Cayman changed visa policy

The Cayman Islands Government decided against a provision that would have exempted Jamaicans with multiple-entry U.S., U.K. or Canadian visas from the new visa requirement here.

The change was made after it was learned of a problem with falsified U.S. visas in Jamaica.

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said at the Cabinet press briefing on Friday that the change was made subsequent to the Cayman Islands Government conveying to the Jamaican Government on 4 October its intention of implementing the policy with the exemption.

‘What is unfortunate is that no one notified the Jamaican government of the change,’ Mr. Tibbetts said. ‘I believe, in hindsight, they should have been notified.’

The policy change occurred after dialogue with the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Mr. Tibbetts said the INS told Cayman immigration authorities the exemption was not going to serve Cayman’s purposes well because they had learned of visas for Jamaicans that were forged or otherwise falsified.

‘They said even if you exempted visa holders, you would not be sure the visas were real,’ he said.

Mr. Tibbetts said the Government heard the same information from some of the Jamaican nationals the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service had interviewed for job openings.

‘(The interviewees) said they had encountered many circumstances of forged visas,’ Mr. Tibbetts said.

As a result of the new information, the Cayman Islands Government became very concerned about the exemption.

‘The decision was taken at that time not to exempt visa holders,’ Mr. Tibbetts said.

Although the Jamaican Government was not notified of the change before the announcement of the visa requirement on 26 October, it has been notified through official channels since, Mr. Tibbetts said.

That subsequent correspondence also included the Cayman Islands government’s desire to ‘engage in fruitful dialogue’ with the Jamaican government about the visa policy, Mr. Tibbetts said.

That dialogue will include a Cayman Islands Government request to have access to Jamaican government data bases on its citizens to be used for the purposes of border control in the Cayman Islands, Mr. Tibbetts said, adding that he expected such access to be granted.

Mr. Tibbetts said it was possible adjustments could be made to the visa policy in the future.

‘The regulations do not stipulate the term (a Cayman multiple-entry visa is valid for),’ he said. ‘It’s just a policy decision to make it three years.

‘It is quite possible that the length of time could be extended.’

Mr. Tibbetts said it was ‘not impossible’ for the validity of a multiple entry visa for a Jamaican to be extended to seven or even 10 years.

‘But we must be sure the information (on Jamaican citizens) is solid enough to issue a visa for that length of time.’

What the Cayman Island Government was not prepared to do was to give exemptions to special cases, Mr. Tibbetts said.

‘Whenever you start exempting, the entire system should not be in place,’ he said. ‘You don’t want to be seen as discriminatory at any level.’

Mr. Tibbetts said the Government will not be removing the visa requirement for Jamaicans entirely, but reiterated that changes to the policy could be made.

‘It was put in place for valid reasons, and will remain in place,’ he said.

‘We are quite happy to look at any adjustments that are justified and won’t compromise the system.’