Some may not ever be paid
Some 1.7 million is owed
collectively by hundreds of individuals who have been granted permanent resident
status in the Cayman Islands, according to Chief Immigration Officer Linda
Those fees have been allowed to
accumulate over a period of years by people who received permanent residence –
the right to remain in Cayman for the rest of their lives – and did not pay
yearly fees required to maintain that status.
Ms Evans said there were
approximately 226 permanent residence holders that owed the $1.7 million in
fees; of those about 100 had been off the Islands between six months and four
Under the Cayman Islands
Immigration Law, the government can revoke permanent resident status of anyone
who has not lived in Cayman for more than a year.
“So a lot of this is really bad
debt,’ Ms Evans said, indicating that the fees were unlikely to be paid by
people who were not coming back to live in Cayman.
The chief immigration officer’s
comments came in response to a question at the first in a series of immigration
meetings held Tuesday in West Bay.
Pamella Mendez, a lawyer for
Appleby, asked for a clarification on the issue of who actually has to pay
yearly fees for permanent residence.
“There are a number of persons who
seem to be a little bit misinformed as to who has to pay work permit fees,” Ms
Mendez said. “For instance, permanent residents…have to still continue to pay
on a yearly basis the equivalent of what they would have paid had they been in
a work permit.”
According to Ms Evans, the
confusion is partly due to the fact that the Immigration Law requires businesses
employing work permit holders to pay those annual fees for the worker. It does
not require that once a person has received permanent resident status.
Some companies may make it their
policy to pay permanent residence fees on behalf of their workers, but others
“Right now, I have a client who is
in arrears of $17,000 simply due to the fact that she did not appreciate at the
time that she had been granted PR that she would still have to pay yearly work
permit fees,” Ms Mendez said.
Ms Evans agrees the issue is a
major headache for all involved, and that the Immigration Department has been
working on reducing the debt since the early part of this year.
In March, an audit revealed that
there was an outstanding balance of permanent residency fees totalling some
“It’s still substantial,” Ms Evans
said. “The law speaks to employer or employee. It is the smaller employees that
rely on the staff to pay (PR fees), and I think that’s where we have the
In a rare move, the Immigration
Department arrested a Canadian national earlier this year that was in arrears
on his permanent residence fees.
“(He) did not pay the fees from
inception. We take the view that you have to pay for the right to work, as
opposed to whether you are working or not. We’re trying to address that.”
Ms Evans said the Caymanian Status
of Permanent Residency Board has warned earlier this year that individuals who
did not pay PR fees would have that immigration status revoked. She said
immigration was already in the process of doing so with a number of those
people who had been off Island for more than a year.
Work permit backlog
There is still a back up of some
1,400 work permit applications before the two government-appointed boards
responsible for approving those documents, Ms Evans told those gathered at the
West Bay public meeting.
As of Tuesday, there were about 500
work permits before the Business Staffing Plan Board that required hearing and
another 900 before the Work Permit Board.
She said the boards were working as
hard as they could, and the backlog was down considerably from the beginning of
the year when it had reached some 6,000 permit applications.
The Immigration Department is
expected to start later this year on a pilot project that will involve scanning
current paper immigration records into agency computers. Ms Evans hopes all
immigration records, including the issuance of permit approvals can simply be
handled by computer.