The CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), was approved in 1989, by the Conference of Heads of Government to create a single economic space where goods, services, capital and skilled professionals can move freely, where no one is left behind.
The Free Movement Regime is a foundational pillar of the CSME’s architecture, embedded in the 2001 Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. The Regime is a system of orderly migration that allows skills to flow where needed, with a Skills Certificate and/or a Work Permit Exemption. Since 2006, when Member States declared their readiness to participate in the Single Market, approximately 3,500 TT nationals have been issued with CSME Skills Certificates in pursuit of lucrative careers in sectors such as Energy, Sport, Tourism, Engineering, Business Management, Accounting and the Creative Industries. Trinidad and Tobago has also granted Work Permit Exemptions, benefitting from the investment of approximately 400 entrepreneurs of Member States who have established businesses under the Right of Establishment.
CSME: A vehicle for Recovery and Impact
Trinidad and Tobago assumed the Chair of CARICOM from January to June 2021 during which time the CSME was given priority by the Prime Minister as one of the main vehicles for Trinidad and Tobago’s post COVID-19 economic recovery.
As such, the Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs approved a seven-phase Modernization Plan through a series of institutional and customer service strengthening measures. The first four phases entailed the digitization and digitalization of its services in line with the National Digitalization Plan. The CSME Unit now offers to the public the ability to book appointments online at https://appointments.gov.tt/, allowing Tele-help appointments for consultations and request information 24/7 via its chatbot feature. Phases V and VI when completed, will see a fully mechanised online application and payment portal with an application tracking system, supported by a Public Awareness Campaign. The new features have already resulted in an uptick of the Skills Certificate and the Right of Establishment applications.
“The collaborative effort between the Ministry of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs and the Ministry of Digital Transformation has put us on a path of institutional transformation. Together, we have laid the foundation that will help us to change the course of Modern Diplomacy.” Senator Dr Amery Browne, Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs
“Modern Diplomacy is changing the way we work. The post-pandemic future scope must be disruptive in the positive sense by levelling the playing field. The CSME Free Movement Regime expands the opportunities available to working women and female entrepreneurs throughout the region. It is a tool for social and economic empowerment.” Joanne Brooks, Head of the CSME Unit, CARICOM and Caribbean Affairs Division.
For more information, one can visit the CSME’s website https://foreign.gov.tt/services/csme/.
Q&A ON THE CSME
Q. What is a Skills Certificate?
A. A Skills Certificate is a document/certificate issued by the Competent Authority in participating CARICOM Member States (Ministry of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs in Trinidad and Tobago), which allows any qualified CARICOM national to move freely and work in any participating Member State with his/her family.
Q. Which are the participating CSME Member States?
A. The participating CSME Member States are:
Antigua and Barbuda;
St Kitts and Nevis;
St Vincent and the Grenadines;
Trinidad and Tobago.
Q. Who can apply for a Skills Certificate in Trinidad and Tobago?
A. According to Article 46 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, the following categories of CARICOM nationals have the right to seek employment in any of the participating CSME Member States:
If a CARICOM national does not fall in any of the above-mentioned categories, he/she must apply for a Work Permit from the receiving Member State.
Q. When will Trinidad and Tobago allow nationals to apply for Skills Certificates in the additional categories?
A. Amendments to the Immigration (Caribbean Community Skilled Nationals) Act have been approved by the Legislation Review Committee (LRC). Upon approval from Parliament, the following categories would be able to seek employment in any of the participating CSME Member States:
Non-Graduate level Nurses;
Non-Graduate level Teachers;
Artisans with a Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ);
Holders of Associate Degrees or a comparable qualification;
Household Domestics with a Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) or an equivalent qualification; and
Beauty Service Practitioners and Barbers – under the existing category of Artiste.
Q. Is there a fee attached in obtaining a CSME Skills Certificate?
A. In Trinidad and Tobago, a CSME Skills Certificate is currently free of charge. However, Cabinet agreed to apply an administrative fee for the following:
CSME Skills Certificates;
Replacement Skills Certificates; and
Lost, stolen or mutilated Skills Certificates
Administrative fees will be applied on approval of the legislation by Parliament.
Q. What are the BENEFITS of the Free Movement Regime?
A. The benefits under the Free Movement Regime are:
There is freedom to leave and re-enter the receiving State;
There are more opportunities for employment;
There is freedom to buy or rent property for residential or commercial use;
Spouses and immediate dependent family members are allowed to move with the holder of the Skills Certificate;
There is no need to obtain a Work Permit;
Members of the Diaspora have the choice of 12 participating States to live, work or invest in;
Freedom to register a business name;
Freedom to incorporate or register an incorporated company including agencies, branches and subsidiaries; and
The entry of managerial, supervisory and technical staff to serve the business without a work permit.