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Article 51 – Obtaining Permanent Resident Status in Trinidad and Tobago – The Five-Year Continuous Residence Route

Martin George & Company > DAILY LEGAL LESSONS  > Article 51 – Obtaining Permanent Resident Status in Trinidad and Tobago – The Five-Year Continuous Residence Route

Article 51 – Obtaining Permanent Resident Status in Trinidad and Tobago – The Five-Year Continuous Residence Route

Obtaining Permanent Resident Status in Trinidad and Tobago – The Five-Year Continuous Residence Route

Martin George Attorney at Law Trinidad and Tobago

By: Mr. Martin George
Attorney-at-law
Martin Anthony George & Co.
Attorneys-at-law

(Research Assistance provided by
Darrell Bartholomew, Attorney at Law)

MAGCO DAILY LEGAL LESSONS

DISCLAIMER: Please note this does NOT constitute LEGAL ADVICE or LEGAL CONSULTATION, which you should get from your own Attorneys and this is being shared with the general public for the purposes of information and discussion ONLY.

INTRODUCTION

Generally speaking, an individual who is not a citizen of a particular country who has been given the legal right to live in that country, normally after complying with that country’s laws and regulations on immigration, is referred to as a ‘permanent resident’. This is in contrast to a citizen, who may be thought of as a person who obtains certain rights in relation to a particular country, due to being born there, deriving citizenship from one or both parents, or becoming naturalised (the process of a foreigner acquiring citizenship in a country).

When one hears the term ‘permanent resident’, almost immediately, one thinks about the famous ‘green card’ which is bestowed upon successful applicants for permanent resident status in the USA, or Canada’s ‘Immigrate to Canada’ program, which has a reputation for seeking out skilled workers from overseas to augment Canada’s labour capacity in specialized fields, and unskilled labour to participate in seasonal labour intensive activities such as the harvesting of crops and other agricultural related activities in Canada’.

Countries normally have an established set of laws and procedures whereby a person may become a permanent resident of a country. For example, most countries allow the spouses of citizens to become permanent residents, and some countries, such as the USA, invite and encourage family members to ‘sponsor’ their close family members to become permanent residents of the USA once certain requirements are met. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, have robust immigration policies in place, where persons from other countries are invited to work, study and live in the UK, with the highest preference given to skilled workers and students pursuing tertiary education in certain fields of endeavour which are in demand in the UK.

Here in Trinidad and Tobago there are also a variety of ways in which a person from another country is able to become a permanent resident, such as being the spouse of a Trinidad and Tobago citizen or national, or being the parent or grandparent of a Trinidad and Tobago citizen or national, and this article focuses on the route to obtain resident status in Trinidad and Tobago by being continuously resident here for five (5) years.

LAW

The Immigration Act Chapter 18:01 sets out who may be permitted to become residents of Trinidad and Tobago and Section 6 of the Act provides as follows:

6. (1) Subject to this Act and the Regulations, persons who come within the following classes may on application in the prescribed form, be granted permission by the Minister if he thinks fit, to become residents, that is to say:
  • a permitted entrant who –
  • by reason of his education, occupational qualifications, personal history, employment record, training, skills or other special qualifications has established or is likely to be able to establish himself successfully in Trinidad and Tobago in a profession, trade, self-operating business or agricultural enterprise and who has sufficient means of support to maintain himself and his immediate family in Trinidad and Tobago; and
  • has been continuously resident in Trinidad and Tobago for five years or such shorter period (not being less than twelve months) as the Minister may in the special circumstances of any particular case accept;
  • a person who is the parent or grandparent of either a citizen or resident of Trinidad and Tobago, residing in Trinidad and Tobago, if such citizen or resident is willing and able to provide care and maintenance for that person.
  • the spouse of a citizen or resident of Trinidad and Tobago; and
  • a person who has ceased to be a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago by reason of his voluntary acquisition of citizenship in another country. 

(2) In determining the suitability of an applicant for the grant of resident status under this section, the Minister shall be satisfied, inter alia, that the applicant –

  • had entered the country legally;
  • is not in a prohibited class; and
  • is of good character as evidenced by a police certificate of good character.

Subsection (1)(a) of the above provision of the Act means that a person, by virtue of their educational background, skills, experience and qualifications, who is established in Trinidad and Tobago or able to demonstrate an ability to become established here, possessing adequate financial resources to maintain themselves and their family members, and who has lived here for five (5) years, may be granted resident status in Trinidad and Tobago upon completing the application process. Of course, such an individual must be a permitted entrant by the meaning provided in Section 9 of the Act, and permitted entrants include classes of persons such as tourists, visitors, diplomats, consular officers, students and others. In terms of the continuous residence requirement, this does not mean that a prospective applicant must have entered Trinidad and Tobago and remained here for five (5) years (or less as the case may be), it simply means that the individual must have maintained a permanent dwelling place in Trinidad and Tobago throughout the period of time relied on. Continuous residence also does not mean that a person cannot leave Trinidad and Tobago for five (5) years. The provision provides that a lesser period of time may be relied upon at the discretion of the Minister, and whether it be five (5) years or less, an individual is allowed to legally travel in and out of the country during this period. The important part here is that you must maintain a permanent dwelling place in Trinidad and Tobago for the entire period of time being relied upon as part of an application for resident status. It appears that the Act does not explicitly state the period of time where someone who is trying to accumulate five (5) years of continuous residence may spend outside of the country at one time, but Section 7 (1) (a) of the Act which speaks to the time after which resident status is lost after voluntary residence outside of Trinidad and Tobago, stipulates that such status is lost after a period of one (1) year unless an exemption from the Minister is obtained.

Subsection (2) above sets out the factors that the Minister of National Security must consider in determining whether to grant or reject an application for permanent resident status. An applicant must have entered the borders of Trinidad and Tobago legally, whether by air or by sea, and must not be a member of one of the prohibited classes of persons defined in Section 8 of the Act as:

8. (1) (a) persons who are idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded persons, persons suffering from dementia and insane persons, and who are likely to be a charge on public funds;

(b) persons afflicted with any infectious or dangerous infectious disease;

(c) persons who are dumb, blind or otherwise physically defective, or physically handicapped, which might endager their ability to earn a livelihood, or render them likely to become charges on public funds;

(d) persons who have been convicted of or admit having committed any crime, which if committed in Trinidad and Tobago would be punishable with imprisonment for one or more years;

(e) prostitutes, homosexuals or persons living on the earnings of prostitutes or homosexuals, or persons reasonably suspected as coming to Trinidad and Tobago for these or other immoral purposes;

(f) persons who are reasonably suspected of attempting to bring into Trinidad and Tobago or of procuring prostitutes or other persons for the purpose of prostitution or homosexual or other immoral purposes;

(g) habitual beggars or vagrants;

(h) persons who are likely to become charges on public funds;

(i) persons who are chronic alcoholics;

(j) persons who are addicted to the use of any drug;

(k) persons who are engaged or at any time have been engaged or are suspected on reasonable grounds of being likely to engage in any unlawful giving, using, inducing other persons to use, distributing, selling, offering or exposing for sale, buying, trading or trafficking in any drug;

(l) persons who are or have been at any time before or after the commencement of this Act advocates of the overthrow by force or violence of the established Government of Trinidad and Tobago or any other country, or of all forms of law, or who advocate the abolition of organised Government, or who advocate the assassination of public officials or who advocate or teach the unlawful destruction of property or who are or have been members of or affiliated to any organisation which entertains and preaches any of the doctrines and practices specified in this paragraph;

(m) person concerning whom there are reasonable grounds for believing they are likely to engage in espionage, sabotage or any other subversive activity of any kind directed against Trinidad and Tobago or detrimental to the security of Trinidad and Tobago;

(n) persons, not included in any other prohibited class, who are certified by a medical officer as being mentally or physically abnormal to such a degree as to impair seriously their ability to earn a living;

(o) persons who have been reasonably suspected of engaging in treasonable activities against Trinidad and Tobago or of assisting enemies in time of war;

(p) persons who cannot or do not fulfil or comply with any of the conditions or requirements of this Act or the Regulations or any orders lawfully made or given under this Act or the Regulations;

(q) any person who from information or advice which in the opinion of the Minister is reliable information or advice is likely to be an undesirable inhabitant of, or visitor to Trinidad and Tobago.

 Additionally, an applicant must include as part of their application a police certificate of good  character.

REQUIREMENTS FOR AN APPLICATION FOR RESIDENT STATUS BASED ON RESIDENCE IN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO FOR FIVE (5) YEARS
  1. One (1) Form No. P & 1-6 available at the Ministry of National Security at 52-60 Abercromby Street, Port of Spain, Trinidad, and the Immigration Office at Wilson Road, Scarborough, Tobago.
  2. Birth Certificate of Applicant and Children under eighteen (18) years with supporting affidavit where necessary (original and a copy are required).
  3. Marriage Certificate/Divorce Decree Absolute/Death Certificate (original and a copy are required).
  4. A typed letter addressed to the Honourable Minister of National Security applying for permanent residence.
  5. Passport (old and new) – photocopy of bio-data page and any other pages that have been stamped by the Immigration Division (the applicant must be legal in the country as evidenced by the relevant stamp endorsed on the passport).
  6. Police Certificate of Character from Trinidad and Tobago, country of birth, and any other country where the applicant has resided for a period of three (3) months or more. Citizens from the USA should get a Federal Certificate of Character and not a State or Provincial one (original and a copy are required).
  7. Job letter – If the applicant is self-employed, registration of company/business and a statutory declaration indicating nature of employment and income (original and a copy are required).
  8. Financial/bank statements.
  9. Four (4) identical passport-sized photographs of the applicant (matte finish with white background).
  10. Tax Clearance Certificate ‘C’
  11. Three (3) 9 x 4 window envelopes with $1.00 stamps on each.
  12. Naturalisation/Citizenship/Restoration Certificates of other countries (where applicable).  
As part of the process of applying for permanent resident status, an applicant is normally interviewed by officials of the Immigration Division, and if necessary, the applicant would be informed by those officials if there are any additional requirements which the applicant must comply with and if the application requires additional documents for consideration. Once the process is completed, the applicant is informed of the decision to approve or reject the application. Should the application be approved, the applicant becomes a permanent resident of Trinidad and Tobago, able to lawfully reside here indefinitely and to enjoy all the rights which other permanent residents enjoy.

CITIZENSHIP BY INVESTMENT – AN ALTERNATIVE PATH

Citizenship by investment refers to the process of acquiring citizenship of a country by investing in its economy.

Currently, Trinidad and Tobago does not have such a program, and it appears that the closest that our Immigrations laws and policies come to doing so is the ability for an individual to become a resident using the procedure outlined above. No significant investment is required, and an applicant must be able to demonstrate that they have already established themselves or are likely to establish themselves here in the meaning of Section 6 (a) of the Act. Significantly, residency as opposed to citizenship is conferred upon the successful applicant.

In contrast to Trinidad and Tobago, several other Caribbean countries have Citizenship by Investment programs. Dominica’s Citizenship by Investment program, allows individuals the opportunity to acquire Dominican citizenship by investing a minimum of One Hundred Thousand United States Dollars ($100,000.00 USD) into the Dominican economy, and boasts that applicants do not need to physically come to Dominica, with the entire process taking approximately four (4) to six (6) months, at the end of which, the applicant becomes a legal citizen of Dominica and entitled to hold a Dominican passport. Grenada’s Citizenship by Investment program gives Applicants the freedom to choose between making a contribution to Grenada’s National Transformation Fund or to an approved real estate project in Grenada. The minimum contribution required for Grenada’s Citizenship by Investment program is One Hundred and Fifty Thousand United States Dollars ($150,000.00 USD), and processing time is around three (3) to four (4) months. Antigua and Barbuda also has a similar Citizenship by Investment program, gives Applicants the option to contribute to Antigua and Barbuda’s National Development Fund, or alternatively to fund a real estate project, a business project, or to make a financial contribution to the University of the West Indies (UWI). The minimum capital investment that an applicant is required to provide as part of their application is One Hundred Thousand United States Dollars (100,000.00 USD), with some investment options as high as Five Million Unites States Dollars ($5,000,000.00 USD). Generally speaking, Citizenship by Investment programs market some of the benefits to the potential applicant as being the possibility of new business opportunities, financial protection, and tax shelter benefits. With there being the increased movement of persons between countries and jurisdictions, there are likely to be more and more Applications from persons seeking to be Permanent Residents of other countries, once they are happy to settle and reside there and provided they can meet the criteria and requirements of the host country.

MAGCO DAILY LEGAL LESSONS

Article 51 – Obtaining Permanent Resident Status in Trinidad and Tobago – The Five-Year Continuous Residence Route

© 2023 MARTIN ANTHONY GEORGE & CO

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