Permit backlog eases

Though a backlog of work permit
application still plagues the Cayman Islands, the number has shrunk by nearly
500 since March, officials said.

“There is a concerted effort to…decrease
the processing time of work permit applications,” said Franz Manderson, chief
officer for the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs, which has
responsibility for law enforcement in Cayman. “(Immigration) boards are now
having increased meetings to clear the backlog – especially with key
employees.”

According to information in the
government’s three-year budget plan, there was a backlog of 1,500 work permits
for foreign employees as of 10 March. Those applications were for “full” work
permits for 12 months or more. Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans said as of
mid-June, that backlog had shrunk to 1,060 permits. A large number of those permits
involve workers who have already been brought to Cayman on temporary
(six-month) work permits and are awaiting approval of their longer-term permit.

Not all the work permits fall into
that category, however.

“There are likely several hundred
new workers, which could be brought into the labour force if this backlog in
processing was addressed,” the report stated. “This would give a boost to the
local consumer market and aggregate demand.”

The backlog exists despite an
attempt to speed up the processing by allowing immigration staff to handle some
of the less “controversial” applications.

According to Mrs. Evans, the Work
Permit Board is still handling the majority of the incoming work permit
applications.

She pointed out that the total
backlog for all immigration-related applications was as many as 6,000 applications
a few months ago but was down to around 2,500 by mid-June.

“It is expected that the BSPB
(Business Staffing Plan Board) will clear its backlog within a month, and it is
expected the Work Permit Board will clear its backlog by mid to late-August,”
Mrs. Evans said.

Mr. Manderson said he was still
hopeful immigration could achieve its goal of a 14-day turn-around for work
permit applications. Now, he said, the department is a bit short staffed in the
area of enforcement, but it is expected to bring in six new officers within the
next three to four weeks.

Mrs. Evans said the work permit
backlog is due in part to a less-than-modern processing system at the
Immigration Department.

“The process is still very much a
manual process and given the government’s financial position, we have had limited
ability to recruit and fill positions,” she said. “Measures are being taken to
enhance our electronic systems so as to improve efficiencies going forward.”

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