Although the Business Staffing Plan Board did make a decision recently that caused concern for the Work Permit Board, the latter’s members did not go on strike as reported in other media Tuesday.
Work Permit Board Chairperson Sharon Roulstone said she wished to emphatically state the board was not on strike.
‘Both my board members and I understand our responsibilities to the wider Cayman public and we would not allow one incident to distract us from those said responsibilities,’ she said.
Mrs. Roulstone confirmed that the issue arose because the Business Staffing Plan Board approved a key employee application that had previously been denied by the Work Permit Board.
‘As a result of this, the WPB naturally wished to know if this procedure was correct in law as it was not aware that is was possible according to its reading of the Immigration Law (2007 Revision),’ she said.
Work permit applications and key employee applications either go to the Work Permit Board or, if the company has a Business Staffing Plan, to the Business Staffing Plan Board. Companies that have 15 or more work permit holders are required to have Business Staffing Plans; those with fewer than 15 work permit holders can voluntarily apply for Business Staffing Plans.
Key employee status allows a non-Caymanian to be eligible to receive work permits for nine years, rather than the seven years proscribed by the term limit provisions of the Immigration Law. After being legally resident in the Cayman Islands for at least eight years, a work permit holder is eligible to apply for Permanent Residence.
An application for key employee status must be made before the expiration of a person’s final work permit. A board’s decision to deny a key employee application cannot be appealed; however an employer may reapply with respect to that employee as long there are at least 90 days remaining on his or her work permit at the time it was denied.
Although Mrs. Roulstone said she could not go into many details about the particular case in question for reasons of confidentiality, she did discuss some aspects of what caused the issue.
‘I can confirm that the individual concerned did not have the requisite 90 days remaining on his permit, which is what raised one of the questions of legality,’ she said.
The company that had submitted the key employee application had already submitted a Business Staffing Plan application as well, but that application had not been approved. In order to have the authority to grant a key employee status application for the individual, the BSP Board first had to approve the Business Staffing Plan application.
Once there is a Business Staffing Plan in place for a company, the Work Permit Board has no authority to decide on work permit or key employee applications with respect to that company.
If an individual has more than 90 days remaining on his or her final work permit and a Business Staffing Plan for the employing company is subsequently approved and then another application for key employee is made with respect to that individual, Mrs. Roulstone said it then seemed reasonable that the matter should go to the BSPB.
‘But this is not clear in the law,’ she said. ‘You have to look at the intention of the Law and it is my respectful view that the law did not contemplate, at the time of drafting, one board having to take over the workload of another board and this kind of situation evolving as a result.
Mrs. Roulstone said the Immigration Law did not specifically provide procedure for what happened.
‘However, it is my view, according to the wording of the law, that the intention of the law must be that the board originally considering the application is the proper board to hear the subsequent application but again, that is just my personal interpretation.’
Despite the issue, the Work Permit Board continued its work.
‘The Work Permit Board did not strike last week as reported,’ she reiterated. ‘[It] met on Monday the 19th but was unable to meet on Wednesday the 21st due to a technicality. But in any event, it would likely not have been able to continue if it had met since both my deputy, Chris Hew, and I were called into a meeting with the Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts and Minister Alden McLaughlin,’ she said.
In addition to that meeting with Cabinet members, Mrs. Roulstone said she had spoken to Business Staffing Board Chairman Andrew Reid about what happened.
‘We all had to be part of the resolution of this matter,’ she said.
Ultimately, Mrs. Roulstone expects Cabinet to issue directives on the issue.
‘I think the matter has been discussed sufficiently so that there should not be a repeat of this kind of issue in the future,’ she said.
The Work Permit Board met as usual on Monday morning, Mrs. Roulstone confirmed.