St. Maarten parliament approves new fees for permits to add revenue to 2014 budget


~ One-time fee for permanent residence permits ~

PHILIPSBURG--Foreigners applying for permanent residence will have to pay a one-time fee of NAf. 740 for adults and NAf. 250 for children. Parliament approved a number of fees related to the Justice Ministry on Thursday morning. This approval marks the first time a fee has been introduced for the issuance of (temporary and permanent) residence permits.

In contrast to permanent residence application, people with a work permit (often renewable annually) who also require a residence permit will have a fee of NAf. 500 for their residence permits. They will also need to shell out NAf. 200 per child for each permit request.

The fees were implemented to add revenue to the 2014 budget. It is estimated that some NAf. 2.3 million will be generated from residence permit fees alone for the current budget and even more for future budgets, Justice Minister Dennis Richardson told Parliament Thursday at a plenary session.

The minister pointed out that the estimated earnings are "conservative" and it is possible more revenue could be generated.

The fees are also markedly lower than those proposed more than a year ago by now former Minister of Justice Roland Duncan. His proposal was for a yearly fee for permanent residence permit holders and the goal of funding a multi-million dollar justice park in Cay Hill.

Prior to the approval of the fees, the minister cautioned Members of Parliament that if the fees are not accepted, the country risks an instruction from the Dutch Kingdom Council of Ministers to get its financial house in order. If the fees were not approved, the estimated revenues as stated in the 2014 budget would have been disregarded by the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT and the budget would have been deemed unbalanced.

According to reports, the fee increases were not sent by Government to the Social Economic Council SER or private sector representatives prior to presenting them to parliament for approval.

The fees for "declaration of non-applicability" to the Admittance and Expulsion Ordinance LTU and permit for admission are each NAf. 200. The ministry expects to generate some NAf. 20,000 from each of those applications.

Requests for proof of return, exit permit, tourist permit, report of theft of permit and duplicate permits are set at NAf. 90 each. Proof of return will bring in some NAf. 18,000 while the others will each generate NAf. 9,000 annually.

A Declaration of Guarantee will cost NAf. 45 and is slated to bring in for the Justice Ministry NAf. 45,000 annually.

Ten of the 12 MPs signed in for the meeting, voted for the changes to LTU.

Two MPs, William Marlin (party leader) and Hyacinth Richardson of the National Alliance, walked out of the meeting after making a call for individual voting. However, NA Parliamentarian Dr. Lloyd Richardson and George Pantophlet voted for the changes.

Pantophlet, in motivating his vote, said he was in favour of the amendment to the ordinance as it was "important" for the country not to get an instruction from the Dutch Kingdom Council of Ministers. He said he fully understood the need for a balanced budget, in spite of the fact that he did not vote for the 2014 budget last week. His one grouse was that the draft amendments were not presented together with the budget by government.

Also voting for the amendments were United People's (UP) party MPs Theo Heyliger, Johan Leonard, Sylvia Meyers-Olivacce and Jules James, Democratic Party MPs Leroy de Weever and Roy Marlin and former NA, now independent MP Frans Richardson.

Deputy President of Parliament/independent MP Romain Laville (formerly UP), who chaired the plenary session of Parliament, voted in favour of the changes to the national ordinance.

Absent with notice from the meeting was President of Parliament MP Gracita Arrindell (UP), who is off island on a family-related matter.

MP Louie Laveist (NA) was also absent as was former NA, now independent MP Patrick Illidge. At the time of the meeting, Illidge was still in police custody on suspicion of bribery, money laundering and being a member of a criminal organisation.

Source: The daily Herald, St. Maarten