Average $3,000 hike for permits

Professional categories hit harder

Yearly work permit fees for jobs held by non-Caymanians will increase by an average of $3,000 for those in the professional job categories, according to an assessment provided Wednesday by Cayman Islands Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson.

Mr. Jefferson has not provided a specific break down for all changes in permit fees, but he stated that permit cost increases would range from an increase of $125 per year for gardeners, to an increase of $5,250 per year for paralegals.

‘In the case of paralegals, their work permits will move from $2,750 to $8,000,’ Mr. Jefferson told the Legislative Assembly. ‘For employees in the professional category those fees are being increased by $3,000 on average.’

The fee schedule for the new work permit charges would need to be approved by Cabinet as part of regulations to the Immigration Law. According to Mr. Jefferson, the only exempted job categories would be for nurses, teachers, ministers of religion and domestic helpers.

Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush acknowledged Wednesday that the increase in fees would be a hardship for businesses, particularly smaller businesses. However, he said government was taking steps to reduce costs in other areas.

‘The increase to work permit fees…is supportable only by the removal of an existing employer expense such as the pension obligation for work permit holders,’ he said. ‘Hence, the cost of conducting business in Cayman will not increase.’

Mr. Bush said, in the cases of unskilled or trade labourers, the reduction of pension payments for employers would likely lead to a savings for businesses, even with increased work permit fees.

For instance, an employer no longer paying $1,000 in pension contributions on a $20,000 a year salary and who would be hit with a work permit increase of CI $500 would actually come out ahead.

‘(The plan) therefore would result in a net benefit to small Caymanian businesses,’ he said.

Cash transfers

Another fee increase in the new budget, likely to hit lower-paid workers hardest, is a two per cent tax on money remittances. Banks will not have to pay this fee, only transfer services such as Western Union, Quik Cash, and MoneyGram.

Mr. Bush said talks between money transfer services and government earlier this year revealed that the average amount sent per transaction was CI$200.

‘As such, the impact to the typical user of these transfer services would be approximately $4 per transaction,’ Mr. Bush said. ‘Given the difficult circumstances that we were faced with, we felt that as part of averting the impending crisis that all members of our community should play a part in the solution.’

The leader indicated that alternate plans of a payroll tax on employees making more than CI $3,000 a month had been discussed. However, he said that idea was eventually rejected as a direct taxation measure.

Garbage fee

In exchange for charging a two per cent increase on customs tariffs for imported items, Mr. Bush said the garbage collection fee currently charged by government would be eliminated in the current budget year.

Mr. Jefferson said the final fee for those services would be charged to customers in January.

‘Government will…consider the increase in duties as replacement for collecting garbage fees,’ Mr. Bush said.