Changes will be put forward to the
Immigration Law providing for a shorter break from the island for expatriates
that have reached their term limit.
The announcement was made by
Premier McKeeva Bush in a speech delivered to attendees of the Fidelity Cayman
Business Outlook conference at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Thursday.
While acknowledging his role in the
initial support of term limits for expatriates, better known as the rollover policy,
Mr Bush said, he was never supportive of the damaging and divisive manner in
which it was implemented by the previous administration.
“Now more than five years later it
is time to reassess the policy and how it has worked,” he said. “We must now revamp
the rollover policy and make the break shorter. That is what we will do at the
next sitting of the House.”
The Legislative Assembly is
schedule to begin meeting again on 26 February.
“If we don’t get it done, then you
can say that my people did not support me, but I am committed to get this
done,” Mr. Bush said.
Currently, expatriates who reach
their term limit, which is seven years in most cases, must leave the Cayman
Islands for one year before they can return and get another work permit. That break off the island has already been
reduced from the two years the original section of the Immigration Law
The rollover policy was initiated
to prevent the majority of foreigners from remaining in the Cayman Islands 10
years or more consecutively and thus earning the right of security of tenure
Mr. Bush did not specify how short
of a break in residency he would put forward in the amendment to the
Speaking about immigration
generally, Mr. Bush said the future of the Cayman Island economy relies
strongly on the flexibility of the Immigration Law.
“It is not acceptable, particularly
in a time when we need to revive our economy and provide jobs for Caymanians,
for us to turn away new business or drive existing business away with an inflexible
immigration framework,” he said.
Mr. Bush highlighted some changes
to the immigration regime his government promised to the financial services
industry several months ago. He said Cabinet has approved a set of new
directions to the Work Permit Board, the Business Staffing Plan Board and the
chief immigration officer for guidance in the exercise of their respective
powers, functions and duties.
These directions include the
granting of three to five year work permits to certain professional categories and
a list of critical functions within the financial services industry, which the
immigration board shall designate as key under certain specific conditions.
As a result of the measures a
special subcommittee of the business staffing plan board has been created,
which focuses on financial services matters.
Mr. Bush said the directives were
aimed at providing urgent relief for the protection and continued success of
the financial services industry and that the industry should start to see the
He admitted to the adversity he
experienced form the immigration department.
“Believe you me, I have never heard the word
‘no’ said more often than [in] what I hear from the immigration department,” he
said. “’No, we cannot do that. No, as a politician you should not say that. No,
we don’t want these people here’.”
But the immigration changes are
important for the survival of the Cayman Islands economy, he stated, and the
immigration framework must be responsive to the needs and the key drivers for
jobs and opportunities for Caymanians.
The need for a change to the
rollover policy was identified by representatives of major Cayman financial
services firms in meetings with the government initiated four weeks ago.
Mr Bush acknowledged that the
current rollover policy had directly resulted in the loss of jobs for Caymanians,
as several companies decided to restructure their businesses, following the
denial of work permits for key employees.
Mr Bush criticised the previous PPM
government for its strategy of keeping the number of permits low in the hope of
generating jobs for Caymanians.
“What a fool, fool idea. It is
evident that Caymanians are not getting the jobs, because the jobs are moving
out of these islands,” he said.
Mr Bush said the Immigration Law
needed to be more flexible.
“The Immigration Law is a good law.
It needs some revamping; it now has to change, it cannot be static,” he said.
He urged the businesses and senior
civil servants to help educate the wider community of the importance of the new
measures for all of Cayman.
In his speech the premier was aware
of local critics to government’s plans to change the immigration regime.
He said there was some negativity
in certain quarters regarding the government’s policy, but critics had offered
very little in the way of alternative solutions.
“I am not running a government
based on what the bloggers say or what the radio shows will say or the media in
general,” Mr Bush said.
It was important to change
attitudes in time to get things done, he concluded.