Canadian fined for overstaying

A young Canadian who stayed in Cayman for more than a year after his work permit expired was fined $500 last Thursday.

Jesse Mark Schermann, 22, pleaded guilty to overstaying: specifically, that he was found at Owen Roberts Airport on 17 January 2008 when his authorisation to remain had expired in December 2006.

Crown Counsel Nichole Petit said Immigration officers stopped him while he was attempting to leave the jurisdiction.

A check of records showed Schermann had a temporary work permit that had expired on 20 December 2006. He received an extension until 27 December 2006. ‘No further extensions were granted or applied for,’ Ms Petit reported.

Schermann had worked as a kitchen helper at a restaurant with a bar.

Attorney Lee Freeman spoke in mitigation and asked Magistrate Grace Donalds to consider giving Schermann a conditional discharge.

He said the young man was half way through college and had decided to come to Cayman and work to get a bit of money. When he arrived, his employer demanded 12-hour shifts and more hours than he was prepared to work – more than the standard work week in the Labour Law.

Schermann and the employer parted company and the seven-day extension was applied for.

Meanwhile, he was offered a job at another restaurant with a bar.

Schermann had been living with his parents, both of whom work in Cayman. His mother went to the Immigration Department and asked what his position was.

Mr. Freeman said she was told that when his permission to stay lapsed, he should come in and get a further stamp; as long as the work permit application came in before then, he was okay to stay.

Schermann supplied the required medical exam and other papers to his potential new employer. He then waited. And waited. By June he was getting sceptical and frustrated. When he asked, his potential employer told him the permit would not come through until October or November.

He decided to go home, having no idea he was staying illegally. It was when he presented his passport at the airport that his true position was revealed, Mr. Freeman said.

He asked for a discharge rather than a conviction because of what he called extenuating circumstances. Overstaying is a strict liability offence and ignorance is no excuse, he agreed. But Schermann did not know he was overstaying and he did not work during that time.

The embarrassment of being in court for the first time in his life and the necessity for his parents to bear any financial penalty were sufficient punishment, Mr. Freeman suggested. He also handed up two testimonials.

The magistrate said she found it difficult to believe that anyone would wait for a work permit for a year without making further inquiry. If that did occur, however, she did not find it amounted to any exceptional circumstance.