The Government made no substantial changes to the draft immigration amendment bill concerning the term limit policy following the pubic consultation period.
However, the government did put in safeguards to the provision of the law whereby Cabinet can designate certain professions or vocations as key employees.
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts outlined the proposed changes to the provision at the Cabinet press briefing on Friday.
‘The issue of the Governor-in-Cabinet designating workers in particular occupations as key employees was an issue that received considerable comment from the public,’ he said.
‘After careful consideration, the Cabinet Committee remained strongly of the view that the provision should remain, but also agreed that the relevant section should be redrafted to ensure that there are adequate checks and balances with respect to the exercise of power.’
Mr. Tibbetts said the Cabinet could only designate occupations that meet strict criteria as set out in Regulations as automatically key employees. He said the regulations were being drafted now, and that they could be tabled in the Legislative Assembly at the same time the immigration amendment bill is on 28 December.
Key employees are allowed to receive up to nine work permits, which will allow them to remain here long enough to become eligible to apply for permanent residence after eight years.
In order for an occupation to be considered for the automatic designation as key employees by the Cabinet, it must meet one of three criteria: there must be a global shortage of people in the profession; the government must have a desire to attract the certain type of business to the country that the people of the profession work in; or there must be difficulty in attracting or retaining workers in the particular profession.
In addition, any decision made by the Cabinet with respect to the designation of workers of a particular profession as key employees is subject to disallowance in the Legislative Assembly by a negative resolution.
Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin admitted that the measure did not mean the Opposition could block the move if it did not approve of the Cabinet’s decision because it did not have enough votes to sway matter in the House.
‘The objective is transparency and accountability,’ he said. ‘It gives Members [of the Legislative Assembly] an opportunity to debate.’
There were a few other changes to the draft Immigration Amendment Bill released in September that substantively related to the rollover policy.
One change concerned the length of time an employer must wait to reapply for an employee to be considered a key employee. Whereas there was no time limit specified in the draft bill, the new bill proposes a minimum time frame of three months.
Another proposed change relating to the rollover policy is that people who regularly come to the Cayman Islands on temporary work permits for genuine short-term employment – such as visiting doctors, legal counsel, skilled specialist tradesmen and travelling salesmen – will not be subject to the term limit policy.
‘The key is that the temporary work permit must be for genuinely temporary employment only,’ Mr. Tibbetts said.
The Government did make some important changes to other proposed amendments to the Immigration Law.
In particular, the Cabinet has backed away from the provision that would not have allowed the holder of a temporary work permit to remain working here pending the outcome of a full work permit application.
‘After further review, it was decided to revert to the previous position…’ Mr. Tibbetts said. ‘However, a provision is also being introduced whereby if the one-year application is refused, the applicant will only be refunded the proportion of the work permit fee that has not been worked.’
Also with regard to temporary work permits, the bill proposes a provision requiring a person be outside the Cayman Islands when a temporary work permit application is being processed.
‘The onus will now be on the prospective employer to satisfy the Chief Immigration Officer that the worker concerned is not present in the Islands as a visitor while the application for the temporary permit is being considered,’ Mr. Tibbetts said, adding that if an applicant is found to be here, the application will not be considered.
The bill also includes a provision that allows people who are working by operation of law after applying for permanent residence to work for any employer they want. In addition, if the person’s permanent residence application is refused, he or she will also be able to work for any employer for the final work permit they can receive.
Mr. Tibbetts said this provision was done to protect the worker who is terminated after having his or her permanent residence application refused.
‘Some employers might not want to keep an employee on for another year if their permanent residence application is denied because they would know they just have to find someone else,’ he said. ‘We don’t want to disenfranchise [employees] the right to conclude their affairs here.’