The government-appointed committee charged with reviewing Cayman’s immigration policies wants to hear local residents’ views on residency term limits for foreign workers – better known as the ‘rollover’ policy.
A number of opportunities to accept public commentary will be set up, starting today [Friday] outside the old Cayman Islands government administration building [Glass House] between 11am and 2pm.
Residents are invited to express comments and concerns on the term limit policy to members of the Term Limit Review Committee who were appointed earlier this year to lead a six-month study of Cayman’s immigration system.
Online public surveys are being made available at www.immigration.gov.ky, and anyone can also submit written comments to the committee at P.O. Box 391, Grand Cayman KY1-1106.
The commentary period ends on 31 December; after that the Term Limit Review Committee will compile and submit its report to Cabinet members; an 18 March deadline has been set for that report. Premier McKeeva Bush has said he hopes the committee will finish its work and government will have its recommendations in place by April.
“We are making a concerted effort to ensure that all citizens and residents have the opportunity to express their views on term limits,” said committee chairwoman Sherri Bodden-Cowan.
Mrs. Bodden-Cowan said today’s event would be held in a similar format to the Chamber of Commerce’s annual business exposition, where information booths are set up and people may ask questions. Surveys will also be available outside the Glass House and members of the 19-person committee will be present.
The committee is considering possible dates to hold public meetings on the term limit issue in Cayman’s voting districts sometime in January. It’s not certain if those meetings will be held in typical ‘town hall’ style or if they will be more informal, roundtable discussions, Mrs. Bodden-Cowan said.
The expo-type event today will also have an educational component, Mrs. Bodden Cowan said.
“I can’t think of anyone here who isn’t affected by the rollover policy,” she said. “The problem is, not a lot of people know how the provisions of the current law operate.”
Opinion-gathering surveys on the term limit topic will be distributed at local supermarkets, in addition to the on-line questionnaires available on the immigration website.
The ruling United Democratic Party government has contemplated fairly significant changes to the rollover policy, and has already passed legislation which suspends the provisions of the term limit law for individuals who are granted exemptions.
Cayman Islands Immigration Law requires all foreign-born workers to obtain permits to take up employment in the country. Typically, a seven-year limit on their residency – often referred to as the rollover policy – is placed on those workers unless they are granted what is known as key employee status. Key employee designations allow a foreign worker to obtain work permits for nine years in Cayman, long enough to apply for permanent residence – the right to reside in the country for the rest of their lives – after eight years.
Premier Bush has urged reform of the present seven-year term limit policy since the May 2009 general elections, which he believes has had a negative effect on Cayman’s economy.
“Many thought rolling over qualified and trained persons would create opportunities for Caymanians,” Mr. Bush said earlier this year. “This has not happened. In fact, many of the persons that were rolled over took up positions in other competing jurisdictions. We need the right people to remain on Islands to ensure that our people have the ability to benefit from our own economy.”
During the past few years, Cayman’s rental market has plummeted and Mr. Bush said the effect of expatriate workers departing has also hit service industries such as supermarkets, construction companies and trade jobs.
Although he disagrees with the administration’s recent plan allowing temporary exemptions from the rollover policy, Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin also thinks the current seven-year term limit should be changed.
Mr. McLaughlin said such a policy would need to strike the balance required to ensure the local population’s interests are protected and also allow Cayman’s overall economy to flourish. He has previously proposed eliminating the seven-year term limit and replacing it with what is essentially a 10-year residency limit that allows everyone a chance to apply for permanent residence.
“Don’t get into this issue of term limits,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whether you come here on a work permit as a gardener, or you come here as the managing director of the Bank of Butterfield.
“You get the same opportunity to stay for the same length of time and apply for PR, and either you get it or you don’t.”