Massive response to immigration survey

Rollover review almost complete

More than 800 people and businesses responded to a review committee’s survey seeking suggestions on how to improve and/or change the Cayman Islands Immigration Law, according the committee chairperson.  

Local attorney Sherri Bodden-Cowan said the responses will have a significant impact on government policy with regard to immigration issues; particularly whether Cayman’s current seven-year term limit policy on foreign workers’ residency – known as the rollover – is amended.  

“The Caymanian public, except those who go on the radio, don’t tend to voice their opinions very often,” Mrs. Bodden-Cowan said. “Just the amount of response that we’ve had … we view that as very positive.”  

The submissions come from 761 individuals and 97 businesses across the Cayman Islands and represent a broad cross-section of residents. Fifty-three per cent of the individual surveys were filled out by Caymanians, their spouses or dependants. Thirty-six per cent of the individual survey-takers identified themselves as originally being from the 
Cayman Islands. 

What is perhaps more unusual is significant participation from those generally considered politically voiceless in the community. Work permit holders made up 20 per cent of the respondents in the survey, while non-Caymanian government contract holders put in 16 per cent of the responses. Another 11 per cent of unidentified “other” non-Caymanians rounded out the survey-taking.  

Mrs. Bodden-Cowan said committee members Ken Hydes and Jim O’Neill presented the survey findings and their conclusions on those to the immigration review committee last Thursday. She expected a similar review of immigration statistics being completed by Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans would be finished by today {Thursday).  

Although she noted some responses to the survey would have to be edited or kept confidential so they would not reveal the identity of the survey-takers, Mrs. Bodden-Cowan said she knew of no reason why the conclusions of the subcommittees reviewing the surveys, statistics and even some legal issues involved in changing immigration law should not eventually be made public.  

“That will be up to Cabinet to do, but I would hope that our conclusions would be released at least,” she said.  

Mrs. Bodden-Cowan expects the full immigration review, consisting of the legal, statistical and public input aspects, will be presented to Cabinet members by the end of the month.  

A number of options have been bandied about concerning a change in Cayman’s immigration policies and it seems that, whatever course is taken, a proposal for some changes in the law will be presented to the Legislative Assembly within the next year.  

Options previously discussed have included abandoning the current key employee status provisions in the immigration law. Key employee designations are now required if any foreign employee who is not married to a Caymanian wishes to stay beyond the normal seven-year limit on residence. The proposal to remove key employee status would mean anyone who stayed in Cayman continuously on a work permit for at least eight years would be eligible to apply for permanent residence – the right to stay in Cayman the rest of their lives. Not everyone would receive that status; permanent residency awards are based on a point system that considers a number of issues including local investment, volunteer work and test scores on a Cayman Islands knowledge test.  

Another proposed change has been reducing the “break in stay” period required for foreigners forced to leave the Islands because of the term limit or rollover policy. Currently, non-Caymanian residents who do not have any permanent status and reach their seven-year term limit must leave Cayman for at least one year before they are eligible to apply for another work permit. Proposals for reducing the break in stay have ranged from as little as a one-month break, to a three or six-month break.  

The complete elimination of the country’s seven-year term limit policy has been discussed, although lawyers have generally agreed it is unlikely the provision will be completely removed. Rather, it is possible the term limit could be extended to perhaps nine or 10 years. After 10 years, the United Kingdom usually desires to see some security of tenure granted to long-term residents.