No change, US travel requirements remain unchanged for Bahamians and TCIs; get the Do’s and Don’ts
#Nassau, Bahamas – June 1, 2018 – Thousands of residents from The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos have the opportunity to travel to the United States on a clean police character certificate, and that still remains the case despite a social media broadcast to the contrary.
It was rumored that police records would be an unacceptable entry documents by Summer 2018 but the US Embassy in Nassau said, “that’s just a rumor, that’s not true.”
The US Embassy agreed to a one on one interview with Magnetic Media in an effort to clarify that any rumor stating that there is a change, is bogus. Vice-Consul for the Bahamas-based office, Jason Harms added that even changes in the near future are not on the radar.
“Turks (and Caicos) Islanders can still travel on their police record just as Bahamians can for B1, B2 purposes – for tourism, for vacations, shopping those sorts of things. Obviously, like Bahamians, if they want to go an study in the United States, they want to go and work in the United States they have to apply for a visa to do that. The police certificate is a substitute, if you will, for the B1/B2 tourist visa and there is no change that I am aware of on the horizon for that.”
Residents of the region continue to be wildly suspicious of the Trump Administration and its tougher stance on immigrants, and while we did not get details on whether the qualification for getting that B1/B2 visa is more strict; there was assurance that the application process is unchanged.
It was explained in the over the phone interview that the opportunity to apply for US B1 and B2 visas online still exists, though residents interested in securing those categories of travel visas are urged to rush their applications as during late Spring and early Summer, the Embassy experiences a surge in interviewees.
Applicants living in the Turks and Caicos or the Family Islands of The Bahamas need to plan their trip into Nassau smartly, as the turn-around time on a US visa following the interview is 3 to 5 business days.
“…which can be challenging for Turks and Caicos Islanders or Bahamians who live on the Family Islands if they come to Nassau for the interview, they need to allow for enough time in their travel to stick around to get the visa.”
Additionally, applicants travelling to Nassau to complete the visa process must be prepared. Vice-Consul Harms had some cost-saving and time-saving advice.
“If you can bring everything with you and be prepared, be prepared for the interview by bringing any sort of documentation with you that the consular officer would need to see. That way you won’t have to go back or go home – especially if you are from TCI. For the standard B1/B2, that may mean nothing more than a job letter or maybe a bank statement or something like that. For students, it’s gonna be a little more intensive; they’re gonna need their I-20 with them, they are gonna need their CETAS fee receipt, to prove that they have paid their SEVIS fee and then they are also gonna need bank statement from their parents or sponsor or whoever is paying for school to show that they’ve got proof of sufficient funds to support their education.”
It was also strongly encouraged that applications on line are filled out completely and accurately.
“That has been a problem as of late. People are not filling out the application correctly. It asks you for example, your last five trips to the United States. They need to list all five of their trips to the United States.”
Giving information differently during the interview at the US Embassy, than what appears in the online form could be problematic for an expectant applicant.
Police certificates and passports require at least six months validity for travel into the United States and what may be a little known fact is that, passports must have one full blank page for the US Visa document; no blank page, no US Visa can be inserted and one’s process is delayed.
“Let’s say you’ve got a year left in your passport, okay that enough validity and there is one page left. If we put the visa in there and then you go and get a new passport next year because you’re out of pages or its expired, you’re gonna have to carry around two passports for the next nine years. Go on and get your new passport, which is good for ten years and then your visa, which is good for ten years, then you’ve got it all in one document and you don’t have to worry about it.”
One sure stumbling block for those applying for a US Visa, is having unpaid bills in the United States. Applicants who have left bills at US medical facilities for example, have been stunned to find they are turned down for a visa because of the lingering debt.
The cost for the processing of the B1/B2 US visa is $160 and it is non refundable.
Kamala Harris to meet with Caribbean leaders in The Bahamas
#USA, June 5, 2023 – Kamala Harris, United States Vice President will journey to Nassau Bahamas in June for a top level meeting with Caribbean leaders, marking the first time she will visit the region since occupying office in 2021.
According to the White House in a statement, the meeting will bring attention to a range of regional issues. Harris and the Caribbean leaders will continue talks on the shared efforts to address the climate crisis, such as promoting climate resilience and adaptation in the region and increasing energy security through clean energy.
Additionally, the statement informed that Harris’ trip “delivers on the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to advance cooperation with the Caribbean in pursuit of shared prosperity and security, and in recognition of the common bonds and interests between our nations.”
The June 8th meeting builds on and strengthens the U.S.-Caribbean Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis 2030, which was launched by the Vice President and Caribbean leaders in Los Angeles at the Summit of the Americas as further mentioned by White House Statement.
PM Davis ‘confident’ that Revenue Outturn will near $2.9 billion
By ERIC ROSE
Bahamas Information Services
#NASSAU, The Bahamas, May 30, 2023 – Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis said in the House of Assembly, on May 31, 2023, that public revenue receipts were strong over the nine-month period of July 2022 to March 2023, due to legislative reform, effective policy decisions, strengthened economic conditions and more efficient collection efforts.
“Analysis of the trends of the first three quarters of this fiscal year, and the years prior, suggest that the government is potentially set to exceed the $2.85 billion target set forth in the February 2023 Mid-year Supplementary Budget,” he said, during his Communication on Budget 2023.
“I am confident the revenue outturn at the end of the Fiscal Year 22/23 will near $2.9 billion.
Public spending has remained on track, and is well within the budgeted amount,” Prime Minister Davis added. “For this reason I am confident that expenditure at end of the Fiscal Year 2022/23 will almost reach the target of $3.1 billion set in the Supplementary Budget.”
He pointed out that the primary balance will, therefore, record a surplus of $68.4 million at the end of the fiscal year, a $54.8 million increase from the $13.6 million surplus projected in the supplementary budget.
“Likewise, the overall deficit is expected to improve to $520.6 million, down from the $575.4 million outlined in the supplementary budget,” he said.
Speaking of Government financing, Prime Minister Davis said that The Bahamas’ borrowing costs had begun to experience a downward trend in the previous quarter; but the cost of borrowing rose at the end of March 2023.
“At the end of the third quarter, the total average cost of borrowing for current outstanding debt had risen to an interest rate of 5.55 percent,” he pointed out. “This is notably higher than the previous year’s rate of 4.93 percent at the end of March 2022.
“This increase in borrowing costs is primarily attributable to the higher costs associated with external loan facilities.”
He added that, more specifically, the average interest rate for external financing had risen by 1.99 basis points, resulting in a rate of 5.55 percent as of March 2023, compared to the preceding year’s 3.56 percent.
“Throughout the past year, the interest rate policies of the major Central Banks have been restrictive, with a series of interest rate increases,” Prime Minister Davis said. “These adjustments have been primarily motivated by the escalation of inflation, and the resulting upsurge in interest rates has had an impact on the Bahamas’ external borrowing costs.”
He added: “However, the cost of borrowing in the domestic market has been declining over the past quarters.
Looking at it in more detail, we can see that:
- The average interest cost for domestic loans subsided by 27 basis points to 4.62 percent at end of March 2023, from 4.89 percent in the previous year;
- And the average interest cost for domestic bonds subsided by 3 basis points to 4.63 percent at the end of March 2023 from 4.66 percent in the previous year.”
Prime Minister Davis noted that those statistics affirmed the Government’s latest medium-term debt strategy, which aimed to shift its borrowing away from costly external commercial debt.
“Such debt has seen a sharp increase over the past five years, including recent interest rate hikes,” he said. “This strategic move will enable the government to once again rely predominantly on the domestic market to meet its financing requirements.”
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that, when considering the maturity of debt, or the average time it takes to repay the principal amount in the government’s debt portfolio, a longer maturity period led to a reduction in refinancing risk.
“In essence, prioritizing longer maturities is key to managing debt effectively,” he said. “And so another element of the government’s medium-term debt management strategy is the goal of prolonging the average maturity time of its debt.”
Prime Minister Davis said that, in the face of “unprecedented turbulence” in the global financial markets, the Government was able to maintain its average time to maturity.
“At end of March 2023, the average time to maturity has decreased slightly to 6.7 years, down from the previous 6.8 years in March 2022,” he said. “This variance is due solely to the external loan component, as the average time to maturity on internal debt has remained steady at 7.1 years.”
“This highlights the significance of maintaining a prudent approach to debt management, and aligning this administration’s practices with the government’s optimal debt strategy,” Prime Minister Davis added.
“It is imperative that we continue to exercise prudence in this area to ensure financial stability.”
(BIS Photos/Ulric Woodside)
PM states HCA model not working during budget debate
By ROBYN ADDERLEY
Bahamas Information Services
#FREEPORT, Grand Bahama, May 30, 2023 – The model of the Hawkbill Creek Act, the agreement between the Government of The Bahamas and the Grand Bahama Port Authority, is not working, said Prime Minister the Hon. Philip Davis during the opening of the 2023 Budget Debate on Wednesday, May 31 in the House of Assembly.
The island of Grand Bahama, he said, contributes 12 percent of the country’s GDP, however, there was a decline by 9 percent when compared to the previous year. Tourism, he said, increased in 2022 showing a growth in accommodation and food service.
“Unfortunately, the statistics show a prolonged decline in the Grand Bahamian economy. The evidence confirms the view of my government that the Hawksbill Creek economic model, which was meant to attract foreign direct investment, does not work.
“Furthermore, in our view, the government model of the Grand Bahama Port Authority must change, in order to realize the promise, growth and prosperity we all desire.
“Additionally, the Government of The Bahamas has serious concerns regarding the compliance of the GBPA and its related companies with the terms and conditions of the Hawksbill Creek Act, and its subsequent amendments.”
In the past, said the Prime Minister, administrations have attempted to address the issues however they appear to be “systemic and fundamental.” Decisive action will be taken, he continued, and a separate detailed announcement will be made at another time.
Prime Minister Davis mentioned that even though the GDP for several islands has experienced growth, Abaco and Grand Bahama have not done as well. Abaco, he said, saw a decline of 6 percent in 2022 with its contribution to the economy at 2.8 percent ranking the island as the third largest contributor.
“While there was a slight improvement in Abaco’s economy compared to 2019, it has yet to reach the levels seen before Hurricane Dorian. The decline in the economic activity is directly related to the slowdown in the real estate and construction sectors.”
He continued, “Declines in the real estate sector are directly as a result of a shift to higher intermediate consumption in 2022 from that of the previous two years. In terms of declines in construction, it should be noted that in 2020 and 2021, Abaco experienced significant recovery efforts in the form of debris removal, site preparation and building of damaged structures.
Such efforts bolstered the value added to the island’s GDP during those years. As those efforts wrap up, the industry saw a gradual decline as construction tempered to normal levels in 2022, resulting in a lower GDP.
Additionally, the Prime Minister said the Grand Bahama International Airport will be repaired, and a new healthcare facility will be built. Provisions have also been made for the continuation of an employment program for $4.7 million, along with the construction of a 50-meter swimming pool facility.
The House of Assembly has adjourned until Wednesday, June 7, when the debate will continue.
(BIS Photo/Ulric Woodside)
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