Work permits back above 20,000
Local companies have applied on behalf of at least 712 non-Caymanian workers to extend their stay in the Cayman Islands beyond the normal seven-year term limit on residency set forth in the Immigration Law.
Those applications were made between 28 October and 31 March, according to statistics produced by the Immigration Department.
The Term Limit Exemption Permit, or TLEP, was created last year in lawmakers’ amendments to the Cayman Islands Immigration Law mainly as a way to stave off the departure of a large number of foreign workers and the perceived economic blow that would carry. Many of those who had come to Cayman just after Hurricane Ivan in 2004 or early 2005 and had reached, or would soon reach, their seven-year limit on residency.
In fact, immigration officials have tallied some 2,350 workers this year who will reach their seven-year limit on residence – often referred to as the rollover policy – and who will have to leave if they don’t obtain key employee status or permanent resident status.
The Term Limit Exemption Permit, if granted, will allow a worker to stay a further two years beyond 28 October, 2011 even though their term limit has expired.
Although, a full count of how each of the 712 applications has fared was not immediately available, immigration officials confirmed a total of 461 exemption permits were approved by either the Work Permit Board, the Business Staffing Plan Board or by the chief immigration officer. Just 21 were refused and 27 others deferred during the period between 28 October and 31 March.
The vast majority of the exemption permits have been processed internally by the Immigration Department, which reported handling 374 up through March. The Work Permit Board handled another 91 applications and the Business Staffing Plan Board handled 56.
Term Limit Exemption Permits granted for under-skilled labourers were the most common worker category to be awarded a rollover reprieve, with 259 being awarded exemption permits. Service workers were the next most common worker category granted, with a total of 160 exemption permits given.
According to amendments to the Immigration Law, remaining in Cayman on a Term Limit Exemption Permit does not count toward continued residence requirements to obtain permanent residence in the Cayman Islands.
For the first time in more than a year, the number of work permits – including government contract holders and those working in Cayman as an operation of the law – rose above 20,000 people.
According to immigration records, the number of work permits held in the Cayman Islands went from 18,828 in March 2011 to 20,309 last March, an increase of about 8 per cent.
Government contract figures for non-Caymanian workers remained virtually unchanged during the first part of this year. Temporary [six-month] work permits also stayed about the same.
The number of individuals working as an operation of the law – awaiting decisions on permanent residence or appeals of work permit refusals – dropped to below 1,000 people for the first time in more than five years.
In 2008, there were nearly 3,300 people in Cayman awaiting decisions on their various immigration applications. As of 31 March, 2012, that number had fallen to 902.