CITA takes on Immigration law

In a situation where some tourism industry employees have had from two weeks notice to leave the island because of issues relating to the Immigration Law 2003, the Cayman Islands Tourism Association is assessing the full impact of this law’s provisions.

Several of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s members have expressed what the organisation labels grave concerns over the term limits of the Immigration Law 2003.

CITA is surveying its members in order to provide information to lobby for changes to the law. Many tourism related businesses have been advised that key staff will have to leave the island and this has created additional staffing issues when coupled with housing shortages, the organisation says.

President Karie Bergstrom explains, ‘There is a lot of confusion about the Exempt Employee and the Key Positions. The Business Staffing Plan forms continue to have a section related to Key Positions in a company but employers are now realising that this does not make an employee Exempt.

‘Employees can only be designated as Exempt if a separate application is made requesting the exemption at the time of the grant or renewal of the permit.’

Ms Bergstrom points out that some employees who were on two year permits, which will be their final permits, have missed the window of opportunity to apply for exemption. She added that the status of an Exempt Employee only gives the person an additional two years (up to nine years) which allows them time to apply for Permanent Residency.

Other major issues relating to this are the result of many employers being extremely busy with hurricane recovery and not realising that several of their employees were on their final permit. ‘This was compounded by the fact that some of their renewals have not been heard in the one year period, so they are now being told that they only have a short time to prepare to leave, or some have had to leave with as little as two weeks notice.’

Ms. Bergstrom asserts that while CITA understands that this is the responsibility of the employers, under any other situation they may have been aware of this.

The Immigration Law 2003 came into effect 1 January, 2004. Some of the provisions introduced include the following:

The maximum period of time that a person on a Work Permit may be allowed to reside in the Cayman Islands is seven years (per Section 50 (1) of the Immigration Law 2003).

Persons who are Work Permit holders and have been resident continuously in the Cayman Islands since at least 1 January, 1999, will be covered under transition provisions (per Section 50 (2) of the Immigration Law 2003). Such persons may be allowed sufficient work permits to allow them to complete at least eight years of continuous residency such that they may then apply for Permanent Residency.

Back in November CITA held a seminar for its members in which Chairman of the Work Permit Board David Ritch and the Business Staffing Plan Board Sophia Harris spoke about some of the anomalies of the law.

The purpose of the CITA survey is to gather information from member businesses on the number and proportion of their employees who fall under each of the categories relevant to certain provisions of the law. The CITA Board of Directors will then present this data to the Government and begin lobbying for changes to the Immigration Law 2003.

The CITA is a private sector member-based association and represents more than 220 active and allied members and is active in the areas of industry and government relations, marketing and events, industry development and membership services.