Pursuant to the Persons of Suriname Descent Act, people who do not have the Suriname nationality, but have been born in Suriname or have at least one (grand)parent born there, can live and work in Suriname up to a maximum of one year upon arrival without having a work and/or residence permit. These persons can apply for so-called PSA status which enables them to acquire certain rights and exempts them from aforementioned permit obligations.
An important objective of the Act is to encourage persons with Suriname roots to settle in Suriname, so they can help to build and further develop the country. Earlier, the Suriname Desk of VanEps Kunneman VanDoorne already published an article on this Act. President Bouterse intends to examine the number of people of Suriname descent that will actually be prepared to contribute to Suriname’s future, as he indicated in his (second) inaugural speech. Late last year, the Suriname Minister of Foreign Affairs announced that since the introduction of the Act in 2014, 1786 applications for a PSA status have been granted and that 99% of these applications are from people living in the Netherlands.
However, to build and further develop the country, Suriname is not fully dependent on people of Suriname descent. As a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Suriname has a group of 16.7 million potential workers at its disposal, who theoretically could all contribute to the development of the country. Since 1995, Suriname has been a member of CARICOM*, which pursues promotion of the integration of and cooperation between the participating economies. One of the most important pillars of CARICOM is free settlement and/or movement of capital, qualified workers and companies within the Caribbean Community.
Article 46 of the CARICOM Treaty** entails the obligation for member states to implement the necessary laws and regulations to enable free traffic of persons within CARICOM*. The member states have agreed to implement the free traffic of persons in phases. For the time being, this traffic is limited to the following categories of persons:
a) graduates: persons who have at least a bachelor degree from a recognized university anywhere in the world;
b) media workers: persons whose main source of income is media(-related) work, or who are qualified and suitable to perform that work but do not do so as yet;
c) sportsmen and -women: persons active or suitable to be active in certain sports with the specific purpose of earning their income as professional or semi-professional sportsmen and -women in the relevant sports;
d) artists: persons active or suitable to be active in a certain area of art with the specific purpose of earning their income as such; and
e) musicians: persons active or suitable to be active in a certain area of music with the specific purpose of earning their income with it.
For the implementation of Article 46 of the CARICOM Treaty, Suriname has adopted the Qualified Citizens Act. Pursuant to this Act, persons in aforementioned categories can live and work in Suriname without a work and/or residence permit. However, if a citizen from another CARICOM country wants to settle in Suriname and falls under one of aforementioned categories, he first has to apply for his Qualified Citizen status. Recognition takes place by issue of a certificate that can be obtained from the competent authority in every CARICOM country. Qualified Citizens living in Suriname can apply for the certificate with the Office for Free Traffic of Persons (in Dutch, ‘Secretariaat Vrij Verkeer van Personen’).
On presentation of the certificate, a valid passport and a police certificate (certificate of good conduct), Qualified Citizens can freely travel to the CARICOM country of destination and live and work there for a period of six months. The immigration service of the receiving country will verify the status of the Qualified Citizen in that period of time. After the Qualified Citizen status has been verified, he or she is permitted to live and work in the country of destination indefinitely. The spouse and directly dependent relatives can also emigrate.
For the time being, free traffic of persons is limited to aforementioned categories of persons, but will be expanded in the near future to all citizens of CARICOM. The labor supply that could potentially assist Suriname in the construction and further development of the country thus increases enormously. As a result, Suriname should not only aim at Suriname people living abroad, but also at the workforce available in the Caribbean. For as the saying goes, “A good neighbor at hand is better than a brother far away!”
*Currently, the following 15 countries are full members of CARICOM: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad & Tobago.
**The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas establishing the Caribbean Community including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, 2001.