With the continued uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country’s closet neighbor to the north, Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Elsworth Johnson said there is growing interest in the government’s extended stay visa program. The Bahamas Extended Access Travel Stay (BEATS) initiative was one of the recommendations made by the Economic Recovery Committee (ERC) and recently approved by the Cabinet to take advantage of remote working protocols caused by COVID-19. Asked how he would describe the level of interest in the program, Johnson said it is “very high” but did not provide any figures as to how many persons have actually applied. “There has been interest. Some persons are just opting for the permit to reside for one year. It’s almost the same, you come in, you’re not a burden on the public purse, you rent, some persons purchase cars depending on where they’re living, they may want to live in Albany, so they are taking advantage of that,” he told Guardian Business. “A lot of persons are coming. When you look and see what’s happening in California, the United Kingdom and other countries, obviously we have to be very selective and we have to protect the health of the country from the persons we allow in, but that’s going very well.” The ERC has projected the program would inject up to $30 million into the economy if at least 1,000 people apply for the visa, which costs roughly $1,000. Johnson said the ministry is regularly fielding requests for more information from interested applicants. “In the UK, they’re locking down. They want to know that they would be accepted in The Bahamas if they come. We’re having persons now reaching out, asking if they meet all of the requirements can they come in.” In addition to the BEATS initiative, Johnson said his ministry is laser-focused this year on facilitating as many economic permanent residency applications attached to ongoing luxury developments as possible. “Well the focus is retrenching after the experience of COVID-19, forcefully pushing the digitization program, getting our technical officers out there to interact with our stakeholders,” he said. “For instance, Sir Franklyn Wilson has a very nice development in Eleuthera, so how do we get with our industry partners to help facilitate their projects? So they now have high-scale properties that they want to sell, how do we get with them to facilitate economic permanent residency for those persons who want to live and work in The Bahamas?” On the trade side, Johnson said the ministry is also focused on finalizing legislation to bolster international partnership agreements.


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