The Cayman Islands’ seven-year term limit on residency for foreign workers is accomplishing its purpose and is not creating a ‘brain drain’ among skilled professional job categories, according to Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts.
Mr. Tibbetts revealed figures in the Legislative Assembly Friday that show a major slow-down in applications for permanent residency so far in 2008.
He also confirmed and expanded on figures reported earlier by Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson that showed the number of work permits being granted in professional job categories have actually increased since 2004, when the term limit policy first took effect.
A number of local agencies, most notably the Chamber of Commerce, have urged government to take another look at the term limit policy after members said the policy was making recruiting workers more difficult.
Some government agencies have requested exemptions from the term limits, often called the rollover policy, when it takes effect. Those agencies include the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and the Cayman Islands Tourism Association.
Mr. Tibbetts said Friday that recent statistics were proving recruiting fears to be unfounded.
‘Our own assessments and data…point to the term limit policy achieving its goal, namely to reduce the number of persons who qualify for permanent residence, while at the same time allowing personnel who are key to a company’s operations to be able to remain longer and become eligible to apply for permanent residence,’ Mr. Tibbetts said.
Applications for permanent residence have indeed fallen off so far in 2008.
Between 2004 and 2007, the government has received 3,788 applications for permanent residence, or roughly 950 applications per year.
Thus far in 2008, only 162 people have applied for permanent residency in Cayman.
Mr. Manderson has said that drop off was expected for some time as a number of those people who were here long enough to apply for permanent residency before the term limit policy took effect turned their applications in within a short period of time.
Eventually, he said, those requests would be handled and the application rate would slow. However, the government still has more than 2,000 permanent residence applications outstanding.
Mr. Manderson said since the term limit policy was implemented in 2004, work permits granted in professional job categories had gone up by nearly 50 per cent. That includes professional category jobs within government where workers are brought in on contract.
Work permits granted to accountants since 2004 have gone up 94 per cent, permits for lawyers increased 54 per cent and work permits for professional managers have seen a 24 per cent increase.
Mr. Tibbetts also noted that most key employee status applications since 2004 have been approved. Those before the Work Permit Board have been approved at a rate of 65 per cent, while key employee applications before the Business Staffing Plan Board have been approved at a rate of 79 per cent.
‘The term limit policy has not resulted in an exodus of business or a brain drain of professionals,’ Mr. Tibbetts said. ‘Quite the opposite has occurred.’