Only four foreigners have overstayed their permission to remain in Cayman since new visa requirements were implemented for Jamaica and three Central American countries last November, Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson told the Finance Committee last week.
‘It’s the lowest number in the history of the Immigration system, I’m sure,’ said Mr. Manderson, asserting that the statistics were an indication the new visa system was working well.
Mr. Manderson said the last time he checked, there were only the four overstayers, and that it was quite possible that they had now left the Cayman Islands.
However, speaking after his appearance before the Finance Committee, Mr. Manderson said he was still unsure as to the number of Jamaican overstayers who were still in the islands from before the new visa requirements were implemented.
The main reason for this, he said, was that Immigration officers have been occupied with the on-going Cuban refugee landings in the Cayman Islands and have therefore been unable to resolve the matter of outstanding Jamaican overstayers.
When the Cayman Islands Government announced in October that it would impose visa requirements for four nations including Jamaica, Mr. Manderson said there were an estimated 1,500 Jamaicans illegally in Cayman.
Only 49 people took advantage of an overstaying amnesty offered late last year, 32 over which were Jamaicans.
While other Jamaicans have been repatriated since then, many of the number estimated remain unaccounted for. Some in the community, including Honorary Consul to Jamaica Robert Hamaty questioned the accuracy of the estimate at the time.
As another indication of the success of the new visa requirements, Mr. Manderson told the Finance Committee no one from the four countries had been denied entry to the Cayman Islands since 1 November 2005.
‘Prior to that, hundreds had been denied from Jamaican,’ he said.
In addition, because the visa holders have been pre-screened, the processing time from a flight from Jamaica has been decreased from approximately one hour forty-five minutes to twenty-five to thirty minutes, Mr. Manderson said.
The visa application system has improved as well as time has passed, Mr. Manderson said, noting that some people are getting visas within two hours.
‘There have been no complaints on the way we process our visas in many, many months,’ he said.
There are three Caymanians staffing the Cayman Islands visa office, and two people, one Jamaican and one Caymanian, staffing the office in Jamaica. A third staff member, a Canadian woman who was on hand in to help initially, is no longer with the Jamaica office, Mr. Manderson said.