Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Immigration Medical Clinic

After arriving in the BVI and being granted entry by an immigration officer at the port, the first thing a person with a work permit must do is present himself at the immigration medical clinic for medical clearance. Held every Tuesday morning (and only Tuesday morning) at the Valerie O. Thomas Community Center in Sea Cow's Bay, the placard on the side of the building states that the clinic opens at 8:30 a.m., but in fact, the doors aren't unlocked until 9:00.

Nonetheless, it is highly advisable to arrive early, as the line is quite long by 8:30. I pulled up around 8:15 yesterday and the line was already about 10 people deep. By the time the doors were opened at 9:00, there were around 30 people in line. Additionally, immigrants should plan on spending the better part of the morning at the clinic. As the 10th person in line, I still did not leave the building until 10:45.

Once inside, immigrants are asked to grab a seat (literally, you have to get a chair from a stack and place it across the room) and then sign into the registration book in the same order as the line. Considering how easy it would have been for folks to be dishonest about their place in line, this was a surprisingly organized process, with the book being passed in correct order.

It is not unusual for an immigrant's medical paperwork to have errors, or be incomplete, and so often, an immigrant will have to return to the clinic on successive Tuesdays. Luckily for these returnees, however, they are handled first. With everyone signed in, the administrator calls the returnees in order of their arrival, before proceeding to "new" immigrants -- those individuals who are at the clinic for the first time.

The process for new immigrants is pretty long. First, wait until all returnees are handled. Then, get called in order of arrival by the administrator. The administrator will glance at your paperwork, and point out any obvious errors or problems that she sees. She will then ask you to step back to the cashier, where you will pay $100 for "Immigration Process". After paying, you will return to the waiting room until the nurse or doctor in charge calls you to be examined.

If there are problems or errors with the paperwork, the nurse or doctor will inform you of them, recommend how to correct them, and ask you to return the following week. At this point, you are free to leave.

If there are NO problems with the paperwork, the nurse or doctor will give you a cursory examination for any obvious symptoms of disease or injury, and presuming you are healthy, ask you to return to the waiting room. The administrator will call you again, stamp your paperwork, and you are free to go on to the next step in the process, a visit to the Department of Labor.

In my case, I had a minor error on my Mantoux (TB) test form that needs to be corrected by my doctor, so next Tuesday, I will again be arriving early to the Valerie O. Thomas Community Center. This time, though, I will be one of those lucky returnees that gets to be seen first.

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