Residence permits can now be petitioned under Co-habitation agreements

Residence permits can now be petitioned under Co-habitation agreements

PHILIPSBURG–Couples no longer have to get married in order for the legal partner to apply for a residence permit for the undocumented partner.

A residence permit can now be applied for by using a [Co-habitation agreement] – an agreement indicating that couples are in a common law relationship. Permits can also be applied for under certain circumstances through what was described as “continued residence” of persons who once held a temporary residence permit.

These are amongst the areas regulated in a new Ministerial Decree signed by Justice Minister Anna Richardson on September 22, which is aimed at further improving the application process for residency permits. Some details of the new decree were provided in a press release issued to the media on Tuesday.

According to the press release, 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 honourable minister, in conjunction with the Immigration Department, has implemented appropriate ‘checks and balances’ to confirm the legitimacy of relationships,” it was stated in the release.

Another significant reintroduction in the decree, the release continued, 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 will be granted for a period of at least two years without restrictions, the release stated.

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, will now be granted for the purpose of continued residence. Specific requirements for eligibility under this category are further outlined in the ministerial decree.

The decree also regulates how dispensation (an exemption) from the out-of-country requirement is granted by the minister of justice. With the updated Ministerial Decree, once dispensation is granted, applicants will have eight weeks to regulate their legal status. Failure to collect the dispensation order within this period will result in automatic expiration, and the applicant will be deemed to have resided illegally in St. Maarten during that period.

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

According to the release, the signing of the new Ministerial Decree followed the adoption of the Ministerial Decree on April 29, 2021, “wherein practical circumstances necessitated revisions.” The release stated that the primary objective of the 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.”


– Source: Permission to republish full article obtained from The Daily Herald. Original article dated 13 December 2023.


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