CITA calling for grace period

A brain drain will occur unless there is flexibility with the timeline for allowing applications for exempted employees, a special meeting to educate Cayman Islands Tourism Association members on the Business Staffing Plan heard. The CITA is calling for a grace period on this.

Mr. Rod McDowall was speaking and pointed out that for tourism, this is the biggest issue with the new Immigration Law – that employers cannot apply for an employee to be exempt at any time and that those who are on their last permit cannot now apply.

The employee must be designated for exemption on the grant or renewal of his/her work permit. If it goes beyond the term limit then it is too late.

President of the CITA Karie Bergstrom said that if a six to twelve month period was allowed for the application to be made it would help the tourism industry.

The CITA held a meeting for its members regarding the Business Staffing Plan Monday afternoon at the Hyatt Hotel. Chairing the meeting was President CITA Karie Bergstrom. Business Staffing Plan Board Chairperson Sophia Harris and Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson were on hand to answer questions.

The CITA already sent a letter to Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford lobbying for changes to the law because of potentially serious impacts it could have on the tourism industry.

Ms Harris said that Mr. McDowall’s concern is an aspect of the law that is being looked at.

Under the law an employee can remain on the islands under an approved work permit for seven years. Ordinarily, the Work Permit board shall not grant or renew his work permit until two years after he has left the islands. But an ‘exempt’ employee can remain on island up to nine years consecutively, to enable them to apply for permanent residency.

Ms. Bergstrom explained that since the law took effect, on 1 January 2004, any business with 15 or more work permit holders must submit a business Staffing Plan to the Business Staffing Plan Board. The deadline for this has been extended to December 2006.

It was noted that those businesses with fewer than 15 permit holders may also submit a business staffing plan.

Ms Harris explained that since the Business Staffing Plan Board has no backlog, any applications that are turned in to them are dealt with very efficiently. Once it is listed on the Board’s agenda it will be dealt with that day. Changes are taking place to eliminate a delay in submissions and once submitted the application should take no more than three to four days to get on the agenda, she said.

Mr. Manderson noted that the submission box is to the far left of the Immigration building.

Information to be put on the form, which can be obtained from the Immigration portal on includes:

Prepare documentation of training programmes and succession plans for Caymanians;

Prepare organisation charts for current state and future state of business;

A cover letter explaining your business, its structure and plans for its future;

Review your positions and decide why a position should be exempted;

Prepare a business case outlining a future case for work permits, including plans for recruitment strategies for attracting Caymanians.

Ms Harris pointed out that if any business is having trouble recruiting staff, such as the difficulty of recruiting dive-masters in the tourism industry, then this needs to be conveyed to the board.

‘Take the opportunity to educate the board on the needs of your industry,’ she said.

Ms. Bergstrom also urged members to let the board know the lengths they have to go to in order to recruit staff. ‘They need to know all your challenges,’ she said.

What had previously been referred to as key position on the form is now known as exempted position, and this denotes purely a position and not a person.

The purpose of denoting exempt positions is to identify the key needs of your business.

If you wish a particular employee to be exempted, then you need to apply for them to be specifically an exempted employee. They then have the right to apply for Permanent Residency if exemption is granted to them.

Once the Business Staffing Plan has been submitted the business owner will be invited in front of the board for a meeting. Ms Bergstrom said this is where they can voice their challenges to the board and discuss their three to five year plan.

Mr. Manderson said they are anticipating much more work for the Business Staffing Plan Board by the end of the year and are being pro-active in getting more staff to cater to this. Ms. Bergstrom urged businesses to get their plans in now while there is no backlog.

Ms Harris said that the bottom line for making tourism personnel exempt will be their level of qualifications.

Mr. Manderson said that the nine month fixed term limit law will be coming into effect any day now. This is geared towards those whose term limits have expired and who are not eligible to apply for PR and are crucial for the business, to allow them to stay for a nine month fixed term to allow the employer to search for a replacement. This is a non-renewable permit.

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