One of the trade-offs for businesses paying
higher work permit fees was supposed to be a faster and more efficient system
for getting work permits approved.
Although the work permit fee structure
increased in January, getting work permits through is still extremely
frustrating for business owners.
We are told that through mid-March, there
was a backlog of some 1,500 full work permit applications. Since that time, the
backlog has shrunk to about 1,060. That reduction, while a step in the right
direction, is still quite inadequate and doesn’t fulfil government’s end of the
bargain when it introduced the higher fees.
At a time when the Cayman Islands, for a
variety of reasons, isn’t looking as attractive a domicile for businesses, the
government needs to make it much easier for businesses to get work permits.
Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact
that as of a few months ago, there was a backlog of about 6,000 immigration-related
applications in total, a shockingly high number. The Immigration Department says that number
shrunk to about 2,500 in mid-June, but that is still much too high.
A couple of reasons have been given for the
backlog issue. One is that the Immigration Department is using a
less-than-modern processing system. We find this astounding since one of the
main efforts of former Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson was to
modernise the department. As far as everything we heard and saw, he did this,
and did it well.
We also hear there is a staff shortage,
probably because of budgetary concerns. Herein lies the problem of not being
more selective in the approach to civil service cutbacks. Businesses create a
vast majority of the government’s revenue. Businesses need an efficient and
fast immigration system, not only to make money but also to recruit and retain
An inefficient or slow immigration system
therefore costs businesses money, and by extension, costs the government money.
Logically, then, immigration should not be a
department that is made to cut staff if it means a reduction in government
revenue. But then, it’s hard to find any logic in government these days beyond
the logic of political expediency.