1,800 hold Permanent Residency status

There are more than 1,800 non-Caymanians that have been granted permanent resident status and who live on the islands.

The data was obtained for the first time through Cayman’s Freedom of Information Law.

Permanent residence is an immigration status conferred by the government that allows a foreigner to reside in the Cayman Islands for the rest of his or her life. It can only be applied for after eight years of consecutive residency here and must be approved by a government-appointed board.

Immigration records obtained by the Caymanian Compass through an FOI request reveal that permanent residence holders fall into two categories. There are 982 permanent residents here who have been granted the right to work. Another 823 people have obtained that status but are not legally allowed to work, for a total of 1,805 permanent residents.

More than 50 nationalities are represented among Cayman Islands permanent residence holders.

Of those residence holders who are allowed to work, nearly half (418) are Jamaican. They are followed by permanent residents from the United Kingdom (126), Canada (108), the US (78), and Honduras (59). Those five groups make up 80 per cent of the working permanent residents in the Cayman Islands.

Permanent residents who are not allowed to work include those from the US (216), the UK (131), Canada (127), Jamaica (126) and the citizens of other British Overseas Territories (67).

Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson recently estimated there are some 1,600 people who live in Cayman now working ‘as an operation of law’ while awaiting immigration board decisions on their permanent residency applications.

At one time, those applications numbered more than 3,000 and some had waited more than three years to be heard by the appropriate board.

Mr. Manderson said last month that a major effort was under way by the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board to complete the remaining back logged applications within the next six to seven months.

‘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 total number of permanent residents, which is believed to have been revealed publicly for the first time, has cast further doubt upon government population estimates in the Cayman Islands.

Immigration data examined by the Compass in January showed there were nearly 26,000 people here on work permits, government contracts, or working as an operation of law awaiting various immigration applications or appeals. Last year, Chief Secretary George McCarthy said there were more than 2,800 dependants of work permit holders (non-working spouses, children, or other immediate family members) residing here.

Added in with the 1,800 permanent residents, the foreign population in Cayman would equal roughly 30,600. That’s not counting foreign students living here on visas or people who have received political asylum.

At the end of 2007, government estimated the Cayman Islands’ total population at just less than 54,000 people but said more than 32,000 of those were Caymanians. The foreign-born population was listed at just below 22,000 residents in those estimates.