Many will want ‘key’

Work Permit Board braces for application rush

The Cayman Islands Work Permit Board expects to receive a much larger than usual number of applications from foreign workers seeking key employee status in the second half of this year. 

The anticipated influx of key employee applications, according to board chairperson Sherri Bodden-Cowan, is likely to result from the large number of individuals who were granted work permits in the months after Hurricane Ivan struck Cayman in September 2004. 

Cayman Islands Immigration Law requires all foreign workers employed on work permits to leave Cayman after seven years of continuous residence. Key employee status, which can be granted either by the Work Permit Board or the Business Staffing Plan Board, allows an individual to work in the Islands for a further two years beyond the seven-year term limit.  

Those extra two years allow that individual to stay in Cayman long enough to apply for permanent residence; the right to remain in the country for the rest of their lives.  

“Person arriving since [Hurricane] Ivan are now nearing their seven years,” Mrs. Bodden-Cowan said. “It is therefore incumbent on the board to deal with all key employee applications as expeditiously as possible in order to clear an uncertainty amongst employers as to who will be identified as key and who will not.”  

It is not possible to determine from available immigration statistics how many people who arrived after Hurricane Ivan actually stayed in Cayman the full seven years, but the seven-year anniversary of the storm will occur this September after which the permits granted in late 2004 and early 2005 will begin to come to full term.  

Also, Cayman’s labour force statistics clearly show a massive influx of people that arrived in Cayman during 2005, compared to a sharp drop in the population around the time Ivan occurred. By the fall of 2004, Cayman’s total workforce was just 23,453 people, with less than 11,000 non-Caymanians comprising that group, according to the government Economics and Statistics Office. 

A year later, the workforce had swelled to 36,767 people with 17,439 non-Caymanians in the work force – an increase of about 6,500 non-Caymanians in the labour force in just 12 months. Moreover, in 2006 and 2007, work permit figures continued to increase the influx of foreign workers. 

“After Ivan, [work permit numbers] went as high as 25,000, but to my knowledge have never gone below 20,000,” Mrs. Bodden-Cowan said.  

Typically, key employee applications are sent to the Work Permit Board unless the company filing the application has a business staffing plan. The Work Permit Board also has to deal with a sizable number of general permit applications on a weekly basis. In recent years, Immigration Department Officers have been granted authority to review routine permit applications without requiring board members’ input.  

If there is a crumb of comfort for board members facing the slew of new key employee applications, Mrs. Bodden-Cowan said it is that an earlier backlog of work permit applications that numbered in the thousands at one time has largely been reduced.  

“There are approximately 50 applications pending from 2010 for which the files cannot be located and they will recreate these files so we can deal with them as soon as possible,” she said. 

Overall work permit numbers in Cayman have dropped since late 2008 by more than 6,000 permit-holders. At the end of 2010, there were slightly more than 20,000 foreign workers in the country, including government contract-holders. 


  1. Is this good thing that the number of Work Permit holders have dropped so much ? I assume that the general feeling would be if there are a lot of Key Employee applications that the majority if not all of them should be denied..

  2. Well many is pretty vague. What is many? 100? 200?


    Well I remember a year where 2000 jamaicans got residency for votes.

    So….what is many,really.

  3. From the current Immigration Website the number of work permit holders at the end of December 2010 was actually 21,102.

    That number does not appear to include the thousands of persons with Permanent Residence with the right to work, the hundreds of persons with Residency and Employment Rights Certificates as the spouses of Caymanians, and the thousands of persons Working by Operation of Law.

    I think you will find that at the end of 2010 there were in fact closer to 25,000 foreign workers in the Islands – and that is ignoring the fact that many have become Caymanian.

    Even relying on the Compass numbers and ignoring the thousands of expatriates who have been welcomed as Caymanians since 1 January 2004, it seems the number of work permit holders has more than doubled since rollover was introduced – and that is even with a GLOBAL financial crisis. We may be doing better than reported.

    Compass, please clarify what the numbers you are relying on includes – and it would be helpful if you could confirm how many persons have gained PR or become Caymanian since 2008 if the public are to be able to fairly assess what is really happening.

    Editor’s note: Regardless of what the Immigration Department website now claims, records released under the FOI Law as of 31 December, 2010 stated that there were exactly 20,564 work permit holders – including government contract holders – in the Islands.

    According to similar work permit requests done for November 2008, there were 26,659 work permit holders residing here, including people on government contracts.

  4. Another UDP trick, now that elections 2013 is approaching, here’s the deal:

    Status Grants for votes.

    People, these people are determined to do as they please regardless of the objections of the majority of Caymanians. Keep an eye on the Cayman Immigration Board as they work hand in hand with the UDP and its leadership that we are very displeased with.
    Consequently any directives or actions taking place in the Cayman work Permit Board will not be in favor of the Caymanian people but will further jeopardize their chances of livelihood in their own country.

    I was wondering when the Chairman would speak and agitate us some more and she did.

  5. Editor –

    The numbers reported make no sense. The article suggests that the number of expatriates in the Cayman Islands has dramatically decreased and relies on work permit statistics to demonstrate that.

    The article does not however appear to take into account thosands of persons who have traded work permits for other types of permission. Please clarify whether the numbers you rely on in your article include Permanent Residents, Persons Working by Operation of Law, and RERC holders. Just because there are 5,000 fewer work permit holders does not mean that there are 5,000 fewer expatriates working in the Cayman Islands. It may be the case, but it may be wrong to rely on pure work permit stats to do so. From my understanding thousands of the 26K work permit holders from 2008 have been granted RERC’s, PR or status, or are operating by Operation of Law. They are still here and working, and most are still expatriates.

    What is important is an accurate indication of how many fewer expatriates there are. Only then can there be sensible informed discussions as to the pros and cons of term limit policies, and the effect of those on our economy and population when compared to other factors such as the GLOBAL economic crisis, and the collapse of the post Ivan reconstruction and retail boom.

    Editor’s note: The work permit numbers released by immigration do include those working by operation of the law, but do not include those with permanent residence or those who are married to Caymanians and have residency and employment rights certificates.

    We understand the commenter’s views about people becoming permanent residents and therefore no longer being counted as work permit holders. However, the government’s own census figures for 2010 do show the country’s overall population has fallen to somewhere around 55,000 people. Given our earlier reporting on the subject, which revealed that the country’s population was somewhere around 62,000-65,000 in 2008 – based on the Immigration Department’s own numbers – it does appear that the country’s overall population has fallen. Even the government’s statistics office figures for that year – based on a survey – had the local population at 57,000.

  6. If these folks want to stay and create a connection to Cayman Islands that is permanent, keep and spend their money here, buy homes here, have and support a family here, if they have a good job they want to keep here, then by all means, please start cutting keys Ms Bodden.

  7. Editor – thank you for engaging.

    I think you will find that the Government’s own census figures expressly exclude from consideration anyone with a temporary work permit and anyone who has less than 6 months to go to their term limit. Accordingly there is every likelihood that if those persons (who are expatriates living and working here) are taken into account, the population is in fact closer to 60,000 than it is to 55,000.

    Accordingly, the decline in population may be significantly less than that which is perceived, and reported to date.

  8. Would have been nice if consideration was given to those that arrived pre-Ivan. To those that spent many weeks, months rebuilding Cayman. You know, those foreign workers that were up on roofs trying to ensure the residents of the island were safe and dry!

  9. The way I see it most of these Key employee requests that Ms. Bodden are referring to should be denied.

    Ask yourself what type of workers came after Ivan to rebuild, mostly blue collar workers, who under the present law, I would say from my experience on the board are refused at a 95% rate.

    I always asked the question why do the board even allow these application to come to the board when they will be refused, why take the applicants money and waste the time of those hardworking board members.

    I understand and respect everyone has the right to apply for KEY status, but what I never understood is why applications that clearly don’t meet the criteria are presented to the board for consideration by the immigration. What a waste of resources!?!?!?!?

  10. It wasn’t that long ago that a fairly prominent and popular church minister got the rollover treatment. If that guy couldn’t get Key employee status, who will?

Comments are closed.