The head of the Cayman Islands’ Work Permit Board has disputed figures provided by government last month which detail the salary foreign workers must earn before their families are legally allowed to move here with them.
A statement recently read in the Legislative Assembly by Chief Secretary George McCarthy noted work permit holders who earned in excess of CI$3,000 per month could add one dependant to their permit. Another CI$500 per month would be needed for each additional dependant, Mr. McCarthy said.
Dependants are defined in Cayman Islands law as the non-working members of a work permit holder’s family including spouses, children, parents, grandparents or those for whom permit holders have legal guardianship.
Following the publication of an article on 22 February (see Caymanian Compass: ‘McCarthy: Discrimination non-existent’), the newspaper was contacted by members of the public who had been told the salary requirements for dependants were much higher.
Work Permit Board Chairwoman Sharon Roulstone confirmed in an e-mail on 25 February that the board’s policy was to require a CI$3,500 per month salary for the permit holder and one dependant, and an additional CI$1,000 per month for each dependant thereafter.
Ms Roulstone surmised that the CI$500 figure reported by Mr. McCarthy might have referred to one-time administrative fees charged by the Immigration Department to add dependants onto someone’s permit.
‘The (earning requirement) policy…is one that was in place when I first joined the board and has not been changed,’ Ms Roulstone said, ‘certainly not to reduce the level of earnings of a work permit holder since my appointment.’
‘Unless we receive a directive from Cabinet changing this in the future, the Work Permit Board will continue to implement the policy as it has always done,’ she said.
Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson said Immigration Law (2007 Revision) sets out broad guidelines under which a work permit application or renewal can be refused; among those reasons for refusal are insufficient funds to support dependants.
From section 44(d) of the law: ‘The sufficiency of the resources of the proposal salary of the worker and where his spouse is employed with the islands, those of his spouse, and his or their ability to adequately maintain his or her dependants…’ is an absolute requirement for first-time permit applicants, and may be considered for those seeking a permit renewal.
However, Mr. Manderson said neither the Immigration Law (2007 Revision) nor the accompanying regulations specify those salary requirements. He said those are set by the board.
The issue came up when a parliamentary question was asked in LA about whether Cayman was discriminating against certain nationalities when dependant applications were considered.
Close to 70 per cent of all dependants in the Cayman Islands belong to people from just four areas of the world: the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Jamaica.
Mr. Manderson said that disparity did not occur because of race or nationality. He said workers coming from the US, Canada, and the UK were simply earning more money than others.
The large number of Jamaican dependants corresponded to the large numbers of Jamaicans here on work permits. At the end of 2006, nearly 11,000 Jamaicans were in Cayman on work permits; at least four times more work permits than any other nationality currently holds.