Major statutory changes to the system of granting work permits must be made to significantly reduce the processing times for annual permits.
Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson told the membership of the Cayman Islands Society of Human Resource Professionals that the Immigration Department has been unable to realise a significant reduction in the time it takes to process a work permit grant. The grant process is currently about two and a half months behind, he said.
‘Having reviewed this area of our business, I am convinced that to achieve a significant reduction in the processing times of annual work permits, we will have to overhaul the work permit system,’ he said.
Mr. Manderson said the government would have to explore the option of making statutory provisions for more work permit grant decisions to be made by Immigration Department staff instead of the Immigration Board.
‘I have no doubt that such a system can be implemented with the proper safeguards to protect Caymanians, prevent abuse and ensure consistency in decision making,’ he said.
Mr. Manderson acknowledged that he would need the Government’s support to make the changes he suggested.
‘Obviously, the introduction of such a system will rest with the political directorate,’ he said. ‘However, I firmly believe this is the way forward.’
Mr. Manderson did have some good news for the CISHRP members: he said renewals applications for annual work permits were now being processed in about four weeks, as compared to five months a half year ago.
The Immigration Board must spend much more time on an initial application for a work permit grant than on a renewal, Mr. Manderson said.
‘Renewals are much easier for the Board. The hard work goes into the grant.’
The granting of temporary work permits are already handled administratively by the Immigration Department and not the Immigration Board.
Mr. Manderson praised his staff, and particularly Senior Assistant Chief Immigration Officer Dolcy Powery for their commitment in the timely processing of temporary work permits, which he said only take a few working days to approve now.
The period immediately following Hurricane Ivan, when many additional foreign workers were needed to help Grand Cayman rebuild, was the busiest period in the history of the Immigration Department, Mr. Manderson said.
The volume of work generated by Hurricane Ivan included the issuing of 21,135 temporary work permits in the one-year period between September 2004 and September 2005. In the following one-year period, 13,884 temporary work permits were issue.
Mr. Manderson also reported a significant reduction in the time it takes to communicate an Immigration Board decision.
‘Those of you who had work permits dealt with at Monday’s Work Permit Board meeting can expect to receive the approval letters early next week,’ he said. ‘This is a tremendous accomplishment of the [Immigration] Department.’