UPDATE ON BACKLOG OF WORK PERMIT APPLICATIONS UPLOADED INTO THE ONLINE WORK PERMIT SYSTEM
Through our stakeholders’ meeting and other formal and informal meetings, the Government has listened to the cries of the employers, the employees, particularly work permit holders, along with the staff at the Department of Labour and Workforce Development and listeners may recall the meeting with stakeholders on the 10th of February. This means that your Government has heard directly from the individuals most affected as a result of the backlog of work permits held in the Online Work Permit System.
Since July 2021, the Department of Labour and Workforce Development’s ability to process work permit applications in a timely manner has been dramatically affected. Constraints and challenges varied from entire units within the Department being quarantined and technical issues within the processing system. The Government has recognized that the months-long delays in the processing of new and renewal work permit applications have been “disruptive” for employers and their companies since these employees are vital to the businesses that they are permitted to support. Also, they are needed to help meet long and short-term labour market needs.
The Department’s staff has addressed the backlog by working late hours; working on weekends; implementing administrative and minor policy changes to improve efficiency; and adding personnel to directly address the processing of outstanding applications.
Government remains committed to resolving the backlog while remaining committed to our VIslander/Belonger job seekers, ensuring that the environment at workplaces is healthy and safety, that the welfare of all employees is secured, as well as ensuring national security of these Virgin Islands; all in the context of facilitating businesses to thrive and prosper.
Efforts were made to process the backlog of work permit applications through the creation of a task force made up of mostly retired Civil Servants who are assisting the Department with the handling of these work permit applications. Their expertise and experience means that they can step in and provide immediate and direct support to the Department. It is envisioned that with the hiring of these additional persons for a one-month period, not only will it help to clear the work permit applications from the System, but it will also bring work permit processing times back in line with the Department’s service standards by the week of April 18, 2022. Government is very focused on ensuring that individuals do not lose their ability to work because of the lack of a work permit so we are working diligently to rectify the problems in a short time span.
The taskforce members are:
- Janice I. F. Rymer
- Dawn O’Neal George
- Marieta Headley
- Myrna Samuels
- Reginald Hodge
- Ernest Potter
- Devon Penn
- Keida Williams
At times, members of the Taskforce may have to call employers or employees for them to furnish missing information or documents that should have already been uploaded into the System. We are asking you to be receptive to their calls and provide the relevant information expeditiously and in the format that they may prescribe as this will allow for the processing of your long-awaited application to be finalized.
To ensure that no application is overlooked in the System, we are also requesting that employers who have not heard from any of the Processing Officers at the Department or any member of the Online Work Permit Processing Taskforce regarding their uploaded applications, to please submit a list with the names of all their outstanding work permit applicants along with the assigned application ID numbers for each to the email address email@example.com as a means of ensuring that the relevant applications have been cleared or processed from the System. Please utilize the name of the business/employer as the subject, for example, Outstanding Work Permit Application(s) – White Sandy Villas, when submitting your emails.
I make mention that once a Renewal Work Permit has been approved, an appointment to collect will be set and an email or text message will be generated informing the applicant or employer of their scheduled time and date to collect the work permit. Employers or employees will also be informed via email or a telephone call once a New or New Change of Employer application has been approved or denied.
Thus far, the team has been able to retrieve 203 outstanding New and Change of Employer Work Permit Applications that were in the System after the defunct date of February 14. Out of that total, approximately 103 have been processed. Additionally, from the estimated 1,541 Renewal applications that were in the system in mid-February, approximately 500 have been retrieved and 305 have been processed.
Please note that the data presented is a snapshot in time. Given that these numbers are changing on a regular basis, they will be updated weekly. In addition, I make mention that the data is specific to applications that were submitted through the Online Work Permit Processing System during the period of July 2021 to February 2022 and do not include paper copy of applications submitted during the aforementioned period or thereafter.