Cayman Islands lawmakers anticipate a proposal for major immigration reform as well as the passage of a plan to create the country’s first Caymanian-only job designations within the next six months.
Premier McKeeva Bush told a group of about 250 George Town residents Tuesday night he hoped the new immigration policy would be formulated by April, following discussions between private sector and government entities.
Meanwhile, George Town MLA Ellio Solomon told the largely pro-United Democratic Party crowd at the Mary Miller Hall an amendment bill allowing Cabinet members to designate certain jobs as Caymanian-only was expected to come before the legislature in November. Mr. Solomon moved a private members’ motion in the Legislative Assembly calling for the creation of Caymanian-only positions more than a year ago.
For the moment, lawmakers have approved new permits for foreign-born workers that can allow them to stay up to two years beyond the normal seven-year term limit. Those extensions exempting the worker from the seven-year limit on residence are temporary and will not count toward time spent in Cayman for anyone making an application for permanent residence.
Mr. Bush told the crowd it was possible a committee reviewing immigration changes could decide to get rid of the current term limit regime entirely, but he said other protections for Caymanians workers would still be needed.
“I am advised by many people that there has to be something in place … to protect our people,” Mr. Bush said. “It may be that we will have to look at this by occupation and not as we have done by key employee status alone.”
Currently, key employee status designations are the only way a non-Caymanian worker who has no local ties can stay in the country beyond the seven-year time limit. However, Mr. Bush and other lawmakers have recently said that system is flawed and must be changed.
One change Premier Bush said he’ll push for during the review process is a greater scope for administrative approval of work permits for foreign-born employees. The Immigration Department has the ability to do that now for certain noncontroversial work permit grants where no Caymanian has applied for a job. However, Mr. Bush said he’d like to see the administrative approval ability expanded to other types of permits.
“That would mean less work and less reliance on [appointed] boards,” Mr. Bush said, echoing a sentiment expressed years ago by then-Chief Immigration Officer and soon-to-be Deputy Governor Franz Manderson.
“This would bring about modern immigration reform where a efficient and more certain regime would prevail,” he said.
“This is what the international business community is looking.
“It won’t be ‘oh, I don’t like him and he no good’. Business can’t operate that way, and it is time for us as a country to recognise that.”
Mr. Solomon said he had received assurances a new piece of legislation allowing for certain jobs to be designated for Caymanians only would be brought forward at the next meeting of the Legislative Assembly, set for next month.
According to Mr. Solomon, the amendment will contain a schedule that would give Cabinet members the “option in the future” to add jobs that would belong to Caymanians only.
Cayman Islands Immigration Law now requires qualified Caymanians to be considered first for any and all jobs before work permits are issued for foreigners.
However, there are only a few positions currently designated as Caymanian-only.
“Every elected member in this country right now must be a Caymanian,” Mr. Solomon said. “The deputy governor must be a Caymanian.”
Mr. Solomon said the intent of his original motion concerning Caymanian-only was to ensure local citizens are “calling the shots” in key positions.
“There has to be certain positions in our country that belong to our country; whether it’s chief immigration officer, whether it’s within the police,” he said.
“It is a matter of who it is that’s calling the shots, and Caymanians must be in the position where they are calling the shots.”