Half PR grants OK’d

Roughly half of the applications for permanent residence reviewed since the new point system went into effect last year have been granted.

‘It’s pretty close to 50-50,’ said Chairman of the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board Anthony Scott of the success rate.

Mr. Scott said that his board had only dealt with about 40 or 50 applications so far for people qualifying on the basis that they had been here eight years. But he said he believed the success rate would hold true for all the applications submitted by people with a legitimate chance to attain the necessary 100 points outlined in the various categories of the Immigration Law Regulations.

‘What I had in mind from the trials or dry runs we did on applications during the process of the [Immigration Law] review was that about 50 per cent would be successful,’ he said. ‘That is what I reckon it will produce over a period of time.’

The new regulations were gazetted on 8 September, however several factors have prevented more permanent residence applications from being reviewed.

For one, Mr. Scott said, his board had to come up with formulas for applying the points in the various categories outlined in the new regulations.

‘We had to get the formulas down pat so we can be consistent,’ he said. ‘The only way you can [be consistent] is to come up with some formulas. I’m now confident we can remain consistent in what we do with regard to the point system.’

Mr. Scott said his board dealt with two or three agendas last year before it broke for Christmas and it also met 4 January. Last week’s agenda did not deal with the eight-year category of applications, but instead with the 15-year category of applications.

Another reason so few permanent residence applications have been reviewed is that there is significant number of incomplete applications, especially those submitted from 2004.

‘What has unfortunately held us up the last two months are files with missing information,’ Mr. Scott said.

Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson said it is the Immigration Department that sets the agendas for the Permanent Residency Board. He said the department tries its best to put the applications that have been there longest on the agenda first.

‘But we’re having a hard time finding enough applications that are suitable to be sent to the board.’

In December the Permanent Residency Board issued a press release through Government Information Services reminding people that their applications had to be fully completed in order to avoid delays in processing or possible rejection of the application. It gave people until 8 January to submit the missing information.

The press release also advised applicants to update their contact information if it had changed.

Mr. Manderson said his staff was diligently trying to get the additional information needed, but that in some cases, they were having great difficulties in contacting the applicant. Even when some applicants are contacted, the requested information has not been forthcoming.

‘Some people we just can’t get a hold of,’ Mr. Manderson said. ‘I don’t know if they are deliberately avoiding us or not.’

Mr. Manderson thinks that in some cases there is intentional avoidance not to cooperate with the requests.

‘What I’m concerned about is that some people are not bringing in the information when it’s requested,’ said Mr. Manderson. ‘It’s obvious that some people don’t want to have their applications reviewed by the board.’

Mr. Manderson believes some people who do not have a good chance of getting permanent residence are just trying to stall the process by not bringing in the necessary information so they can stay here longer.

Some of the information missing from the applications includes references, updated medicals, police clearances, and proof of ownership in properties.

In some cases of older applications, some information might even need to be updated.

Mr. Scott said it is to the applicants’ advantage to update any property appraisals on file or any other asset information that has changed since the application was submitted.

‘If assets have accrued or there have been any increases in property value, it is in their interest to get that information to us because we will take the value now, not when they submitted the application.’

The number of applications with missing information is significant

‘Of the applications we were reviewing, I’d say 50 per cent of the files were missing information,’ Mr. Scott said.

Time is running out for the people with incomplete applications to get the required information in.

‘We take all the reasonable steps to make contact and I tell my staff to write down their attempts,’ Mr. Manderson said.

Now that the 8 January deadline for information has passed, incomplete applications can be sent to the board as they are, which could lead to them being rejected.

‘If the application fails, that’s the way it is,’ Mr. Manderson said.

The issue should not be as much of a problem going into the future. The Immigration Department now checks over the application for missing information, but those procedures were not in place back in 2004.

Mr. Manderson said the quality of applications submitted more recently has been better, possibly because more people are using attorneys or other immigration consultants, which is something he endorses.

‘Considering what you’re applying for – the right to reside in the Cayman Islands for the rest of your life – I would do everything in my power to make sure the application is complete as possible and not leave anything to chance.’

Mr. Manderson said people in the business of handling applications for permanent residence like attorneys or immigration consultants know what is needed on the applications and can make the process easier.

The Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board will have its work cut out for it this year to get through the backlog.

Mr. Scott said there were about 2,300 applications pending with eligibility based on eight years of residence as of the end of October 2006. A number of additional applications came in the last two months of the year as people who qualified to apply under the transition provisions of the 2004 Immigration Law amendments rushed to meet the deadline.

The board plans to begin meeting three times a week, perhaps as soon as next week, Mr. Scott said.

‘I’m committed and determined to get through a least 100 applications a week.’

Mr. Scott said the Board will meet Thursdays starting from between 9am and 10am until they get through the agenda; on Saturdays starting at 8.30am or 9am for a partial day; and on Tuesday afternoons from 1 pm until as long as it takes to get through the agenda.