The Government announced a change in Immigration policy that will require employers to pre-qualify with the Immigration Department before applying for work permits.
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said the measure would combat work permit abuse by unscrupulous employers and provide better protection for Caymanians in the workplace.
‘The employer will be required to provide evidence that their business licensing is in order and that they are in good standing with respect to employee health and pension requirements,’ he said. ‘Employers who fail to do so will be ineligible to apply for work permits.’
The new measures are expected to come into effect within 90 days, Mr. Tibbetts said.
Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson, who was on hand to answer questions at the Cabinet press briefing, said it had not been decided yet whether all existing employers or just new employers would be required to pre-qualify.
‘We’re looking at that very carefully,’ he said. ‘But the main sectors we’re looking at are the sectors that abuse the system the most, like construction, janitorial and some of those sectors.’
Employers would be expected to keep their business licences and pension and health insurance payments up to date, and they would be subject to additional checks, Mr. Manderson said.
‘So this wouldn’t be a one-off process.’
In addition to protecting employees, the measure will help other employers by ensuring a level playing field when it comes to business expenses.
‘We often get complaints that some businesses have underbid and won jobs and that those employers don’t pay pensions or their business license,’ Mr. Manderson said.
Prior to formulating the new policy, a team from the Immigration Department travelled to the United Kingdom and studied a similar system in place in that country.
The new system could require more staff at Immigration.
‘…The pre-qualification of employers, that is something entirely new and we may need some resources in that area,’ Mr. Manderson said.
The policy could require more work of the private sector as well. Part of the pre-qualification process will require the Immigration Department to work closely with pension and health insurance providers to verify enrolment by employers.
‘We haven’t talked to [the private sector] about it yet, but we’ll have to,’ Mr. Manderson said. However, because it will be in the service providers’ best interest, he doesn’t anticipate a problem with the private sector.
‘[The pre-qualification requirement] will bring them a lot of business,’ he said. ‘Do you know how many people around here don’t have health insurance?’
Mr. Tibbetts said the pre-qualification requirement would also improve efficiency of the work permit granting process.
‘There will no longer be a need to vet the employer as part of the decision making process,’ he said. ‘With unscrupulous employers no longer able to apply for work permits, the number of applications being processed will also decrease and processing times will consequently improve.’