The Cayman Islands Immigration Department will attempt to reduce the number of work permits issued to domestic helpers and construction workers in the coming months.
According to Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson, those two groups of employees are most frequently granted full year or multi-year work permits for what amounts to part-time or temporary work.
‘We are seeing tremendous abuse in the area of domestic helpers,’ Mr. Manderson said. ‘We have received applications for domestic helpers to care for children and there are no children; to care for the sick and the people are not sick.
‘Many of those people are not employed in the capacity they say they are,’ he added. ‘The same applies to construction. We would like to know that a contract does exist and what are the start and end times for the contract.’
Mr. Manderson said the general goal for immigration is to head off problems when an individual first applies for the permit. Once a full work permit has been issued, tracking the individual’s employment can be more difficult.
‘We want everybody who has a work permit to be fully engaged,’ he said. ‘(If not) they have a lot of time on their hands, they work illegally and do other things.’
The work permit rules, which have admittedly not always been strictly enforced, will not prevent people from hiring domestics. However, Mr. Manderson said alternate methods, such as using a cleaning service or sharing a permit with other households could be used.
If someone sought a full work permit for a domestic who only came to clean their home on Sunday, it would simply not be approved.
‘We would say that (person) doesn’t have a genuine need to employ someone full time,’ Mr. Manderson said.
In the coming weeks, immigration officers will be checking with businesses and individuals that employ domestics and construction workers to update their employees’ status.
In cases where a domestic is caring for someone’s child, birth records for that child would have to be produced. In caring for the sick, a doctor’s note would be required save in cases where the individual cared for is elderly.
There are also certain work permit advertising practices that Mr. Manderson said immigration officials would be focusing on in the next few weeks.
In some cases, companies may engage an immigration service to run their ads, and those ads are listed in the immigration service’s name. However, a Caymanian looking at the ad may believe it to be a temporary position and decline to apply.
‘But for all we know, (the immigration service) actually applies on behalf of another company for a full time job,’ Mr. Manderson said. ‘This may disenfranchise Caymanians. They should say whether this person is working for them, or someone else.’
Newly approved immigration regulations will also require any jobs posted in the classified section of a local newspaper to include some kind of salary range for the position, whether it is annual, monthly, weekly, daily, or hourly pay. Benefits for the job must also be listed.
For instance, if a restaurant waiter’s salary is $3.50 per hour any gratuities or other compensation they receive should be listed on the job posting as well. The precise amount of the tips would not have to be estimated or included.
Immigration officials will soon start turning away work permit applications if jobs are not advertised correctly, Mr. Manderson said.
Those permit applications can also be rejected out of hand if the company has not attempted to contact the Department of Employment Relations to determine whether there are any suitable Caymanians for the position. Companies that have contacted the DER and found no suitable applicants can receive a waiver letter to include with their permit applications.
‘Under the law, companies must use their best endeavours to find a Caymanian for the position,’ Mr. Manderson said.