Labour Commissioner testifies before Senate Hearings

By
Updated: October 18, 2017

Today, Labour Commissioner Ivan Williams appeared before the Special Senate Select Committee. The Committee’s interest in interviewing the labor commissioner was to learn whether or not the system in place at the Labour Department can be fraudulently used to obtain Belizean nationality.

Aldo Salazar, Chairman of Senate Hearings

“If you have a work permit then you are allowed to stay in the country legally and therefore you are accumulating the one year domicile and then that is now a stepping stone for permanent residency which is then a stepping stone for nationality so then the concern is then alright if this is a stepping stone then we need to be sure that this is secure so that because if there is abuse at that level then we are going to get people who are coming up through the system initially on abuse so that is really why there is concern but you are telling us that as far as you are concerned your system is secure in terms of a case by case basis you have your vouchers and that corresponds with letters and a list that goes to the department so that is really why I think Senator Smith speaks about that.”

Ivan Williams – Labour Commissioner

“I’m glad you raised it because I can say to this special hearing that I have had many discussions with many directors of immigration to say ‘look I wish the day would come when they would disconnect it’ in other words take out that work permit requirement in the permanent residency.”

Aldo Salazar, Chairman of Senate Hearings

“Or you could do like Cayman Islands.”

Ivan Williams – Labour Commissioner

“Yeah because I don’t want it to be used.”

Aldo Salazar, Chairman of Senate Hearings

“They give you a work permit which expires right before the date when you can become a resident or something like that.”

Ivan Williams – Labour Commissioner

“Now that is something now that I am looking at to see how we could stagger the approval process to reduce that one year requirement because as it stands now you can have a work permit for the entire year those are things that we need to look at.”

Aldo Salazar, Chairman of Senate Hearings

“The problem is that they don’t need people there we need people here.”

Ivan Williams – Labour Commissioner

“What I’m saying is that I take your point that it can be used from one to the other but at the end of the day those decisions are made elsewhere not within the department of labor.”

Williams was also questioned about the use of vouchers in the process, something that was implemented some seven year ago.

Senator, Dr. Carla Barnett

“Under the present policy and the application of the current law immigration ought not to and does not issue work permits at this time without your having.”

Ivan Williams – Labour Commissioner

“Issued the voucher.”

Senator, Dr. Carla Barnett

“So that is the state of affairs?”

Ivan Williams – Labour Commissioner

“That is the state of affairs as of right now.”

Senator, Dr. Carla Barnett

“I just wanted to be clear.”

Ivan Williams – Labour Commissioner

“Since 2010 and so it becomes part of your legal status so it’s put in your passport so if you are a visitor and then after a period of time you apply for a work permit either as self-employed or sponsored by an employer when that information goes over to immigration it is put in your passport and now your status becomes a work permit status and it usually ranges from anything from two weeks to a year. It is not issued, should not be issued for more than a year subject to renewal.”

Senator Elena Smith

“We’ve heard that there are persons who outside of the department who connect with or who work with persons within the department who sell these vouchers. Is that possible?”

Ivan Williams – Labour Commissioner

“I don’t think that is possible I keep the voucher in my office. Nobody can’t sell a voucher. Nobody can sell a voucher.”

Senator, Elena Smith: So those are kept-

Ivan Williams – Labour Commissioner

“Those are locked down by the finance officer when those books are done we have to go in and carry the old one and sign for new ones and so on. So you can’t sell a voucher. The voucher is merely a safety feature to ensure that nobody is duplicating or repeating the letters that we send over there because you know letters and signatures can be duplicated so we keep that voucher book as a control mechanism between the department and the director of immigration.”

Senator Elena Smith

“I’m just asking because as I said we’ve heard of that and instead of saying that it is occurring I am asking.”

Ivan Williams – Labour Commissioner

“I would be the first to investigate that. You can’t sell a voucher because the voucher alone won’t work. The voucher is only an added feature- there is a list that goes over to immigration on a weekly basis.”

Senator Elena Smith

“So it will play no role.”

Ivan Williams – Labour Commissioner

“And you mentioned earlier- I just want to be clear we treat the application for a work permit on a case by case basis and on the merit of it.”