Changes to Cayman Islands Immigration Law that aim to speed up the work permit approval process are expected to be voted on by lawmakers within a few weeks.
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts had initially said that no new laws would come before the Legislative Assembly in the current meeting, which is the fourth and final one scheduled for this budget cycle.
However, last week the government stated its intention to continue the meeting to allow consideration of a particular matter, which was presumed to be the Immigration Law changes.
The amendments will allow ‘non-controversial’ work permit applications and renewals to be decided by immigration staff as opposed to current law, which requires all of those matters to be vetted by the Work Permit Board.
‘There have been some delays, mostly from the immigration end, in terms of just putting everything together,’ Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson said. ‘But obviously we want to make sure everything is well-prepared.’
‘We’re doing a lot of work behind the scenes in terms of developing guidelines, developing job descriptions for our staff so that when change does come we’ll move very quickly,’ he said.
The problem various immigration-related boards have been batting for years in Cayman is one of sheer volume. According to government statistics, there were 6,400 people here on work permits in 1994. Ten years later there were about 19,000 work permits. At the end of 2006, more than 24,000 people in Cayman were here on work permits.
Mr. Manderson said the Work Permit Board can hear about 300 applications a week if it meets for a full day, twice a week. He said that’s not always possible since board members are volunteers who have other professional and personal responsibilities.
He estimated properly trained immigration staffers can handle some 600 work permit applications a week, which could free up the Work Permit Board to consider controversial cases more carefully.
The stated goal is to cut down the government’s work permit processing time to about 14 days for each application.
The legal changes are expected to set out how applications that are refused by immigration staff should be handled.
Mr. Manderson said a refusal notice should be sent to the concerned business the day after the decision is made. He said an audit system would also be created to identify situations where immigration staff had not dealt with a permit properly.
The process for appealing decisions on work permits made by immigration officers has not been clarified. Generally, work permits refused by the board can be brought before the Immigration Appeals Tribunal.