Last Thursday at the Cayman
Business Outlook conference, Premier McKeeva Bush announced that changes would
be made to Cayman’s immigration regime, including one to the endlessly controversial
term limits for foreign workers – often called the rollover policy.
One change suggested by Mr. Bush
would be shortening the current one-year break in residency required of those
who are ‘rolled over’. Mr. Bush also
spoke of changing the law to make people who hold certain jobs in the financial
industry automatically qualify for key employee status and to receive three to
five year work permits.
The reaction to the premier’s
announcement, from the business community at least, was decidedly positive, and
we applaud Mr. Bush’s sheer guts in addressing head-on what is undeniably one
of Cayman’s most acrimonious political issues.
We have, however, heard that the
immigration issue was going to be addressed for the financial sector for eight
months now. Mr. Bush has now said the
changes would occur in the next sitting of the House, and for the sake of his
credibility, we hope that is the case.
Actions speak louder than words,
and the actions of companies leaving the Cayman Islands
will continue if the government doesn’t deliver on its promises.
However, a larger question must
also be asked: If the Immigration Law is to be changed to reduce the “rollover
period” for foreign workers to six or even three months, just what is the point
of that rollover period?
Presumably, the drafters of the initial
rollover policy, Mr. Bush included, did not intend to create the measure simply
to give foreign workers a sabbatical.
In addition, three or six months
away from the Cayman Islands probably doesn’t
constitute a real break in residency in any case. It might only take one court challenge to
crumple a house of cards if the government believes all it takes is an extended
vacation to prevent foreigners from gaining the right to stay here permanently.
If this is the case, we are forced
to ask just what is government accomplishing – or attempting to accomplish –
with term limits? If the answer is ‘apparently, not much at all’ then why even