Financial services get immigration concessions

New policy for financial services sector gazetted

New immigration policy directions
for Cayman’s financial services sector were published in the Cayman Islands
Gazette Friday.

Cabinet issued the directions in a
meeting held 12 January to the Work Permit Board, the Business Staffing Plan
Board and the chief immigration officer.

The directions make official
changes in immigration policy for Cayman’s financial sector promised by Premier
McKeeva Bush during a Cabinet press briefing on 5 November.

Immigration Review Team
Chairperson, Sherri Bodden-Cowan said Friday she was very happy to see the
directions finally take effect.

 “It gives greater certainty to the financial
sector because they now know what directions the boards are supposed to
follow,” she said.

The financial services sector
directions apply to banking, insurance, the legal profession, estates and
trusts, company management, fund administration, accountancy, and regulatory.

Mrs. Bodden-Cowan said that
directions are often issued by Cabinet when there is no desire to change a law,
but to have the law implemented in specific ways. 

She said the directions give the
Work Permit Board and the Business Staffing Plan Board a clear understanding of
the government’s policy on immigration matters and that the boards would be
expected to follow those directions.

“We have to bear in mind that the
boards are politically appointed,” she said. “I’m quite certain if the boards
ignore the directions from Cabinet – which they are allowed to give by law –
the government would have to make a decision.”

Premier McKeeva Bush also said he
expected the board to abide by the directions.

“The boards have to carry our
government policy,” he said. “That’s what they’re placed there to do.”

Mr. Bush said that the government
was elected by the people to act in the country’s best interests.

“If someone on one of the boards
feels that government is doing something wrong, they have an obligation to
remove themselves from the government board,” he said. “But I have no doubt our
board members will carry out our policies.”

Financial  Services Sector
Committee

The directions instruct the
chairman of the Business Staffing Plan Board to appoint a Financial Services
Sector Committee.  The committee will
include the chairman and deputy chairman of the Business Staffing Plan Board
along with at least two other members with expertise in the financial services
sector. 

The Financial Services Sector
Committee would process and hear all applications for the designation of key
employee and make recommendations to the Business Staffing Plan Board.

Foreign workers who are designated
as key employees are not subject to a seven-year term limits, but can receive
up to nine work permits.  After residing
in the Cayman Islands for eight years, they can to apply for permanent
residency, which is decided by a points system.

The directions instruct the
Immigration Review Team to work in collaboration with the Financial Services
Sector Committee to establish a list of accredited employers in the sector,
based on various ‘good corporate citizenship’ criteria such as employment
practices, talent development programmes and community involvement.

Mr. Bush emphasised that the new
directions were a two-way street and that the financial sector had to do its
part.

“All the things we’re doing [with
the immigration policy] are to facilitate investment, but the financial sector
has to ensure they are good corporate citizens,” he said. “They must work
within the ambits of the law.

“We have to make sure that the
proverbial glass ceiling is removed and that Caymanians are trained and that
Caymanians are given opportunities.”

Key employees

When an employee in a defined
category of positions is identified as key by an accredited employer, the
directions instruct the relevant immigration board that there will be a
presumption in favour of designating the worker key, as long as the employee
fulfils one or more of four possible criteria that establish his importance to
either the business or the Cayman Islands.

The direction applies to 20
different categories of positions, including: managing director, chief
executive officer and  general manager;
equity partner, partner, principal or president; senior vice president and several
other senior managers; broker dealer; trader; investment banker; insurance/reinsurance
manager; chief technology officer/IT director; captive insurance claims manager;
and senior in-house counsel.

Three-year permits

The direction also instructs the
relevant board or the chief immigration officer to issue three-year work
permits, unless there are exceptional circumstances, to all workers who are not
listed in a Business Staffing Plan and who fall in the position categories that
would have the presumption of qualifying for key employee designation.

In addition, the direction calls
for the issuance of three-to-five-year work permits for domestic helpers,
teachers, doctors, nurses, ministers of religions and workers for positions
authorised in a Business Staffing Plan certificate.

Opposition

Mr. Bush said he knew there would
be opposition to the new policies.

“I recognise that immigration is a
very emotive issue,” he said.

“People can say all they want, but
when you got to come up with solutions, that’s a horse of a different colour.”

Mr. Bush said that immigration
issue had already taken far too much of the government’s time and that it was
time to move on to other issues.

“Immigration is a problem for the
ages in developing countries,” he said, adding that Cayman had to change and
adapt to a new way of thinking.

“The future of this country depends
on a viable investment environment, and that is not so right now. We are losing
business by the day,” he said.

“We cannot let the whole economy
die because some people don’t have a job. We needed to give the financial
sector the certainty it needs to survive so that Caymanians’ jobs can be saved
in the future.”