Residency applications clearance imminent

The Cayman Islands chief immigration officer has vowed to clear up a lingering back log of applications for permanent residence before the end of 2009.

Franz Manderson said the Islands’ volunteer Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board will be meeting a few times a week and even on the weekends over the next six to seven months to get an estimated 1,600 permanent residence, or PR, applications processed.

Permanent residence is an immigration status that allows a foreign national to stay in Cayman for the rest of their lives. It can only be applied for after an individual has lived in the islands for eight consecutive years. PR does not equate to citizenship, but long-term PR holders can eventually apply for Caymanian status and then citizenship.

Mr. Manderson said during an interview with the Caymanian Compass that board members have been steadily whittling away at a backlog of PR applications that at one time numbered more than 3,000; some of them taking longer than three years to be processed.

Part of the reason for the back up was ‘a mad rush’ of applications toward the end of 2006 ahead of changes in the Immigration Law taking effect.

‘That has now been cleared, and once these other applications are dealt with only those people who have made it to key employee can apply,’ he said. ‘So those numbers will be much more negotiable.’

Generally, foreign workers in the Cayman Islands on work permits must leave after seven consecutive years of residence here. However, those who receive key employee designations can stay another two years, which is long enough for them to apply for permanent residence if they wish.

However, Mr. Manderson said clearing up the estimated 1,600 application backlog isn’t just a matter of the board hearing more applications.

‘What’s holding them up is a large number of applications that are incomplete,’ he said. ‘Regretfully, what it seems is that persons are deliberately not providing information to the board in a timely manner.’

He said there are ‘in the hundreds’ of applications that are incomplete. Many of those were filed by people who have no reasonable expectation of gaining permanent residence, according to Mr. Manderson.

‘The board has devised a system where persons will be written to, followed up by phone calls, and after a reasonable amount of time…if they have not produced the documentation, the application is going to have to go to the board as is.’

Immigration boards will usually not consider an application that is incomplete. Permanent residence applications that have sections missing would be unlikely to be approved if they were heard by the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board.

For instance, a certain number of points are awarded on a permanent residence application for owning property. Immigration officers will check on behalf of the board to see whether the individual applying actually owns the property and will verify its valuation.

However, if that information provided is incomplete checks can’t be done and the process is delayed.

‘We want to make sure that we are acting as fairly as possible,’ Mr. Manderson said.