While regional aspirations of a renewed West Indies Federation, a single currency or even ease of inter-regional travel might remain utopian and lofty at best, all is not lost! For nationals of CARICOM member countries, who qualify under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), you can work and enjoy la dolce vita in any of the member countries that have implemented this arrangement, which provides for the free movement of CARICOM persons who are desirous of working or engaging in gainful employment in any of the participating CSME Member States that he or she wishes- minus the hassle of having to apply and be approved for a work permit.
Additionally, if you are enterprise-minded or already own a business, the regional sky is your limit! Now, you can establish and operate a business in any participating CARICOM Member State, which includes Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago; and I believe most recently, Haiti.
However, before you get too excited, be forewarned that there is still a bit of bureaucracy involved. In other words, you simply can't hop on a plane and jet away carte blanche, because CSME privilege does not equate with permanent residency or citizenship. Furthermore, human trafficking remains an active criminal challenge in a world occupied by many less-than-noble persons. So, what to do?
Step One: it is highly recommended that you conduct prior in-depth research well in advance of your intended sojourn. Verify the immigration requirements, as well as whether your particular skills set is applicable to at least one of the named categories of professional competencies approved for free movement. You would find this information under Article 46 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas on the official CSME-CARICOM website, or your Ministry of Foreign Affairs (External Affairs).
According to Article 46, categories of CARICOM nationals who have the right to seek employment in any of the earlier aforementioned CSME Member States include: University graduates (University of the West Indies graduates, here's looking at you!), Artistes, Musicians, Media Workers, Sportspersons, Nurses, Teachers, Artisans, Holders of Associate Degrees, Domestic Workers, Agricultural Workers and Private Security Officers. Incidentally, following the 2018 St Ann's Declaration on the Treaty of Chaguaramas, Beauty Service Practitioners and Barbers have been added to the categories of recognised skills.
However, even if your professional skills aren't applicable to any of these above categories, don't worry. You can still apply for a work permit from the Member State of the country that you which to go to, unless the local laws of the country you come from require that you initiate that step through the designate state agency, such as a Ministry of National Security or a Ministry of Home Affairs.
Step Two: Apply for and be granted a Certificate of Recognition of Caribbean Community Skills Qualification (Skills Certificate). This document would be as important as your passport! For once you have this approved document in your possession, as a working professional, you would be allowed to remain in your selected country for an indefinite period, and not have to worry about Immigration and Customs officials searching for you for overstaying your approved time in their country. Nevertheless (and here comes the bureaucracy once again), depending on your country of origin, you might still have to verify your particular skills with the designated state agency in the member country that you wish to work.
Step Three: You're almost there! At this point, your application for a Skills Certificate should be approved. If not, sorry and better luck next time around. For successful applicants however, you can book your plane ticket and travel to that country of your choice (hopefully, a job offer was made to you beforehand, which you accepted and both parties signed or otherwise confirmed their mutual intent).
Once your plane has landed, you hand immigration officials your documents. You then receive an automatic six months (180 days) approval of stay. Within that period, don't delay, get your Skills Certificate approved by the designated local authority in that country before that six-month period expires. Once this step is verified, you as holder of the Skills Certificate and your spouse, as well as any children can legally live in that Member State. Enjoy!
Here's hoping this synopsis of the process inspires you to travel and savour the region, while you use your innate talent, knowledge and experience to further empower it.
Live and love, love and live.
LinkedIn Local Caribbean, CARICOM, CSME, Skills Certificate, opportunity