Employer rating scheme proposed

Part of an Immigration Department plan that will require businesses to pre-qualify before being granted any work permits for foreign workers will include a rating system for those employers.

Details of proposal are expected to be presented to the Cayman Islands Cabinet later this month. If Cabinet accepts the idea, a draft of the plan will be circulated for public review.

Government officials announced plans to implement a pre-qualification system for employers in the Cayman Islands in late 2007. In general, all companies would have to show they are up to date with both pension and health care coverage requirements for employees, and have registered with the Department of Employment Relations, if the plan is eventually approved.

‘We will make very clear to employers what they need to do in order to become accredited with the Immigration Department, in other words to…obtain work permits,’ Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson said.

Following accreditation being received, Mr. Manderson said a ‘very open and transparent process’ will ensue to rate each company. Under the proposal to be submitted to Cabinet, the rating system has been set up in tiers; the higher the tier, the more ‘advantages’ a business will have with immigration.

‘We’ll look at things like having your own account manager, guaranteeing a set…time for your (work permit) application, as short as five days, or whether you want to have a guarantee on a number of (work permit decisions,’ Mr. Manderson said.

He cautioned that all plans are still in the formative stages and that businesses and the public would have plenty of time to review them and make comments before the final draft heads to the Legislative Assembly for approval.

If companies are not accredited by immigration, then applications for new permits or work permit renewals will simply not be considered.

‘(The new system) is not just rewarding (good) employers, but also for policing bad employers,’ Mr. Manderson said. ‘I can’t tell you how much time we spend trying to identify unscrupulous employees while…applications that are genuine are sitting in a pile waiting to be dealt with.’

There are more than 25,000 people employed in the Cayman Islands on work permits, government contracts or working here while awaiting decisions on applications for permanent residence.

Mr. Manderson also noted that certain changes to Cayman’s Immigration Law approved late last year are aimed at making the work permit application process go more smoothly for companies.

He said some 70 work permits had been processed by immigration officers, rather than the Work Permit Board, between 5 January and 15 January. Although that only works out to seven permits per day, Mr. Manderson said things will speed up as staffers become comfortable with the new procedures.

Until 5 January, all work permits had to be approved by the Work Permit Board. Now, immigration staffers can handle certain ‘non-controversial’ permit applications and renewals.

Under the new law, certain types of jobs will no longer be required to be advertised in the local press; mainly those positions for which there are never any local applicants. Generally, companies must advertise positions for at least two weeks, making sure there are no Caymanian applicants before hiring a foreign worker.

Most positions will continue to have public advertising requirements.

Mr. Manderson said all jobs that are advertised must contain a stated salary range. If they do not, he said work permit applications for those positions will simply not be accepted.