FALKLAND ISLANDS GOVERNMENT
4 June 2021
ExCo agrees a revised visitor policy for the Falkland Islands
On Monday 31 May 2021, ExCo agreed to revise its policy in connection with the categories of visitors allowed entry into the Falkland Islands. This decision was taken as part of the government’s regular review of its ongoing pandemic management plans. The revised policy will continue to support a controlled approach to change, based on careful assessment of the risks, as well as the need to protect the Falkland Islands community and the operational capacity of the KEMH. The revised policy will also help inform ongoing work in the development of an Exit Roadmap that will seek to provide longer term guidance for the public in terms of a managed and phased staged step down of visitor and quarantine restrictions.
The revised policy now states that in addition to the existing visitor categories, friends of residents will be permitted to visit the Islands if sponsored by an Island resident who is present in the Falkland Islands. These visitors will still be subject to the same quarantine requirements that apply to all other visitors.
It also states that, from 1 October 2021, ‘clean’ expedition ships carrying fewer than 530 passengers will be permitted to visit the Falkland Islands in the austral summer season. However, there will be no change to the current quarantine exemptions for “clean vessels” and each ship must have been at sea for at least fourteen days before any passengers disembark in the Falkland Islands and have no symptomatic passengers or crew. Vessels will also need to agree to a set of rigorous public health conditions that will be closely monitored by the Strategic Pandemic Management Group. Larger cruise ships carrying more than 530 passengers will not be included on the approved visitor list.
Chair of the Legislative Assembly, MLA Mark Pollard, said: “The decision to make these two additions to the visitor policy were taken following a great deal of consideration. It was therefore agreed that with the extra layer of protection that comes from having the vast majority of our community fully vaccinated, it is time that we start to slowly loosen restrictions to visitors.
“Expedition ships will have to meet very strict rules before they are allowed to dock in the Islands, and passengers onboard these ships will be considered ‘clean’, having been at sea for at least fourteen days. This will mark the start of a very small tourist season which many operators here have missed, but I want to make it very clear to the public that the health and safety of our community remains at the forefront of our minds and should we again need to tighten our polices we can and will do so without hesitation.”
FALKLAND ISLANDS GOVERNMENT
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
18 May 2021
New immigration regime – public information sessions
Since 2013, work has been ongoing to improve the current Immigration Ordinance and Regulations, in order to introduce a more efficient and effective regime to protect local employment opportunities and respond to the development ambitions of the Islands.
As the changes are due to come into force between July and September this year, the Falkland Islands Government will hold a series of public information sessions, ahead of time, to explain how these will work in practice and offer people the opportunity to ask questions.
Present at each session will be MLA Mark Pollard, MLA Leona Roberts and Jim Horton, Programme Director for the Customs and Immigration Programme.
The times and dates are as follows:
- Stanley on Monday 24 May from 5pm to 6:30pm in the Chamber of Commerce
- Goose Green on Thursday 3 June from 5pm to 6:30pm in the Social Club
- Port Howard on Saturday 12 June from 12pm to 1:30pm in the Social Club
The new immigration proposals have arisen following extensive consultation and these public information sessions are designed to communicate these changes so that the community is fully informed of their impact to immigration processes in the Islands.
Permanent Residence Permit (PRP) Regulations 2021 03 May 2021
Regarding the rules governing permanent resident permits (PRP) -
Two key pledges outlined in The Islands Plan 2018-2022 refer to the desire to ‘encourage contractors and their families to make the Falkland Islands their home’, and also of ensuring ‘we train and retain existing workers, and attract new workers in areas of skills shortages’. Both are vital to ensure future economic growth and support a settled workforce.
The proposed changes to PRP are the product of policy development, over an extended period from 2014 through to 2020, which included public consultation on the points system. The current system places a high value on educational attainment and qualifications, high earnings, professional experience and assets. While these are valuable considerations, 91% of people who provided consultation feedback felt the points system should be revisited.
Their overriding concern was that the points system does not give enough weight to other qualities that we need in the longer-term. We want to be able to attract people who have a real commitment to making their life here and who provide valuable skills and fill important roles currently lacking in our workforce. The Immigration (PRP) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 will enable us to do this.
The essential criteria remain robust and have been strengthened in many areas, they include:
- residency in the Falkland Islands of a minimum of 3 years for the applicant and dependents
- criminal record checks for the previous 5 years to demonstrate good character
- sufficiently good command of the English language
- securing satisfactory accommodation
- health assessments for applicants and all dependents to ensure they are not likely to require the ongoing and significant support of public funds
- educational assessments for all applicants (or dependents) under 16 years to ensure they are not likely to require the ongoing and significant support of public funds
Points will also be awarded for Camp employment, and any roles, included in the Workforce Shortage List – so that individuals performing a wider range of functions that are important to our society will be given points for their efforts.
Applications from young families are encouraged by the introduction of a new points allocation for dependent partners who are under 45 and for dependent children who are ordinarily resident in the Falklands. More points are available for younger applicants than before, reflecting the importance of this demographic as an economic driver.
The new system also encourages individuals to apply for PRP as soon as they meet the minimum residency requirement – after 3 years – and recognises community engagement for the first time. Points will be allocated both to the principal applicant and to a dependent applicant for voluntary work if they can demonstrate a substantial, sustained contribution to society, showing how the Falkland Islands values community spirit and commitment. Points will still be awarded for those holding the South Atlantic Medal and their dependent partners, and also for those with close family permanently resident in the Falkland Islands.
Executive Council has already approved an annual increase in the PRP quota to 90 and applications will in the future be considered on a monthly basis, instead of quarterly. Collectively, these changes will enable more eligible individuals and families, who have been resident and working here for a number of years, to choose to make their future in the Falklands.
It is planned that these changes will be brought into effect within the next two months.
Refusal powers – Immigration Amendments 2021 26 April 2021
The power to refuse leave to either enter or remain in the Falkland Islands is conferred on the Principal Immigration Officer, and exercised by Customs & Immigration. Under the current Immigration Ordinance there are no general grounds to refuse entry to anyone seeking permission to enter the Falklands; instead the main mechanism for doing this is to classify an individual as a ‘prohibited person’. However, the new Immigration (Amendment) Bill 2021 provides a clear framework when deciding whether to refuse leave to enter or remain, providing stronger border controls and flexibility as needed.
A key part of the new framework is establishment of a Watch List of individuals whose presence in the Falklands is undesirable because of the way they have behaved. These individuals will not be allowed to enter the Falklands or, if they are here, will be liable for deportation. The Bill sets out clear criteria as to the circumstances in which a person can be included on the Watch List and accompanying guidance has been prepared to help ensure that decision-making is consistent. The Principal Immigration Officer must refuse leave to enter or remain to anyone who is included in the Watch list.
The following categories of people will be included on the Watch List:
- anyone subject to a deportation order
- anyone who has committed the most serious crimes such as genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity
- anyone who has committed a criminal offence that would be punishable by a sentence of imprisonment of four years or more
- those who are on the UK Sanctions List published by the UK Government
- those who have publicly expressed or endorsed an opinion or otherwise behaved in a manner that is likely to lead to a serious breach of public order.
Mandatory and Discretionary Refusals
The new powers are split into mandatory requirements – where permission to enter cannot be given – and discretionary powers. Under the mandatory requirements, the following categories of people will also be refused entry to the Falklands: anyone convicted of a criminal offence and having received a sentence of 4 years or more, or who has been convicted of a criminal offence that is not ‘spent’; anyone who fails to provide information or documents to C&I or who gives false or misleading information; and any person who needs a visa and doesn’t have one.
The Principal Immigration Officer also has the power to refuse entry to: anyone who cannot demonstrate that they have the means to support themselves; anyone who refuses to submit to a medical exam; a person suffering from a contagious or infectious disease (these powers are very relevant given the current pandemic); any person who is unlawfully present in the Falklands (this includes anyone in the Islands who does not have a valid permit or hold status); anyone reasonably suspected of committing a criminal offence which would, on conviction, lead to imprisonment; and anyone who owes a debt of £500 or more to the government under a court judgement. The Principal Immigration Officer will also have a discretion to refuse entry to anyone if they consider it would be against the public interest.
FALKLAND ISLANDS GOVERNMENT
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
21 April 2021
Further to the announcement made on 1 February, the Falkland Islands Government can confirm that commercial airlinks with both Chile and Brazil will remain suspended until 1 October 2021. This follows a robust review of the current complexities surrounding the worldwide pandemic, in particular travel restrictions, global border controls and the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus.
Director of Development and Commercial Services, Catherine Silva Donayre, said: “Across the world, the pandemic continues to impact significantly on all aspects of international travel and our priority remains people’s safety. We continue to support local businesses who have been impacted by the suspension of the flights so that once the flights resume, they will be in a good position to return to their activities. FIG and LATAM remain equally committed to the reinstatement of these routes at the right time.”
Registered Employers Scheme – a system that works for the Islands 19 April 2021
The new Immigration (Amendment) Bill and Regulations 2021 will establish a Registered Employers Scheme (RES) to enable employers and Customs & Immigration (C&I) to work together to manage the migrant working population of the Islands.
All employers who wish to employ migrant workers must be registered on the RES, whether they are a sponsor bringing new workers from overseas, or employing migrant permit holders already in the Islands. No employer will be able to employ migrant workers (either paid or as volunteers) unless they participate in the RES, which is the key enabler behind the “one person – one permit” system.
Employer duties are detailed in the Regulations and feature a range of reporting and other administrative requirements. These include the need to notify C&I when employing a temporary worker, when the worker leaves their employment, and any changes to the worker’s job details or their personal circumstances. Employers taking on migrant workers who are already in the Falklands must satisfy themselves that their new employee has an existing valid permit which allows them to do the work they are employed to do.
All registered employers will be expected to keep up-to-date information on all of their migrant workers, whether they are the sponsor or a secondary employer. Employers will also have to keep records to show that roles have been advertised in accordance with the published policy, to ensure that protection for the local employment market is maintained. These requirements are not entirely new and could be considered a core part of efficient business administration; the only difference is that the new duties will be a legal obligation.
Registration will be simple and straightforward, there is a short form to complete and employers will not be charged for registration. FIG will provide detailed guidance on the new requirements and will work with employers to ensure these are clearly understood.
Employers who persistently breach the Regulations should expect FIG to take enforcement action, which could include prosecution, and may result in an employer being removed from the Register, meaning that they can no longer employ temporary permit workers.
The part of the Regulations pertaining to the RES will be brought into force before the enforcement provisions, to give employers time to register and become familiar with the scheme. FIG will work with the Falkland Islands Development Corporation (FIDC) to ensure the potential impact of the changes, particularly on smaller employers, is appreciated. FIDC can also offer independent help and advice on registration. Ahead of the launch, details of the scheme, guidance and forms will be available via the C&I section of the FIG website and the FIDC website. These can be found by visiting www.fig.gov.fk/customs/ and www.fidc.co.fk Launch date is to be confirmed.
New immigration permit regime – a system that works for the Islands 12 April 2021
Currently, anyone who is not a permanent resident of the Falkland Islands, requires a visitor, work or residence permit to visit, work or live here. Under the new immigration regime, the main permit categories will now be: visitor permit, work permit, accompanying dependant permit, dependant permit, volunteer permit. These changes will provide more flexibility for people arriving in the Islands and each person will only be able to hold one permit at a time.
Visitor permit: Family visitors will still be allowed to stay up 12 months in a two-year period and non-family visitors can stay a maximum of nine months in a 12-month period. NOTE: In the first instance work permits must be applied for from outside of the Falklands. Visitors cannot apply for work permits from within the Falklands.
Work permit: This is ordinarily valid for the length of an individual’s contract and is specific to their job and employer; the maximum term for a work permit will remain at four years.
Accompanying dependant permit: Everyone accompanying a work permit holder will need this permit and will be able to do work included on the Workforce Shortage List (WSL) without the need for a separate permit.
Dependant permit: Dependants of people with a Permanent Residence Permit or Falkland Islands Status will require a dependant permit and will be able to undertake employment, in any role, without the need for a separate work permit.
Volunteer permit: Applicants must be sponsored, their sponsor must participate in the Registered Employers Scheme and vacancies must be advertised. Visitors will still be able to do voluntary work for charities, but it must not be the primary reason for their visit.
Under the new system there will no longer be a residence permit. People who currently hold residence permits will be moved across to whichever new permit type is most appropriate for their situation. Provisions will be in place to ensure a smooth changeover.
The main changes under the new immigration permit regime relate to employment within the Falkland Islands. Each applicant for a work permit must continue to meet the following criteria: satisfactory completion of the application form, proof of suitable accommodation arrangements, satisfactory criminal records checks and medical clearance.
Employers will also continue to be required to meet specific conditions: ensure vacancies are advertised locally, satisfy Customs & Immigration (C&I) that there are no permanent residents who meet the essential criteria and are available to work, and agree to meet the full repatriation costs of applicant and their dependants.
Currently, work permit holders (who make up approximately 30% of the population) who would like to take a second or third job, must obtain a separate work permit for each job.
These are jobs which cannot be filled by permanent residents, but the administrative and bureaucratic steps for the employee, the employer and C&I, mean these positions are not filled as efficiently as they could be – the Immigration (Amendment) Bill will address this.
The Bill proposes the establishment of a new Registered Employers Scheme (RES) to enable employers and C&I to work together, in order to manage and monitor the temporary working population of the Islands. Employers will be required to notify C&I when employing a migrant worker and maintain records of everyone they employ, they will also have an obligation to inform C&I of any changes involving migrant employees. When employing a permit holder already present in the Islands, it will be the duty of the employer to ensure that the worker has a valid permit.
Under the new immigration system, permit holders can have more than one job, but will only require one permit. The compulsory advertising of roles and the need for employers to satisfy C&I that it is necessary to employ a migrant, will ensure that protections for locally qualified people will remain in place.
Finally, the Workforce Shortage List will play a significant part in the new system. It is a record of job roles where a labour shortage has been identified and is compiled biannually by the Skills Assessment Council (SAC), before being approved by Executive Council. The SAC was created in 2014 to identify the areas of significant and consistent labour shortages which could lead, if not addressed, to negative impacts on the economic growth of the Islands. It is chaired by the Director of Policy and Economic Development, and has a wide membership including government, private sector, and community representatives.
These changes will ensure that the Falkland Islands’ immigration system is fit-for-purpose and will be able to meet the current and future needs of the Islands, while safeguarding the employment opportunities for the permanent population, they will be brought into effect by the end of 2021.
Immigration Ordinance Amendments 2021 – a system that works for the Falkland Islands 05 April 2021
In August 2013, the Falkland Islands Government (FIG) published the consultation document “Immigration Reform: An Immigration System Fit for the Future of the Falkland Islands”. The document contained proposals regarding possible changes to the immigration system to ensure that it is fit-for-purpose to meet the future needs of the Islands – including the need to address constraints on the labour market and other barriers to more permanent settlement in the Islands. The overall aim of the proposals was to ensure that the Falkland Islands has an immigration system that is efficient and effective to respond to economic development ambitions, robust in protecting the employment opportunities for those living permanently here and able to flex as the labour market requires it.
The consultation that followed sought to gather views on possible changes to the immigration system and gauge public opinion. It was carried out over two months and included a questionnaire, public meetings on East and West Falklands, meetings with the Chamber of Commerce, a live phone-in debate on Falklands Radio, and explanatory articles in the local newspaper. Participation and feedback was good with views given on areas such as visitors to the Islands, work permits, Permanent Residence Permits, and how the migrant population should be managed.
The Falkland Islands has a near zero unemployment rate and one in five people have more than one or multiple jobs. While this demonstrates the commendable work ethic of permanent residents and those choosing to make these Islands their home, it results in less capacity in the labour market to support not only current needs but also emerging opportunities. Additionally, permit holders currently require a separate work permit for every job they have – this leads to a heavy administrative and bureaucratic burden for the individual permit holder who has to make multiple applications, the employer, and the Customs & Immigration Service who have to process these applications. Ultimately, the current system is not as efficient as it could be in helping to build a sustainable future for the Falkland Islands. Also it does little to encourage and promote retention of skilled and educated workers, however wider policy work in the area of labour force development is underway and will complement the changes to the immigration ordinance.
Since 2013, work has been ongoing to improve the current Immigration Ordinance (1999), resulting in the Immigration (Amendment) Ordinance 2017 which was enacted but not brought into force. The 2017 Ordinance is now to be repealed, following further work to include new Immigration Regulations, developed to work alongside the Ordinance and to allow added flexibility when required. What is absolutely paramount is the needs of the Islands and Islanders. The proposed amendments will offer continued protection to the Islands’ permanent population - with compulsory advertising of roles and resident labour market tests maintained.
The Permanent Residence Permit (PRP) Regulations will be amended to include a revised points system and updated essential criteria and assessment. This follows feedback that those who make a substantial contribution to the community should be able to apply for PRP as they are more invested in Islands life. With this principle in mind, further PRP points will now be available for community engagement where a “substantial and sustained contribution” is identified. Feeding into this for the first time as a statutory element will be the use of the Workforce Shortage List (WSL) compiled annually by the Skills Assessment Council (SAC) and approved by Executive Council. PRP points will be available for roles included on the WSL.
These changes will support an immigration system that works for the Islands allowing employment vacancies to be filled and the local workforce to be protected.
FALKLAND ISLANDS GOVERNMENT PRESS STATEMENT
18 February 2021
New Covid-19 testing requirements on travelling south to the Falkland Islands
From 1 March 2021, passengers travelling south from the UK to the Falkland Islands on the South Atlantic Airbridge, will be required to provide evidence of a negative PCR Covid-19 test, that is dated no more than five days prior to travel.
This is a UK Strategic Command requirement, in order to be able to use Dakar as a weather or technical diversion, as the Republic of Senegal requires that everyone travelling into the country over two years of age, must now have evidence of a negative PCR Covid-19 test.
This means that travellers on the inbound airbridge currently scheduled to depart the UK on 28 February 2021 will require evidence of a negative PCR Covid-19 test in order to board the flight. Passengers should provide their test result to check-in staff on arrival at Brize Norton.
Passengers who test positive or receive an inclusive test result for Covid-19 will not be authorised to travel and for this reason it is advised that they do not relinquish their UK accommodation until they have evidence of a negative test result. In this event, a full refund will be issued and passengers will be rebooked on to an alternative, available civilian flight.
The Falkland Islands Government has put together a series of ‘questions and answers’ which explain the new requirement and provides information on UK options for booking tests, as well as additional guidance on how the new requirement. You can find these questions and answers by visiting https://www.fig.gov.fk/covid-19/travel/southbound
Passengers travelling southbound will still be required to undertake 14 days of quarantine in suitable accommodation on arrival, as this is still a legal requirement in the Falkland Islands.
Passengers travelling northbound will still be required to follow the UK government testing requirements for entering England, which include a 10-day quarantine period and the need to book and pay for a ‘travel and test’ package in order to undertake two Covid-19 tests during that quarantine period. Further information is available from the UK government’s website: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/how-to-quarantine-when-you-arrive-in-england
Visitor Permits Falkland Islands 28 March 2021
There is a restriction currently in place for visitors to the Falkland Islands and visitor permits will only be issued to essential visitors approved by the Falkland Islands Government Principal Immigration Officer. All persons arriving in the Falkland Islands will be required to quarantine for 14 days unless they have remained at sea for at least this period of time, have no signs of ill-health and the vessel they arrive on has completed the required Maritime Health Declaration prior to arrival.
Restrictions on the issuing of visitor permits will remain in place until 31 May 2021 when they will be reviewed. The current requirement to quarantine will remain in force during this time, however this will continue to be reviewed every 42 days in line with the requirements of the Infectious Diseases Control (Coronavirus, Quarantine) Regulations 2020.
Essential Visitors: The below categories of visitors can be considered essential in nature, an application to the Principal Immigration Officer will be required.
Permission from the Principal Immigration Officer is required.
Business Visitors required for essential maintenance on equipment which cannot continue to be operated without maintenance e.g. engineers visiting KEMH.
Crew from vessel associated with the Falkland Islands and the Government of South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands for the purpose of exchange and/or repatriation.
Scientific and other maritime observers associated with the Falkland Islands and SGSSI for exchange and/or repatriation purposes.
Individuals already present in the Falklands Islands when LATAM flights were suspended.
Members of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and associated organisations.
Business visitors for the purpose of delivering projects within the Islands Plan.
Other business visitors.
Crew from vessels with no connection to the Falkland Islands for the purpose of exchange and/or repatriation where onward travel arrangements are confirmed and in place.