Cabinet Minster Alden McLaughlin defended the recently amended Permanent Residency points system Friday when asked if was unfair to Jamaicans.
The new Immigration Regulations, which are dictated by Government policy and not statute, were gazetted on 8 September, and are already in force for use by the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board, Mr. McLaughlin said.
Under the new regulations, people applying for permanent residency can earn up to 20 points depending on the percentage that people of their nationality make up of all of those on work permits in the Cayman Islands.
Based on the demographic statistics on work permit holders released by the Immigration Department earlier this year, Jamaicans would earn zero points and people from all other nations would earn at least 15 points or more.
However, Mr. McLaughlin said the current points system is fairer to Jamaicans than the previous one.
‘The Permanent Residency Board is no longer entitled to deduct points based on nationality,’ he said. ‘Under the old system, if you were Jamaican, you got points deducted. Under the new regime, there is not a point deduction for nationality, although you can get more points if your nationality has less representation,’ he said.
The previous regulations required applicants to score at least 100 out of 200 possible points to be considered for permanent residency. The Permanent Residency Board was allowed to deduct 50 points from the applications of people from any country the Cabinet decided was a ‘restricted country’. The regulations stated the reason for the provision was ‘to ensure a balance of applicants from different geographical areas’.
There are 205 points possible under the new regulations, but the minimum score required for a successful application remains at 100.
A section of new regulation headed General still states the Permanent Residency Board ‘may take into consideration the desirability of granting permanent residence to applicants with different backgrounds and different geographical areas in order to maintain a suitable balance in the social and economic life of the country’.
Applicants of nations with 20 per cent or more of the total work permit labour force at the time of hearing the application get zero points; those with 16 to 19 per cent of the work permit labour force get five points; those with 11 to 15 per cent of the labour force get 10 points; those with six to 10 per cent of the labour force get 15 points; and those from nations that make up five per cent or less of the work permit labour force get a full 20 points.
Jamaicans currently make up nearly half of the work permit labour force, which means they are not even close to the threshold for earning points in the General section. As of May of this year, Filipinos had the second most nationals on work permits here, but the figure still represented less than 10 per cent of the total work permit labour force, meaning they would get 15 points on a permanent residency application based on the May statistics.
Canadians, Hondurans, Americans and UK citizens would all qualify for 15 points based on the May figures, while people from all other nationalities would get the full 20 points.
Mr. McLaughlin said there was no quota in place for the number of people who would get permanent residency under the new regulations.
Asked if he thought more people would acquire permanent residency under the new regulations, Mr. McLaughlin said, ‘absolutely.’
Fellow Cabinet member Arden McLean also said the new regulations are fairer.
‘If you hit that magic number (of 100 points), you get permanent residency,’ he said, noting that under the old regulations, the Permanent Residency Board still had discretion to refuse the application of someone who scored at least 100 points on their residency application.
‘If you have jumped through all the hoops (in doing what it takes to score at least 100 points), you deserve permanent residency,’ Mr. McLean said.
However, there is a provision in the new regulations that allow the Permanent Residency Board to deduct from any application an unlimited amount of points for ‘other mitigating factors’ with the following explanation: ‘The Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board reserves the right to refuse the grant of Permanent Residency to an applicant on the basis that such grant would be contrary and not conducive to the public interest.’