A special unit has been established in the Department of Immigration to accommodate requests for work permits and renewal applications, Minister of State for Immigration the Hon Branville McCartney announced.

The Minister was addressing the recent closing luncheon of the Bahamas Financial Services Board Bahamas Briefing. The annual briefing is held by the BFSB to update personnel in the local and international financial services sector on the opportunities available in The Bahamas.

“This Government recognises that the financial services sector provides The Bahamas with important exposure; increasing the profile of The Bahamas internationally resulting in future expansion in the sector, but also increasing new opportunities for increased upscale tourism,” Mr McCartney said.

The financial services sector, the second pillar of the Bahamian economy, contributes between 15 to 20 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Tourism is the main industry.

“Apart from the revenue flowing from licences and permits required by the sector, financial services business have been important in the expansion of the construction industry; commercial and residential,” Mr McCartney said. “Very importantly, the sector presents highly lucrative avenues for high value, quality jobs for professionally trained Bahamian nationals.”

He said the Government is fully aware that for the sector to grow, there must be continuous dialogue between government and the private sector, which is “critical” to the success of the industry.

“From the Government’s perspective and in particular from the immigration standpoint, we are committed to providing the necessary service to be as accommodating within the pillars of the law as possible,” Mr. McCartney said. “It is our desire to rid ourselves of the bureaucracy and be more effective in our process.”

In this vein, he said a special unit has been established to accommodate the amount of applications and renewal for work permits before the department.

“The significance of permanent resident applications is recognised and acknowledged by the Government as a tool of economic development,” Mr. McCartney said.

He explained that the Government is also aware of the BFSB’s concern for a more “efficient policy and process” that can be communicated to potential clients about the business and financial opportunities in the country.

“But while appreciating that by its nature the international financial services sector will always require the presence of a number of international executives in its operations in The Bahamas, the Government is committed to ensuring expanded opportunities for greater exposure and advancement for suitable qualified, trained and competent Bahamians,” Mr. McCartney said.

He commended the BFSB for achieving its mandate of “developing the financial services industry in The Bahamas by consistently putting forward constructive proposals for policies, regulatory framework and administrative functions relating to the financial services sector.”