Legislation that would pave the way for the implementation of advance passenger information requirements for airlines and cruise ships going to and from the Cayman Islands is likely to come before lawmakers for approval within the next few months.
Amendments proposed for Cayman’s Immigration Law would make it a requirement of the “local agent” or where no such person exists, the pilot in command of an aircraft, to provide certain information for passengers and crew on board the plane who plan to arrive in or leave the Islands.
The Immigration (Amendment)(No. 2) Bill, 2011 also places the same requirements on the captain of any cruise ship arriving or leaving Cayman, but, in practice, officials said this is already done on cruises.
If the local agent, ship captain or airline pilot fails to provide the information on passengers and crew they can be fined up to $5,000, according to the bill.
Advance passenger information systems are an electronic method of gathering and registering information that airlines provide various immigration enforcement agencies ahead of a flight or ship arriving. It allows those passenger names and details to be checked against the local law enforcement’s database of wanted persons or restricted travellers.
US authorities, for example, no longer accept passenger records from flights that do not include every single passenger’s full name, date of birth, gender, as well as a Transportation Security Administration redress number.
According to US regulations that took effect in November, this flight data must be provided no later than 72 hours before the person’s departure. If the reservation is made within 72 hours of the flight taking off, the data must be collected at the time the reservation in made.
Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Bruce Smith said earlier this year that Cayman has been working on an advance passenger information system for air travellers over the past several years. He said the system requires the country to enter into a contract with a global service provider that would route airline data to the Immigration Department. He also noted that local legislation would have to be changed prior to implementing such a system.
Mr. Smith also noted that outbound immigration checks could not be set aside even with the introduction of an advance passenger information scheme.
“A person on our [travel] blacklist should not be exiting, due to a court order, for instance,” Mr. Smith told a group of tourism industry professionals earlier in the year. “The risk that we run with that is that the airlines might not have the knowledge, the infrastructure or the risk-assessment to know what we’re looking for.”
Precisely where and when that check for outgoing passengers might occur hasn’t yet been specified. But Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans said Monday that there would still have to be an immigration officer in place at Cayman’s airports.
“Persons that are being devious…they may not even have a ticket until the hour before,” Mrs. Evans said.
Cayman’s immigration chief said, unless you’ve done something wrong, the new system should actually lessen departure delays at Cayman airports.
“It should be shorter, you may just see an officer checking your passport,” she said.
In the US, if an individual traveller is identified on the TSA’s “watch list”, they are subjected to additional screening and can be prohibited from boarding the aircraft, if necessary.
Travel agents generally advise airline passengers to provide required data elements to avoid lengthy delays at airports while travelling.