Court ruling confirms again: Americans citizens do not need residence and work permits

POSTED: 12/18/14 11:09 PM

St. Maarten – American citizens are entitled to establish themselves in St. Maarten and they do not need a work permit. That is the conclusion from a ruling by the Common Court of Justice in the case of US-citizen Hillary Grant vs. Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson.

Vivian Choennie, of the law office Fox and Associates, represented Grant in the appeal case.

Similar immigration cases have been in court for years and the courts have consistently ruled in favor of the American citizens who requested admission by law. Among the most recent Americans to be admitted under the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty are Oyster Bay Beach Resort manager Ricardo Perez and his family and Lorraine Talmi of the St. Maarten Marine Trade Association and her husband Shai.

On February 18, 2013, Grant requested admission by law to St. Maarten, but the justice minister denied the request on May 14. Grant went to court and on May 26 of this year, the Court in First Instance declared her appeal against the minister’s decision founded. It ordered the minister to take a new decision within six week. Minister Richardson however, appealed this court ruling.

On Monday, the Common Court of Justice ruled against the minister and in favor of Hillary Grant.

The legal dispute about the admission of American citizens on the same footing as European Dutch hinges on articles in the 1954 Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Shipping between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the United States of America – commonly known as the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty.

The treaty stipulates amongst others that citizens of both countries are allowed to be on each other’s territory for trade, for running a business in which they have invested a significant capital, but also “for other purposes, while respecting the laws about the admission and the residence of foreigners.”

Article 3 of the treaty’s protocol states that American citizens are entitled to the same treatment in the territory of the Kingdom of the Netherlands outside of Europe (in other words, the islands of the former Netherlands Antilles) – as Dutch citizens who were not born in that part of the Kingdom (commonly called ‘European Dutch’).

Minister Richardson’s attorney Aernout Kraaijeveld’s argument that the laws pertaining to admission and residence apply and that the foreigner has to apply for a work permit and for a temporary residence permit failed.

“This way the minister applies the relevant articles of the friendship treaty and the protocol incorrectly,” the ruling states. Article 3 of the protocol says that American citizens have to be admitted based on the same requirements for residence for other purposes as European Dutch.

A second argument from the ministry is that article 3 of the protocol does not directly apply in St. Maarten and that it leaves maneuvering space for governments to take the (immigration) measures it desires. This train of thought is based on the explanatory notes of the national law that approved the Friendship Treaty.

The court pushed this argument aside as well, ruling that a clear stipulation cannot be given a lesser interpretation though explanatory notes, especially because these notes refer to the law that approved the treaty and not to the treaty itself. “Article 3 of the protocol, which is an integral part of the Friendship Treaty, has been formulated unconditionally and sufficiently to be applied by the court.”

For the same reason, the court rejected the argument that the Friendship Treaty has to be read in the context of its time (1954) when Dutch citizens who were not born in St. Maarten were not admitted by law.

The court ruled that St. Maarten has to observe article 3 of the protocol when it applies national legislation to the admission and residence of foreigners. The court therefore denied the appeal and confirmed the contested ruling. This means that the ministry will have to take a new decision about the admission of Hillary Grant within six weeks.

Did you like this? Share it:
Court ruling confirms again: Americans citizens do not need residence and work permits by

Comments (1)


  1. James Richardson says:

    Applying a outdated agreement to present day situations is archaic. It speaks to the mentality of those making such decisions.