Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor on Thursday signed changes to the country’s Immigration Law that will suspend the current seven-year term limit on foreign worker’s residence for those who qualify for exemptions from the term-limit policy.
The exemption period can only last for a total of two years if the foreign worker’s employer successfully applies for a Term Limit Exemption Permit.
The bill’s fate had been cast in some doubt following a constitutional challenge over its passage.
The issue raised by North Side MLA Ezzard Miller earlier this month involved two amendment bills passed in the most recent session of the Legislative Assembly that were not published at least 21 days before the start of the LA meeting in which they were introduced.
“They are inconsistent with the Constitution in that they were not, at the time they were moved, debated and passed by the Legislative Assembly in compliance with section 77 (2) of the Constitution,” Mr. Miller wrote to Mr. Taylor.
Section 77 (2) of the Constitution Order states the 21-day publishing period for bills should be observed “except in a case of emergency”.
“The Premier was unable to present the ‘case of emergency’ as required by section 77 (2) or any certification by yourself as governor or by the Cabinet that there was or is a case of emergency,” Mr. Miller wrote.
Representatives with Mr. Taylor’s office said the governor wrote to Mr. Miller Thursday to notify the MLA of his decision in signing the amendment to the Immigration Law.
The other legislation Mr. Miller was concerned with, a proposal that allows Caymanians to use private sector pension funds to buy a home, property or to pay off a home loan had not been signed by Mr. Taylor as of Friday.
Typically, foreign-born employees who reside in Cayman are required to leave after seven years of continuous residence here unless they are granted what’s known as ‘key employee status’, which allows a worker to remain up to nine years. During that added time the foreign worker can apply for permanent residence – the right to remain in Cayman for the rest of their lives.
Legislators approved changes to the country’s Immigration Law last month that allow for up to a two-year suspension of enforcement on term limit provisions for those qualifying foreign workers.
Once the amendment bill is signed into law, a company can apply for a Term Limit Exemption Permit for employees that would normally be required to depart. If such a permit is granted, the person will be allowed to remain for an additional year. At the end of the first year, an employer has the option to apply for a second exemption year for that employee, provided that no qualified Caymanian applied for the position.
The additional period of stay in Cayman under a Term Limit Exemption Permit would not count toward the eight years required to obtain permanent residence.
The Term Limit Exemption Permit is expected to be a temporary measure while public and private sector entities review the country’s current Immigration Law. Premier McKeeva Bush has said he hopes that review would be completed by April.