Tourism industry eyes seasonal permits

Seasonal work permits are on the way for the tourism industry, greatly benefiting the industry, according to Immediate Past President of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association Karie Bergstrom.

‘That’s the parting gift that we have fought really hard for,’ said Ms Bergstrom in her outgoing speech to CITA members at the organisation’s AGM recently.

A seasonal work permit would allow an employer to employ a worker during high season (when demand for employees is at its highest within the industry) for up to eight months.

Cabinet has given the approval for the concept of seasonal workers, while the enabling legislation still has to be approved. It then must be passed in the Legislative Assembly before it becomes law.

It is planned that the legislation will be passed before the end of June, said Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson.

The CITA had approached Cabinet on the matter in the interests of the tourism industry.

‘We requested it over a year ago from Cabinet when we spoke to them about some of the challenges facing the tourism industry and how the [seven year] term limits may affect business,’ Ms Bergstrom said.

She said the CITA came up with the suggestion for a seasonal permit, which would be restricted to the tourism industry and allows a worker to be brought in for up to eight months in high season.

‘A seasonal permit is specifically set up for the tourism industry. Basically it is a seasonal permit for someone you need to bring in to get you through your high season,’ she told attendees at the AGM.

‘We know that once high season is done you’ve got all this staff, and you’ve just paid for a one year permit and what do you do with this person? We’ve heard from businesses and the members that we only need them here seven or eight months.

‘You have a seasonal permit, once it’s over it’s non-renewable until [at least] three months go by, which is the reason you have the seasonal permit.’

Ms Bergstrom explained that the seasonal work permits would allow seasonal workers to enter the country in November for some training, to start work in mid-December and to go home some time after Easter.

Mr. Manderson said that these work permits will be dealt with administratively and not by an immigration board.

They will be subject to a term limit of seven years as other work permit holders.