Minister of Justice Enhanced Immigration Application Processes with New Ministerial Decree

December 12, 2023) – The Honorable Minister of Justice, Anna E. Richardson, took a significant step forward by signing a Ministerial Decree aimed to further improve the application process for residency permits on  September 22, 2023.

This important step follows the adoption of the Ministerial Decree on April 29, 2021, wherein practical circumstances necessitated revisions.

The primary objective of this new Ministerial Decree is to provide applicants with a fair opportunity, better understanding, and clear guidance on specific aspects outlined in the guidelines of the National Ordinance on Admissions and Expulsions (LTU).

Notably, after extensive discussions with legal and policy advisors, one key aspect reintroduced in the Ministerial Decree seeks to offer applicants the option to apply for a residency permit through a “concubine agreement” (samenlevingsovereenkomst), eliminating the requirement for couples to marry to regulate their status. Acknowledging past abuses of this criteria, the Honorable Minister in conjunction with the Immigration Department have implemented appropriate ‘checks and balances’ to confirm the legitimacy of relationships.

Another significant reintroduction in the Decree allows individuals to apply for their residence permit through “continued residence” under certain circumstances. This applies to applicants who have held a previous temporary residence permit with the aim of family formation and family reunification.

The permit for the purpose of “continued residence” is granted for a period of at least two (2) years without restrictions.

Additionally, the Decree also addresses requests from non-nationals whose marital or cohabitation status has changed in accordance with paragraph 4.6.2 of the guidelines. Exceptions, such as cases involving abuse and/or the death of a spouse, are now granted for the purpose of “continued residence”. Specific requirements for eligibility under this category are further outlined in the Ministerial Decree.

Furthermore, the Decree regulates how dispensation (an exemption) from the out-of-country requirement is granted by the Honorable Minister of Justice. With the updated Ministerial Decree, once dispensation is granted, applicants have eight (8) weeks to regulate their legal status. Failure to collect the dispensation order within this period results in automatic expiration, and the applicant is deemed to have resided illegally on Sint Maarten during that period.

The Ministerial Decree was published on Friday, September 29, 2023, in the National Gazette whereby the public is invited to view same. Simultaneously, it is also available on the website of the Ministry of Justice and posted on the associated social media networks.

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