Financiers, nannies get immigration help

Finance industry workers and
domestic helpers employed in the Cayman Islands
on work permits will receive special treatment on immigration requirements,
according to proposals made by Premier McKeeva Bush’s administration.

Changes reported last week by the
Caymanian Compass detailed the creation of a committee that had been formed to
assist financial services-related businesses in speeding their applications
through the work permit process as well as allowing longer three-to-five year
work permits to be approved for that industry as a matter of course.

The committee is also expected to
help provide certainty for financial services companies who make key employee
applications.

However, financial services workers
are not the only group of foreign workers in Cayman that needs a helping hand,
Premier Bush said.

“Myself and my colleagues are faced
every day with the suffering of our own Caymanians who, due to the
inflexibility of the current seven year rollover, are forced to make trusted
helpers leave for a year…often to the detriment of those they care for,” Mr.
Bush said during a Tuesday press conference.

Mr. Bush said special consideration
should be given to caregivers and domestic helpers who are employed by families
to take care of children, elderly or the infirmed.

“The thinking is that such persons
may be permitted to stay beyond the seven year limit, subject to a review of
their position by the work permit board on an annual basis, and subject to such
other conditions as are thought necessary to avoid abuse and to protect the Islands,” he said. “This would be limited to those in
positions where they are…that is, caring for people for a substantial number of
years.”

Cayman Islands law requires all
foreigners working in the private sector to obtain a work permit from the
Immigration Department before becoming gainfully employed in the Islands.

Those workers must leave Cayman
after seven years of continuous residency, unless they obtain a key employee
status designation from their employers. That key employee status allows
foreign workers to remain long enough (eight years) to apply for permanent
residence – the right to reside in Cayman for the rest of their lives.

Mr. Bush stressed that while his
administration was making concessions to the financial services industry and
domestic helpers, employers were being put on notice that they would no longer
be able to use “excuses” for not hiring Caymanians.

“Statistically, there are about
25,000 work permit holders in these Islands,”
the Premier said. “The categories we are addressing – that is the top persons
in our financial community and the much needed domestics together – will
account for less than 10 per cent of that entire work permit force.”

For the other 90 per cent, Mr. Bush
said there were jobs within that workforce that unemployed Caymanians could do.

“They must be given the opportunity
to do those jobs,” Mr. Bush said. “The large category of skilled and
semi-skilled workers must be closely scrutinised by our immigration boards and
our Labour Department.”

“Seven years (referring to the term
limit on foreign workers’ residency) does not mean a person is entitled to stay
here seven years,” he continued. “When the law says seven years, it means the
maximum time a person can stay.”

Mr. Bush also warned that
substandard wages for certain job categories would not be tolerated by the
various immigration boards that govern the work permit and business staffing
plan approval processes.

“I have been told…Caymanians won’t
work for $4 or $5 an hour,” he said. “The truth is…no one in the Cayman Islands should have to work for $4 or $5 an hour.
It is simply impossible, given our cost of living, for anyone to survive on
such a wage.”  

Immigration Review Team Chairperson
Sherri Bodden-Cowan said that Mr. Bush’s comments did not intend to infer that
Cayman was adopting an ad hoc minimum wage. Rather, she said that it was
already the responsibility of the immigration boards to determine whether an
employee’s salary was sufficient to support themselves and any dependents they
bring to the Islands.

Mrs. Bodden-Cowan said that
restaurant wait staff, for instance, may be allowed to earn a salary of $4 or
$5 per hour if their gratuities would earn them much more than the hourly wage.

If the salary was deemed
insufficient, the Premier said the employer would either have to pay more or
have their work permit application refused.

“If our board can’t agree, well,
they’ll simply go home too,” he said. “They don’t need to be on that board.”

Mr. Bush said Caymanians would also
have to do their part in becoming active members of the workforce.

“When given the opportunity,
Caymanians must show up to work; they must leave their personal problems out of
the workplace,” Premier Bush said. “They should be there on time and simply do
the job they are being paid to do.”

“There is not now and there has
never been something for nothing.”

$1M for residence

Mr. Bush has also proposed a
special category under the Immigration Law that would allow extremely wealthy
foreign residents to, in effect, purchase the right to remain in the Cayman Islands for the rest of their lives.

The immigration category would
allow a limited number of permanent residence grants for people whose net worth
is greater than $10 million.

“The holders of the new category of
permanent residence will be expected to spend time in the Islands
each year,” Premier Bush said. “A fee of $1 million will be payable upon the
issue of the new residency facility.”

Mr. Bush said this proposal was not
a new concept. In fact, Cayman already allows retirees to reside in the Islands for up to 25 years provided they are
independently wealthy and agree to invest a certain portion of that wealth in
Cayman.

“Research has shown that there are
a number of high net worth individuals who would be interested in a similar
residence category in these Islands,” Mr. Bush
said.

The creation of the new immigration
category would have to be approved by the Legislative Assembly.