British national Stephen Matthew Forsyth was fined $5,000 on Wednesday after pleading guilty to the charge of overstaying for six years.
He will remain in custody for six months in lieu of payment.
After hearing that Forsyth had held work permits in Cayman from 1987 until 2001, Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale said this case was one for the books.
Immigration officers who interviewed Forsyth had asked why he did not regularise his stay. He replied, ‘I don’t know. I just didn’t get around to it. First it was weeks, then it was six months, then it was years.’
The magistrate told Forsyth he was an unlikely defendant. Most people who get into problems with immigration are here because they were driven by economic need, she said. When they overstay, the offence is most often driven by fear. Forsyth had the benefit of greater exposure than most people who come to work in Cayman; the question of not knowing what to do did not arise.
An immigration officer advised the court that there had been two amnesties since 2001. Forsyth said he had not been aware of any amnesty.
He said he had stayed to look after a family member who was going through a difficult divorce. He lived with the relative, used his savings and had not worked since his last permit expired on 21 August 2001.
In outlining the facts, Crown Counsel Elisabeth Lees said immigration records had been checked due to information received. They showed that Forsyth’s last work permit was issued in 2000. He was contacted, came in for an interview on 19 July and acknowledged his overstaying. He admitted knowing it was an offence.
Ms Lees said there was no evidence he had worked in the past six years.
The magistrate asked what Forsyth could have done to regularise his situation. The immigration officer said it was unlikely he would have been able to get so many extensions to stay, but he could have applied for a work permit. He had previously worked as a carpenter; such a permit would have cost $1,350 per year.
The officer also advised that Forsyth’s relative was unaware that he had not regularised his stay.
Overstaying for this length of time warrants a custodial sentence, the magistrate said. But she considered two circumstances. One was that he did not seek to work without authorisation. The other was that his relative needed help and he may have thought he was the only one capable of rendering that assistance.
Forsyth told the court that his relative’s situation had eased and he intended to leave. He had already purchased a ticket back to the UK and was scheduled for a job interview there.
He was advised of his right to appeal within seven days.