More power for immigration chief

The Cayman Islands chief immigration officer will be given limited ability to decide whether certain work permits will be approved, according to a proposed amendment to the islands’ Immigration Law.

According to the Immigration (Amendment) Bill, 2008, the immigration chief or a designated staff member may unilaterally grant a work permit, or approve a permit renewal, without the application going to the Work Permit Board if no Caymanian has applied for the job, and if the islands’ employment database has identified no Caymanians suited for the position.

The amendment could come before the Legislative Assembly later this year.

The proposal also allows the chief immigration officer to unilaterally approve grants of final work permits where permanent residence applications have been refused, changes to work permits that don’t involve promotions or job switches and certain situations where permits for married couples need to be regularised.

The proposal, if approved, would not prevent the Work Permit Board from reviewing a permit in any particular case where dispute has arisen.

The amendment also does not allow the chief immigration officer or their designee to revoke work permits, grant a worker key employee status, approve business staffing plans or waive legal requirements to advertise a job.

The business community has generally voiced support for these changes, which aim to speed up the process of approving work permit applications. Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson has estimated applications for full year or multi-year permits are now taking an average of three months to approve.

The Immigration Department’s stated goal is to reduce permit application processing time to three months.

The proposal also allows, for the first time, seasonal workers to be granted an eight month work permit. The permit is non-renewable and the grantee would have to spend at least three months off island after the permit has expired.

Many businesses, particularly in the hospitality industry, have pushed for the longer, eight-month permits because six-month temporary work permits often require a worker to get their contract renewed just to stay through the entire season they’ve been hired to work.

Temporary work permits for entertainers who come to the islands will also require the chief immigration officer to consider the nature of the performance, and whether a local artist or act has been included in the show.

As previously reported by the Caymanian Compass, work permit holders and applicants would be required to be fingerprinted before their permits are approved.

The proposal would also make a few changes to requirements for permanent residents.

Among the most notable is an amendment that would allow permanent residence to be lost if the person ‘fails to maintain the required prescribed minimum level of financial standing.’

Mr. Manderson said the idea is to prevent an applicant from buying a property simply to obtain permanent residence, and then selling that property as soon as residency has been granted. Permanent residents wouldn’t be prevented from selling their property, but they are required to maintain a property at least the same value.

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