Work permits down

Since the beginning of 2009, the downturn in the global economy has forced more Caymanian companies to cancel or not renew existing work permits for foreign employees.

Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson said Monday the number of work permits, temporary work permits and government contracts active here in Cayman had fallen to 24,594 at the end of last month from a high of 26,659 in November.

‘We are definitely seeing a drop in work permit numbers,’ Mr. Manderson said.

The reduction was mostly due to companies cutting back operations in the wake of a world-wide economic downturn, including decreases in the number of professional and skilled labour categories such as lawyers, auditors, accountants, and specialised construction jobs.

There was also a substantial drop in the number of people working in Cayman ‘as an operation of the law.’ In other words, they were awaiting decisions on applications for permanent residence or on appeals of work permit denials.

When those applications were decided, the applicants either became permanent residents or had to leave the Islands when their applications were denied. In either case, they would no longer be recorded as foreign workers.

With the workforce upheaval starting to hit Cayman, Mr. Manderson warned employers that it was more important than ever to notify the Immigration Department about a change in a worker’s status.

According to Immigration Law, companies must notify the chief immigration officer in writing if an employee is no longer working for the business who applied for their permit. A fine of up $5,000 can be levied in cases where that is not done.

The employee can also face fines and be removed from the Islands if they have remained after their job has been terminated, unless they have the express permission of the Immigration Department to stay.

Mr. Manderson said there have been several recent cases where those who no longer have the jobs for which the work permits were granted actually remained on island.

However, Mr. Manderson also cautioned that a work permit holder whose job was made redundant or whose permit was not renewed is not simply kicked out of Cayman the next day.

‘We would give them time in which to wind up their affairs,’ Mr. Manderson said.

Generally, the holder of a full-year work permit is given 14 days after their contract expires to depart, and a temporary permit holder is given seven days, Mr. Manderson said.

‘But that time is not set in stone,’ Mr. Manderson said. ‘We may allow them to stay longer, or to stay on Island while awaiting an application for a new job. It depends on their financial means and other matters we would evaluate.

‘Just because someone’s contract has expired doesn’t mean they have to leave tomorrow,’ he said.

One somewhat high-profile recent case of this involved former Senior Investigating Officer Martin Bridger, whose contract with the UK Met investigative team here in Cayman expired on Thursday at the end of April.

The Caymanian Compass received reports Monday that Mr. Bridger was still on island.

Without commenting specifically on Mr. Bridger’s situation, Mr. Manderson said there would be nothing unusual about the ex-UK lawman remaining here to get his affairs in order.

‘He has a legal right to remain for now,’ Mr. Manderson said.