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Vincentian family fined for overstaying time in SVG!

Vincentian family fined for overstaying time in SVG!

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by Lyf Compton

Five Vincentians were last Sunday detained by the Immigration Department and asked to pay a fine for overstaying their time in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

However, according to Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Beverly Walker, the immigration officer acted within the law, as all five persons had all travelled into SVG on American passports.

Walker explained that persons of Vincentian parentage, who wish to remain indefinitely in this country, must have their citizenship by descent validated by the Immigration Department.

“There is a process,” the immigration official told SEARCHLIGHT on Monday, on the heels of a complaint that four children, born in the United States (US) to Vincentian parents and their SVG-born grandmother were detained by the Immigration Department. The incident took place at the Argyle International Airport (AIA) last Sunday, as the group of five was attempting to catch a Caribbean Airlines flight to Trinidad to board another flight to New York’s JFK Airport.

One member of the family, who asked that the family’s name not be revealed, is upset by the way in which the four young family members and the family matriarch were treated by an immigration officer.

According to the man, his mother, his two children and his niece and nephew went to the AIA at around 2 p.m. to catch a flight to return to the United States, where they reside.  

The children, three of them 14 years old and a nine-year-old, had taken advantage of a July 1 chartered flight from New York to AIA. 

The man related that as the group attempted to clear immigration, a female immigration officer informed them that they had overstayed their allotted 31-day stay in SVG by one week, and they would each be required to pay a fine of EC$300.

The children’s grandmother had travelled to SVG on an American passport, as her Vincentian passport had expired. The aggravated father stated that his mother protested that she did not have EC$1,500 and requested that they be deported.

He said after being held up for close to two hours, they were eventually allowed to leave without paying.

However, Walker said that the immigration officer was well within her right to charge the overstayer’s fee, which she said is EC$25, not EC$300.

“Something is wrong if they were told to pay EC$300 per person; the overstayer’s fee is EC$25,” said Walker. The family, however, insists they were asked to pay $300 each.

The man also disclosed that the children’s passports were stamped “31 days only,” but his mother only realized this when they got to the airport.

The deputy chief also explained that if at least one of a person’s parents is born here, that person may go to the Immigration Department and once adequate proof is provided of this, a stamp will be placed in that person’s foreign passport, which will allow immigration officers at any port of entry here to recognize them as citizens.

Walker also stressed that if the stamp is not in the passport, then that person, despite having the right to be called a Vincentian by descent, will be treated as a foreigner and given a certain amount of time to remain in the country.

“And, if on leaving, an immigration officer sees that you have overstayed your time, you are liable for an EC$25 fine by law,” said Walker.

Usually, US citizens are allowed one month’s stay in the country, CARICOM citizens – six months, while OECS nationals may stay indefinitely. Persons from Schengen countries (26 European States) are given three months, while nationals of the US and United Kingdom who own homes here are usually given three months stay on entry.

Walker said there are different time frames given to different persons and by law, anyone who comes in may remain for a certain period and when that time is up, they are supposed to appear before an immigration officer to seek an extension.

She said that in relation to this family, the children being US born, were given 31 days and they did not seek an extension, so when they got to the airport the immigration officer noticed that they had overstayed.

She said it is important that whenever one goes into a country and one wants to stay longer, that person should make his or herself legal by going to an immigration officer and seeking an extension.(LC)

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