, countries that give citizenship after 3 (three) years to non-nationals who marry citizens include USA, Canada, UK, European Community members, Australia, New Zealand.
Countries that give citizenship after 3-5 years to non-nationals who do not marry local citizens include Grenada (3 years); Australia (3 years); USA, Canada, UK, European Community members, Australia, New Zealand (all after 5 years).
Bermudians since 21 May 2002 can get full British/EC passports but Bermuda does not come under EC laws); can live and work in UK and any EC country; buy any property they can afford; can register there to vote immediately and can do so in any UK or EC election; and if they physically live in the UK instead of returning to Bermuda on holiday, can get internal UK educational fees and more. But Britons and European Economic Community (EEC) citizens do not have any of the same rights in Bermuda to live, be domiciled, be employed and retire here as they do in the United Kingdom or EEC. For those who want to work in Bermuda, Work Permits apply just as much in every way to Britons and Europeans as to Philippine nationals or Mongolians. Britons who are not also Bermudians have none of the rights that Bermudians in the UK now have if they apply for UK passports. It was the UK Government - and presumably the EEC too - that approved quite recently that Bermudians could have, on application, a UK passport and be treated as full UK nationals in every other way, but that Britons in Bermuda who are not also Bermudian would not have reciprocal rights.
If and when Bermuda obtains political independence from the UK, only those Bermudians born in the UK or with a UK grandfather or possibly a grandmother are likely to remain British.
There is no equivalent in Bermuda of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. A search-engine check under "Long Term Residents" - see below - for which they can apply - will reveal how they are treated compared to Bermuda's Long Term Residents (not treated nearly as well legally as they are in Europe).
2014. June 7. Around 1,500 residents stand to obtain Bermuda status thanks to a recently discovered immigration loophole, affirmed in a ruling by Chief Justice Ian Kawaley. And it was claimed in the House of Assembly, as MPs clashed over the rulings implications, that a slew of Permanent Residents Certificate (PRC) holders have already applied to Immigration to get Bermuda Status. However, Government has declared that all current applications have been put on hold until the matter is clarified. Attorney General Trevor Moniz told MPs yesterday that Government had reached no decision yet over the surprise ruling, which could still be appealed further. However, he said the One Bermuda Alliance refused to back a premature amendment proposed by the Opposition to strike down the culprit section of the law. In the meantime, Junior Immigration Minister Sylvan Richards told the House that Government had enlisted a Queens Counsel with a specialty in human rights law to review the case. The debate touched also on long-held sensitivities over the history of discretionary status grants, which were discarded in 1989. Introducing the amendment for its second reading was Shadow Minister of Immigration and Home Affairs Walton Brown, who called it a stopgap measure that allows us to step back and fully consider the most appropriate immigration policy for this country. Otherwise, he said, Mr Justice Kawaley's ruling has created a situation in which legislation was decided by a judge instead of by Parliament. The occasionally stormy debate saw Progressive Labour Party MP Walter Robain tell Government to tread carefully, adding: "There are a whole lot of hypotheses about the purpose of this." Shadow Health Minister Kim Wilson warned the OBA that "Bermudians were listening, and listening very intently" while PLP MP Glenn Blakeney, accusing the OBA of already having its mind made up, told Government: "I warn you, it will be at your peril." However, Mr Blakeney got a reprimand from Speaker of the House Randolph Horton when he said: "This situation, for political expediency, to increase the voting registry, is exactly what's intended by the OBA." The Devonshire North Central MP subsequently withdrew his remark. The five-hour debate emanated from a ruling in May, in which Mr Justice Kawaley upheld a decision by the Immigration Appeals Tribunal for PRC holders Rebecca Carne and Antonio Correia to win full status. In so doing, the Chief Justice ruled against Governments repeated appeal of the Tribunals decision, and many PLP MPs questioned why the OBA didn't support the Opposition legislation after Government had contested the status move in court. However, the Attorney General said "Government's motive for the appeal had been to obtain clarification from the Chief Justice's ruling. The position of this side is that its premature to decide exactly what the ramifications of this decision are." According to the Department of Immigration, there are 1,340 PRC holders who potentially qualify, plus 150 children under the age of 22 at the most, he said. The loophole technically became active in 2002, when the PLP government introduced PRC legislation but the significance of the obscure clause 20B (2) (B) of the Act was only recently spotted. Ms Wilson urged Government to support Mr Brown's amendment, calling the status ruling a clear case of what is known as judge-made law. "It's an application or interpretation of the law that is contrary to the intent of Parliament," she said, accusing the OBA of opposing the amendment solely because it was raised by the Opposition. We're talking about 2,000 people that, at the discretion of the Minister, can get Status tomorrow with the flick of a pen." But Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell responded that "status in this case rested on eligible PRC holders meeting the criteria of immigration law. It's not a matter of one individual making arbitrary decisions, saying I want this person to get status," Mr Crockwell said, characterizing it as primarily a human rights issue. We're not talking about people who just showed up here, these are people who have been in this country for at least 25 years. These are our neighbours, these are our friends." The Attorney General told MPs he agreed with Opposition concerns over the numbers of people who could become full status Bermudians. Pointing out that even 1,000 people was a very large percentage on Bermudas scale, Mr Moniz said people were entitled to be emotional about it, particularly in light of the difficult financial circumstances the country finds itself in. While Government didn't support Mr Brown's proposed amendment, the AG promised: "This will be before the House in the not too distant future." Opposition leader Marc Bean who compared the OBA to prostitutes said that the loophole had been created under a PLP Government, and it was the party's intent to close it. "It's a loophole that the One Bermuda Alliance is looking to exploit, it's clear." Public Works Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin hit back: "To be told we are nothing more than ladies of the night willing to be sold for 30 shekels is disgusting." And she dismissed as ridiculous that the OBA intended to exploit the legal loophole for political ends. Ms Gordon-Pamplin said Government would not support the bill "because of the fact we would like the Opposition to recognize we can put in abeyance any applications which have been made until the implications of the ruling had been discussed, and grounds of appeal to the Privy Council were considered."
Persons who apply for the PRC are usually referred to as Long Term Residents. Bermudians who object to them becoming citizens despite their long continuous period of residency - which would more than qualify them by international standards - can refer to the Coalition for the Rights of Long Term Residents. It is believed to include members of the Bermuda-Portuguese Association, West Indian Association and others.
Minor concessions were granted in 2002 to some non-Bermudians with over 20 years of continuous residence and demonstrated good character and conduct. They were given Permanent Residents Certificates (PRCs).
They took effect on October 31, 2002 with the enactment of the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 2002. Having a qualifying Bermudian connection is key to getting Bermuda Status (citizenship) after 20 years. Otherwise, there is no chance at all of getting it, even if born here, unless a parent is also Bermudian. Those whose brothers and sisters are Bermudians, or who were registered as voters on the Parliamentary Register before May 1, 1976 are entitled to apply for Bermuda Status if they qualify. All others can apply for Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) if they qualify. So far, some 800 persons have done the latter. Application criteria include being ordinarily resident in Bermuda before 31 July 1989 and for a period of 20 years immediately before application; are at least 40 years of age; and are of good character and conduct. Their full names, addresses, parishes and postal codes are published in the Official Gazette. Those with a Working Resident Certificate (WRC) - introduced in 1998 - must still apply for a PLC as some years have passed since they proved their eligibility. Having a PRC will provide security of employment and residence to long term residents. But having either a PRC or WRC does not entitle any non-Bermudian to buy lower or mid-priced real estate. They too are limited to the top 5% in price and Annual Rentable Value (ARV).
All other applicants for the PRC must also demonstrate good character and conduct and must prove that he or she was ordinarily resident in Bermuda before August 1, 1989 and be at least 40 years old on the date of application.
Bermuda voters in general and other elections or referenda are at least 18 years old and are either Bermudian by birth or status, or if non Bermudians, citizens of the (British) Commonwealth of Nations who were otherwise registered and qualified to vote in 1979, have remained residents since then - and, like Bermudians - have registered annually to vote.
Although there have been numerous non-Bermudian incomers since 1979, all British Commonwealth of Nations nationals including Australians, Britons, Canadians, New Zealanders and West Indians and all other non Bermudians of good character and reputation who have been long term residents of Bermuda for 20 or more years but were refused Bermuda status if they applied for it and were not registered to vote in 1979, are NOT allowed to register to vote. There is no longer any mechanism providing for any other individuals who may be also be long term residents of Bermuda, but who do not have close family ties with Bermudians, to become local citizens. Without this designation, they can never vote. And because they cannot, nor can they ever own mid priced real estate by Bermuda's standards. They are limited to the top 5% in price and Annual Rentable Value (ARV).
The above is purely a guide to Bermuda citizenship matters. It is written by someone who is not a Bermuda Government employee. It is designed to be helpful to Bermudians and non-Bermudians including new or potential professional newcomers, business visitors, retirees to Bermuda and tourists. It is produced in the absence to date of any similar website document produced by the Bermuda Government, the regulatory authority on all citizenship matters. For further information on the topic do not ask this author, instead, contact the proper regulatory authority, the Bermuda Government's Bermuda Department of Immigration, Chief Immigration Officer, Ministry of Labor, Home Affairs & Public Safety, Government Administration Building, 30 Parliament Street, Hamilton HM 12, Bermuda.
October 5, 2015.
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