There is a wide variance in approvals of key employee requests from Cayman Islands businesses based on which immigration board reviews the application.
Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson said earlier this year that the Work Permit Board has approved key employee applications at a rate of about 50 per cent. The Business Staffing Plan Board is approving those requests around 85 per cent of the time.
Key employee designations under Cayman Islands Immigration Law are the only way a work permit holder who is not married to a Caymanian can stay in the country long enough to apply for permanent residence; the right to live in Cayman for the rest of their lives. If that key status is not granted, the employee must leave the islands following seven consecutive years of residing here.
Employees have no choice in whether they are designated as ‘key’ at their jobs. Companies must first agree to apply on the individual’s behalf for key employee status and the appropriate immigration board must then decide whether that position meets a certain criteria to obtain the designation.
Any business which employs 15 or more people on work permits must submit a business staffing plan to the Business Staffing Plan Board. That board will rule on accepting any of the key employee designations made within that plan.
Those businesses that have fewer than 15 work permit holders employed do not have to submit a staffing plan to board, though they may do so if they wish. However, if no staffing plan is submitted then the Work Permit Board handles key employee requests on behalf of those companies.
Business Staffing Plan Board Chairman Andrew Reid said the disparity in key employee application success rates is reflective of the respective employee categories dealt with by the Work Permit and Business Staffing Plan Boards.
‘Most key employee designation applications received by the BSP Board are for managerial, professional and technically skilled employees who, more often than not, satisfy the relevant criteria,’ Mr. Reid wrote in response to Caymanian Compass questions.
In other words, companies that come before the staffing plan board know the specific types of positions they’re applying for generally fit key employee criteria.
‘If you have a company that employs 40 gardeners, it’s going to be hard for them to argue any of those positions for key employee,’ Mr. Manderson said.
A key employee designation can be made if the board hearing the application believes it meets at least one of the following criteria: the worker is recognised as having particular expertise in their field; they are directly involved in training Caymanians; the position the worker holds is in short supply globally; the worker’s absence will cause serious hardship to the employer; the loss of the worker’s business contacts will hurt the company; or if there are other economic or social benefits to retaining the worker.
Mr. Reid said the size, resources, or particular type of business applying shouldn’t make any difference in the granting of key employee status.
He said the Business Staffing Plan Board has so far approved key employee designations for chief financial officers, attorneys, CEOs, teachers, pharmacists, master carpenters, network engineers, executive chefs, bakery managers, guest services managers and diving instructors among others.
‘The applicants cover a wide range of industry sectors/employee categories,’ he said.
A key employee designation only allows a worker to remain in Cayman for a further two years, meaning they can stay a maximum of nine years before their term limit is reached. A permanent residence application can be made after someone has been legally and ordinarily resident on island for eight consecutive years.