Duncan: “There can be exceptions, but no grace period” on visa requirements to St. Maarten

POSTED: 04/15/11 12:21 PM

St. Maarten – Justice Minister Roland Duncan has announced that exceptions can be made to the visa requirement, but said there was no plans for a transition/grace period. He was responding to continued concerns about his announcement on Tuesday that citizens of Jamaica and Guyana need visas to visit St. Maarten as of April 11.

“A grace/transition period is not usual because you want to avoid a flood of applications or travel exactly when you’re trying to avoid that, so we could not give a transition period under the circumstances, but we would have then an exempted number of travelers,” the minister said.

In an audio release issued by the Department of Communications Duncan said, “Situations can be, in which exceptions will be made and applications are to be made to the ministry and the ministry will take decisions with regards to granting or not granting visa waivers under the circumstances. Bear in mind, the persons seeking visa waiver must still comply with all the conditions necessary to get a visa in order to come to St. Maarten to start with and the usual screening and checks will of course be enforced.”

Duncan also said that while the ministry is willing to answer questions and solve problems, the Ministry will hold firm to the “immediate enforcement” of the visa requirement. Duncan made that absolutely clear in a written statement on Wednesday and stressed it again on Thursday.

“We assume, however, no responsibility for any bookings or travel that has been affected by this decision. Again the authority of the government of St. Maarten is to decide on who enters the island and under what conditions. The visa requirements are the same for all countries that are listed and the visa requirements are being published or have been published before. The mere fact that somebody has booked a ticket, does not give them any right or any claim,” Duncan said in his audio release.

The Minister also stressed on Thursday that adding citizens of Jamaica and Guyana to the list of people who need visas dates back two years – meaning it’s not necessarily new. The Executive Council at that time made a request, but the government of the Netherlands Antilles rejected it. Once the Antilles was dismantled and the Council of Ministers of St. Maarten took office on October 10, 2010 the matter was raised again and Duncan, who is responsible for implementing the law on admittance and expulsion, drafted the resolution that was approved two months ago requesting the visa requirement be put in place for Guyanese and Jamaicans.

“I think in your program, it was the prime minister who mentioned the two countries about a month or two ago and that should have been enough warning to anybody to start with. I know of no immigration law with a transition period. I have no responsibility to inform the governments of Guyana or Jamaica where visas are concerned. It’s quite the contrary,” Duncan asserted.

“The procedures were followed and they have taken some time to effectuate and the procedures are that the other partners – the other countries in the Kingdom – Aruba, Curacao and Holland – were notified of the decision of the Council of Ministers and the Minister of Foreign Affairs was asked to execute their decision. The execution of the decision by the Minister of Foreign Affairs is to the embassies and consulates that in or that regard the countries that will be affected. In this particular case the Embassy of the Netherlands in Trinidad is responsible and authorized to deal with this matter. The embassy sent around instructions to the consulates and consul generals and informed them of the decision and that it was effective April 11,” Duncan said.

“We have passed on the information to all airlines and travel agents so that they can execute and take this into consideration,” Duncan added.

The Minister also announced Thursday that the implementation of the visa requirement is coming ahead of the actual publication of the decision of the Council of Ministers. When the decision is published the government will attach the full list of countries requiring visas including Guyana and Jamaica. There is also a list of countries that do not need visas that is available on the website of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs: www.minbuza.nl.


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