Today’s Editorial for July 18: A thankless job

You have to feel for the people who accept appointments to any one of the three Immigration Boards.

But those on the Work Permit Board probably deserve a special badge of merit for the service they contribute to this country.

They basically spend 40 per cent of the workweek in meetings reviewing applications for work permit grants, work permit renewals, key employees and appeals; all for a measly $100 per meeting.

Not surprisingly, the WPB has a high turnover of members, as people discover they just can’t cope with the time demands of the position.

No one can really blame them; even love of country has its limits when it starts to affect a person’s primary means of making a living or their home life.

There is a plan to reduce the workload of the WPB and the Business Staffing Plan Board by allowing certain applications – like non-controversial work permit renewals – to be dealt with administratively by the Immigration Department.

But even when the necessary amendment to the Immigration Law is made allowing the administrative grants of some work permits, the Immigration boards now and in the future will still face a growing demand on their time as the population here grows.

Once upon a time, not all that long ago, the Immigration boards dealt with four or five hundred applications a year. The WPB alone had some 400 applications on its agenda this week in its two scheduled meetings.

Now, with more than 25,000 non-Caymanians in the workforce, the board system just isn’t working. The sheer scale of the Immigration situation here has outgrown volunteerism for what is being asked of these people. With a limited number of people willing and able to sit on the boards, it is not practical or even fair to continue asking so much of so few.

It is time the government begins looking at ways to simplify the work permit process and reduce the reliance on Immigration boards, beyond just having the Immigration Department review work permit renewals.

Now that the rollover policy limits how long most non-Caymanians can stay here, why shouldn’t work permit grants be almost automatic?

If there are no Caymanians available to do a certain job, and as long as an applicant doesn’t have a criminal record and doesn’t have a serious health problem, what’s wrong with an employer choosing whom they want to hire? Nationality quotas, if they are truly deemed necessary, are easy to incorporate into such a scheme and the Immigration boards could then focus on the much fewer and more important key employee applications.

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