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The Draft Immigration Policy and Alien Land Holders

Over the past few weeks Government has been circulating it's Draft Immigration Policy 2001 for public review and comment-a very laudable move as you never know where a sound suggestion might come from (perhaps even from an article of mine!). Interestingly enough, however, I first touched on this subject in an Anguilla Life article in 1998 when I wrote: "I would propose that Alien Land Holding Licenses should… provide Permits of Permanent Residence for all foreigners approved to own land." In truth, the idea wasn't popular then and isn't popular now-but even if the concept must be modified to be accepted, I truly believe all aliens licensed to own property on Anguilla should be shown some special consideration with regard to residence.

While the Draft Immigration Policy 2001 touches on numerous issues that are important to foreign landowners, I shall direct my comments herein to those areas of specific concern to aliens licensed to own land-i.e. to the clause that deals with permits of Permits of Permanent Residence (as defined by Government) and to a proposed Provisional Residence Permit (as defined by me).

Permits of Permanent Residence essentially allow non-belongers to reside in Anguilla without the necessity of getting their passport periodically updated with permission to remain on Island-these permits do not allow for permit holders to work (unless they have a separate and distinct work permit), do not allow permit holders to own land (unless they have a separate and distinct alien land holding license) and do not allow permit holders to vote (unless they become belongers at a later date). Personally, I believe such restrictions are absolutely appropriate and should be maintained-but I also believe that because of the nature of those restrictions the permit can (and should) be evaluated differently.

With regard to real estate, the two key provisions of Clause #3 of the Draft Immigration Policy 2001 (which is the clause that deals with the Permits of Permanent Residence) states that a PPR will be "favorably considered" if the applicant has invested "at least US$2,500,000 in a business in Anguilla" (Clause 3c) and if the applicant is a "Retired person who owns property in Anguilla" (Clause 3e). Neither category has merit-the first condition is erroneous in that wealth is not a determinant of an individual's character and the second condition is erroneous in that economic activity off island has no bearing on an individual's character on island (and one assumes Anguilla only wants people of character to hold PPRs).

In addition, complications arise with such conditions: Does only the principal investing the money receive the PPR--or does his entire family receive one? Similarly, what about the shareholders and / or the directors of the investment company-what happens when the shares are sold or directors changed? Correspondingly, what happens if a husband and wife jointly own property, but only one is retired-does the working spouse still need to stand in line for an extension of their stay? What happens if a retired landowner re-enters the work off island force-does he have to surrender his PPR and get back in the Immigration line for extensions after he returns?

Neither wealth nor retirement are valid considerations when analyzing requests for a PPR and neither should be considered, however there are valid characteristics that should be taken into account--the type of characteristics that are reviewed with every Alien Land Holding License Application. Insofar as every successful Alien Land Holding License applicant has to submit letters of reference, bank statements and police reports, and insofar as every applicant has to be personally interviewed by the Minister of Lands, passing such review should in and of itself be sufficient to offer the successful applicant some special residency considerations--every alien licensed to own property on island should be eligible for some sort of residency protection.

However, if a scenario of linking Permits of Permanent Residence to successful Land License Applicants is not currently politically acceptable, approval of an Alien Land Holding License should at least a be sufficient for Government to issue a Provisional Residence Permit (PRP)-- provisional based on the fact that the residence rights would be relinquished if and when the property was sold, but otherwise a provisional permit would bestow the same rights on the holder as a permanent permit. Furthermore, as a transitional category, conditions could be established whereby Provisional Residence Permits could be converted into Permits of Permanent Residence after a given number of years.

Anguilla has always (quite correctly) viewed its finite land as a very valuable asset and the Government's approval of an applicant to allow the purchase of real estate on island means that the Government thinks the purchaser is of good character-character sufficient to allow their name to be registered as a legal proprietor of a piece of Anguilla itself. It is such considerations of character (along with the commitment of purchasing property on Island) that should determine the granting of residence permits-permanent, provisional or otherwise.

While I'm aware of the fact that there may be (or may have been) times when economic conditions have helped one Land License Applicant or another gain approval at a time when the island's economy was slow, such contingencies have never been established as principals (nor should they)-while reality may dictate special considerations be applied to any given Alien Land Holding License application, those special considerations should not become established rules. As such, any Land License Applicant who is approved to own land should be allowed to use that land in accord with the terms of his Land Holding License, without the necessity of periodic stay extensions-the right to own the land should bestow the right to reside on the land. Of course, if a landowner who is a holder of a Provisional Residency Permit (or PPR) breaks the law, to the courts with them-but assuming they don't break any laws, they shouldn't have to present themselves to Immigration authorities on a regular basis if they own property. In fact, if one were to argue that linking Permanent or Provisional Permits of Residence to Alien Land Holding Licenses means that the Land License requirements themselves should be toughened-so be it.

Interestingly enough, given a scenario of offering Provisional Residence Permits with Land Holding License approval, the Provisional Residence Permit could become a revenue producing entity during the time prior to its conversion into a permanent permit-making the approval of a Provisional Residence Permit automatic upon approval of an Alien Land Holding License does not mean that the Provisional Permit has to be "free", just "pre-approved" (like many home loans in the States). As such, an annual fee could be charged for the Provisional Permit-then those who wanted to execute the option could do so while those who were happy to stand in line can continue. Such a program could be established for existing as well as new land owners with very little difficulty-and it should be pursued.

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