GEORGETOWN, Guyana -- For those who had thought that any Guyanese citizen with an officially issued Caribbean Community (CARICOM) skills certificate can just roll into any CARICOM country and seek employment after showing the document to authorities will certainly have to think again.
This is because several CARICOM countries are technically refusing to honour the intent of the certificate by demanding that, notwithstanding the document, an application for a work permit must be made and the supporting qualifying evidence must be presented, regardless of the presumably verified particulars of a certificate holder’s credentials that are already established on that document.
According to immigration officials in a handful of CARICOM countries including Barbados, Grenada and The Bahamas among others, Guyanese nationals would not be able to take up employment in their respective territory unless they go through the already established work permit application process.
For them, possession of the CARICOM skills certificate will not make much of a difference for any skilled category of employment, except for some areas such as short term entertainment related jobs, brief journalism assignments, or short term cultural projects.
Attorneys-at-law or persons with other judicial expertise who are admitted to the respective country’s local bar, and medical professionals who are already licensed by the respective medical practitioners authority in the relevant CARICOM state are among the very few categories of professionals that are indirectly exempt from this rule.
Speaking to the Guyana Guardian in an effort to clarify the issue, an outgoing senior Barbadian immigration official (whose name was withheld by request) explained that it is the silent internal policy of Barbados not to extend predictable recognition to CARICOM skills certificates that are presented by Guyanese or most other CARICOM nationals whenever such documents are tendered by prospective migrant workers in Barbados.
While refusing to clearly divulge the reasons for this position, he agreed that Barbados has some concerns about the quality of the vetting process for the issuance of the skilled certificates in Guyana (and a few other territories), in addition to existing fears over black-market forgery.
According to the official, it is a general policy nonetheless for Guyanese and other CARICOM nationals to present a set of other credentials in order to substantiate the information that is on any CARICOM skills certificate that they may have presented in pursuit of employment in Barbados.
In addition to the skills certificate, they must present the original and copies of all academic qualifications and technical certifications (degrees, diplomas, etc) that had served as the primary piece of academic fact by which they were issued with the skills certificate in the first place.
He added that Barbados will not accept the particulars on the CARICOM skills certificate, unless the country’s immigration authorities and the associated certifying bodies can actually see the qualifications for themselves, and are able to determine their authenticity and local academic equivalency.
Further to that, the skills certificate holder must satisfy all of the other standard work permit requirements, including presenting a police character certificate, a verification letter from preferably a local accreditation body regarding the CARICOM skills certificate, a birth certificate, their passport, and a completed C-4 form to be attested to by a Barbadian JP or an attorney (notary public), along with a few other documented particulars, and the prescribed fees.
Nonetheless, approval of the work permit is not guaranteed, and the applicant must be mindful of this before making any attempts to take up employment in Barbados with a CARICOM skills certificate.
He advised that Guyanese and other CARICOM nationals who may be planning to come to Barbados to work under the umbrella of a CARICOM skills certificate should be cognizant of the fact that they must satisfy other immigration requirements for employment.
However, subsequent checks with other sources in Barbados by the Guyana Guardian has revealed that the requirements are exactly the same for a standard work permit; leading one Barbadian human rights attorney to concur that the CARICOM skills certificates that are issued to Guyanese back in Georgetown to seek jobs on the island are evidently useless.
Pressed with that statement and other supporting evidence, Barbadian immigration officials concur that the requirements are almost the same for all whether they have a CARICOM skills certificate or not.
They pointed out that Barbados is not the only CARICOM country that does not extend immediate recognition to skills certificates that are presented by Guyanese and other CARICOM nationals.
Subsequent checks by the Guyana Guardian have since found that other CARICOM states are indeed practicing the same policy.
As a matter of fact, The Bahamas, Grenada and Anguilla are among a handful of other CARICOM member states that have technically shunned outright recognition of the CARICOM skills certificate, even though it is represented as being recognized regionally by Guyanese officials.
Nonetheless, Guyanese are not the only grouping of CARICOM nationals whose CARICOM skill certificates are facing the challenge of regional acceptance.
Further investigations have revealed that Jamaicans and Vincentians are also affected by this plight (at different levels), which is said to be contrary to the spirit and letter of CARICOM treaties.
However, Jamaicans remain the highest group of work permit applicants with a CARICOM skills certificate that are often denied the right to work in Barbados, with Guyanese believed to rank at number two.
Republished with permission of the Guyana Guardian