Work Permit Policy
By Melody Smith, Management Consultant, Expertise Limited
Unless you are Bermudian, or married to one, your employment in Bermuda is subject to immigration control. The process for gaining permission to work in Bermuda varies depending on what type of work you will be doing in Bermuda - and for what length of time.
The single best source of information on work permit policies is on the government website. Even though information may not regularly be updated, it really does detail virtually everything one needs to know about obtaining work permits in Bermuda. For those that are loathed to navigate their own way through the website, here are the basics.
- Employers apply for work permits on behalf of those they wish to hire. There is no process for non-Bermudians to apply themselves.
- Temporary Permits are issued for up to 3 months.
- Periodic Permits are issued to non-residents of Bermuda who travel to Bermuda periodically to conduct business
- Standard Permits are issued for periods of 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 years. For a standard permit to be issued, employers must demonstrate that they have conducted a search and that no suitably qualified Bermudians are available to fill the job.
- Work permit holders are entitled to work in Bermuda only in the specific role for which they are hired. All job changes, including promotions, transfers, and amendments to a job title, typically require a new application.
- Prior to the expiry of a work permit, employers may apply for a renewal.
- Work permit holders may be employed for a maximum of six years. Extensions and exemptions from the six year term limit are possible upon application by the employer.
- While there are exceptions, work permit holders are normally required to be employed for a minimum of two years with an employer before seeking alternative employment. Additionally, work permit holders are normally allowed only one employer change within any five year period.
- It is not possible to obtain a work permit for certain jobs and some job categories are restricted.
- Seeking employment whilst on vacation or visiting the island is prohibited.
- Periodic permits are issued for non-residents of Bermuda that visit Bermuda to conduct business activities although there are certain work activities which visitors may undertake which do not require any permit.
- A single parent with a dependant child or married parents with more than two dependant children will not be able to obtain a work permit without special permission granted by the Minister.
- Non-Bermudians are prohibited from being self employed.
- The terms of employment for Portuguese nationals recruited from a Portuguese territory are governed by the Portuguese Accord, a formal agreement between the Bermuda Government and the Government of Portugal.
- Prior to approving a work permit, the Department of Immigration often consults with relevant professional bodies and in some cases is required to do so by law.
Application processing times with the Department of Immigration vary significantly depending on the type of application. Standard work permits can take as little as one month to process but the norm is closer to three months. Temporary and periodic permits typically take between 10 days and one month to approve.
The Department of Immigration strictly enforces work permit policies so it is critically important that employers prepare work permit applications thoroughly and honestly. If you are in doubt, ask your employer. And if they don't know the answer, tell them to ask me!