Adviser says nine-month rollover is minimum

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    Nine months is the briefest
    rollover period for foreign workers applied in any jurisdiction in the European
    Union, according to local immigration advisers.

    Immigration Review Team Chairperson
    Sherri Bodden-Cowan told a group of small business owners Tuesday evening that
    she would like to recommend reducing Cayman’s one-year break in stay
    requirement for all foreign workers who have been in the country for seven
    consecutive years. But Mrs. Bodden-Cowan – who also chairs the country’s Work
    Permit Board – said the potential legal problems that could arise from doing so
    are daunting.

    “I would love to reduce [the
    rollover period] and to recommend to the government to reduce it to the shortest
    period possible so that businesses are not inconvenienced,” Mrs. Bodden-Cowan
    said. “But if we reduce it to a period which is not going to withstand legal
    scrutiny in the future then we might as well get rid of it altogether.”

    “We have examples of [the rollover
    period]…being nine months in some [EU] countries,” she added. “I haven’t heard
    an example of it being less than nine months.”

    Premier McKeeva Bush has previously
    stated his desire to reduce the break in residency to as little as one month.
    That means an individual who stayed in Cayman for seven years on a work permit
    would have to leave the country for just 30 days prior to returning; at which
    point they could take up their job again for another seven years assuming no
    qualified Caymanian applied for the post. Right now, that legally-required
    break in stay is one year.

    Mr. Bush has also indicated that
    legal advice obtained by Cayman’s government indicates reducing the break in
    stay period would be acceptable.

    Mrs. Bodden-Cowan concurs, but notes
    that the advice received might not address questions government needs answered.
    In fact, it’s likely only a court would serve to do that, she said.

    “We’ve had legal advice [that] you
    can put any [break in stay] period in your law that you want to put in your
    law, but that’s not the question is it?” she said. “The question is, will it
    hold up in 15 years time?”

    The issue is somewhat complex and
    rooted in the reasons that the term limit policy on foreign resident workers
    was first developed in Cayman.

    Previously, Mrs. Bodden-Cowan said
    foreign workers were allowed – in some cases – to remain in the Islands on work
    permits for as long as 20, 30, even approaching 40 years. Legally, those
    employees maintained the status of “guest workers” without obtaining any voting
    rights or privileges of citizenship.

    A successful court challenge to the
    government’s previous moratorium on grants of Caymanian status, which is the
    penultimate step toward citizenship, meant that some 6,000 long-term Island
    residents were eligible to apply for that status following the court’s 2001
    ruling. Mrs. Bodden-Cowan said the government should be wary of the same thing
    happening if the shortened break in stay period is contested.

    That 2001 ruling ultimately led to
    the controversial grants of Caymanian status by Cabinet in 2003 and the
    subsequent development of the seven year term-limit policy for foreign workers,
    often referred to locally as the rollover policy.

    If the break in stay, or rollover
    period was reduced to a legally moot period, Mrs. Bodden-Cowan fears a similar
    court challenge could take place from someone who had lived in Cayman for 14
    consecutive years with only brief break in stay.

    “No attorney, or judge for that
    matter, can say with any certainty what would happen if the rollover period was
    reduced to, say, a month; where this person kept their apartment here, their
    bank accounts here, their dog here, their office here,” she said. “We find it
    unlikely that a judge is going to say that this person does not have any legal
    status in the Cayman Islands…and therefore they are entitled to nothing.

    “But we won’t know that until we
    have a trial in the next 14 years. Then we leave the problem for our children
    and grandchildren.”

    Mrs. Bodden-Cowan said she doesn’t
    believe the Cayman Islands will ever be allowed to return to the days when
    individuals on work permits were allowed to remain here 20 to 30 years without
    obtaining any citizenship rights, given international human rights rules and
    Cayman’s own recently-adopted bill of rights in the country’s 2009
    Constitution.

    To date, Premier Bush’s government
    has not issued any specific proposals for amendments to the country’s
    Immigration Law that would affect the one-year break in stay period for foreign
    workers. 

    TOPBoddenSherriSTORY

    Mrs. Bodden-Cowan

    4 COMMENTS

    1. Theres an idea – get rid of it altogether

      But then the deeply Christian natives of these islands wouldnt approve of that, now would they?

      Love thy neighbour, but not if he’s Jamaican

    2. Get rid of it altogether and there wouldnt be too many legal challenges to deal with in 15 years time, or is that just too easy for some people?

      I wonder how many expats have left so far this year, leaving more empty apartments behind.

    3. How long will it take for people to realize that the Rollover policy is slowly killing the economical viability of the island. How many businesses have to shut? How many apartments have to sit empty?
      In otherwords people coming here knowing that they have to leave in 7 years will not invest in this island. They will not buy homes and they will not spend their money here.
      It is time the people realize that it is 2011 and it is a multicultural world. If someone lives here for 7 years and they have a job and do not break the law and they contribute something to the island and are not a burden to Cayman society why can they not stay? Why kick them out and bring in a unknown?
      Wake up people!!!

    4. Jamaicans need caymanians and caymanians need jamaicans and it time now for the caymanians to realise that and treat jamaicans with more respect. If evey jamaica should leave cayman the country would be in total chaos. Jamaicans contribute most to the economy of cayman: the apartment rental buying at stored and restaurants etc. Caymanians hardly buy clothes in cayman its mostly jamaicans who do. After Ivan it was jamaica to the rescue. So much jamaica has done and still they are treated as if they dont make a positive difference

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