For the first time since Hurricane Ivan hit in 2004, the number of work permit holders within the Cayman Islands has fallen below 20,000, according to statistics released by the Immigration Department following an open records request made by the Caymanian Compass.
As of 1 June, there were 19,753 permits, including government contracts for foreign workers. That’s about 800 fewer permits than were held here as of 1 January. The vast majority of the work permit reduction between January and June came from the permit renewals category; foreign workers who had received at least one full-year permit previously and who were seeking another full-term permit. There were 695 fewer people in Cayman on work permit renewals in early June than there were in early January.
New grants of work permits also fell by about 300 during that period; those are individuals who have received their first full-year permit to work in Cayman.
Most other permit categories decreased slightly, but there was an increase in the number of people working in Cayman “as an operation of law” between January and June, which means individuals applying for permanent residence or who appealed denials of work permits and who were allowed to remain in Cayman awaiting a final ruling on their cases. Immigration Law requires that all foreign workers in the Cayman Islands obtain work permits, or in the case of government employees, a contract that allows them to stay in the Islands. The number of permits held by foreign workers here changes frequently. Any figures presented by the Immigration Department for work permits represent a snapshot of the situation that exists in the country at that time. General trends can be discerned by looking at immigration numbers for work permits over a period of years. For instance, in the wake of 2004’s Ivan many permit-holders left Cayman, but the country’s rebuilding effort called for a large number of workers to be brought in.
By the end of 2004, there were more than 24,000 work permit holders in the Cayman Islands. That number topped out around 26,500 in 2008 and started a steady decline over the next 30 months to reach below the 20,000 mark. There are seven countries that represent the majority of work permit holders within the Cayman Islands. They are: Jamaica, the Philippines, the United Kingdom (immigration figures do not provide a break down by England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland), the United States, Canada, India and Honduras. Between January and June, work permit figures for all seven countries had dropped. The most precipitous decline in work permit holders has been noted among the local Jamaican population, which once had more than 12,000 permit workers in the Cayman Islands. By 1 June, 2011, that number had fallen to 7,630 permit holders – still the largest single foreign nationality to be represented within Cayman.
The number of Canadian permit holders also has fallen – almost by half – over the last few years. In 2006, immigration figures show there were nearly 2,000 Canadians in Cayman on work permits. By June, that number shrank to fewer than 1,200.
The number of Americans, Indians and Hondurans fell just slightly between January and June. The number of foreign workers from the United Kingdom has stayed about the same.
After several years of spectacular growth, work permit holders from the Philippines saw a significant decline between January and June of about 150 people. Filipinos are still the second most populous foreign nationality of work permit holders in Cayman, according to immigration statistics.