More than 3,200 people are working in the Cayman Islands without a permit or government contract while they await a ruling on immigration applications.
According to data released by the Immigration Department this week, about 69 per cent of those people are Jamaican.
Cayman Islands Immigration Law sets a general seven-year term limit on foreign workers’ residency, but allows some people to stay long enough to apply for Permanent Residence after eight years. PR applicants can remain on island and work as an operation of the law until a ruling is made on their application by the Permanent Residency and Caymanian Status Board.
As of Wednesday, Immigration Department data showed 3,260 people were working in the Cayman Islands as an operation of law
Most people working as an operation of law are awaiting rulings on permanent residence applications. However, there are other legal circumstances under which a person would be allowed to work while awaiting, for example, the approval of key employee status, or awaiting an appeal of a work permit which has been denied.
When Cayman enacted the seven-year term limit on foreign workers’ residency in January 2004, it allowed work permit holders who had been in the country for at least five years to stay long enough to apply for permanent residence. Anyone who hadn’t been here long enough, or who came to the island after term limits were adopted, would have to be granted what’s known as key employee status in order to stay and apply for PR.
Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson was recently asked during a luncheon with the Cayman Islands Society of Professional Accountants how the permanent residence application process was going.
‘Not good,’ Mr. Manderson replied.
The chief immigration officer noted there were still thousands of applications for permanent residence pending before the board, and that board members were hearing those applications at the rate of about 50 per week.
At that rate, it would take the board well more than a year to clear pending permanent residence applications, even if it received no new applications for PR in that time.
‘Some persons have been waiting as long as three and a half, four years on their results,’ Mr. Manderson told the accountants group. ‘That is unacceptable. I know that the Chairman (of the Permanent Residency and Caymanian Status Board) is anxious to get this matter resolved.’
Mr. Manderson said permanent residence applications, by their very nature, take a long time for board members to consider. Since permanent residence grants the applicant the right to stay in Cayman for the rest of their lives – barring certain circumstances like the conviction of a major crime – he said board members don’t want to make an irrevocable mistake.
If there is a spot of hope for busy board members and anxious PR applicants, it may be in the fact that the number of people asking for permanent residence has declined sharply this year.
According to Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts, the government had received just 162 applications for permanent residency through Friday, 27 June of this year.
In the four previous years, government received just less than 950 PR applications per year.
The drop off was expected for some time as a number of those people who were here before the term limit policy took effect turned in their applications within a short period.
Government records also show that 689 people have been granted permanent residence since May 2005, when the current People’s Progressive Movement government took office. Another 772 people have had their PR applications denied, meaning there has been a 47 per cent approval rate over that period.