Jersey is considering a radical shake-up of its immigration laws in a bid to attract fresh talent an...
Jersey is considering a radical shake-up of its immigration laws in a bid to attract fresh talent and ensure the island has access to a skilled workforce over the coming years.
Proposals to soften its tough regulations will be discussed in the next couple of weeks and should lead to institutions being given more freedom to allow workers to join their operations.
But well-placed sources say officials are pushing for a complete 'root and branch' overhaul of the entire policy as they fear it threatens the development of Jersey as a major financial centre.
"It has become more of a serious discussion," said one senior figure. "Everyone knows that at some point they are going to have to change the way it happens."
Another source confirmed the issue had already been discussed at a 'high level' and predicted the pace of economic growth on the island could eventually force the government's hand.
"If the economy grows faster than expected it is obvious there will need to be changes to the policy," he said.
Others fear the tough policy could also leave Jersey open to legal challenges from disappointed potential workers which would provide unwanted publicity for the jurisdiction.
"Our current method of vetting people is unlikely to hold up to a challenge in the European Court of Human Rights," said one legal source. "It is effectively depriving them of a home."
Critics argue that Jersey must not loosen its grip on immigration as the island was 'too small to become an open house'. However, a policy change is likely to get the backing of a string of major industries, including banking and accountancy.
Senator Frank Walker, president of the policy and resources committee, has said the current proposals would change the population policy to a more 'business-friendly' system.
Speaking at the Jersey Financial Services Commission conference, he said there was now a recognised need to soften the approach and make the island more accessible for the right people.
"A successful international finance centre needs a skilled workforce," he said. "The proposals are consistent with the growth in the economy we are targeting and will make it easier to bring in people with the requisite skills."
John Harris, Jersey's director of international finance, branded the proposals due to be debated by the government 'evolutionary rather than revolutionary' but said it may help relax the situation.
"These are only proposals and they are evolutionary rather than a major policy shift," he told International Investment.
It is understood that any initial softening of the policy could hand more control over to financial institutions.
Rather than having each person effectively vetted by the Regulation of Undertakings department, companies could be handed a set number of passes which they can give to the staff they want to work in Jersey.
One estimate is that this could result in a further 200 people being allowed in but that is not expected to be nearly enough to cope with the demands of a strong period of economic growth.
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