Immigration Department staff members are processing the vast majority of work permit grants for non-Caymanian workers employed within the Islands, according to records provided to the Caymanian Compass by the department.
Also, those records reveal that – no matter who processes those applications – work permits during the past year are being turned down less than 10 per cent of the time.
The territory’s chief immigration officer, or staff members designated as work permit administrators by her, processed a total of 19,127 permit applications between 1 April, 2011 and 31 March, 2012 – most of those being standard work permit or temporary work permit applications.
During the same period, members of the government appointed work permit board processed a total of 5,587 applications; while members of the Business Staffing Plan Board processed 4,443 applications.
Previously, all work permit applications in the Cayman Islands had to be approved by either one of the two boards. In 2009, that was changed to allow Immigration Department employees to review those documents.
That change has sped up the process and made time demands on the Work Permit Board quite a bit easier, according to board chairwoman Sophia Dilbert.
“You have administrative staff doing straight applications that don’t have any issues, that are non-contentious,” Ms Dilbert said during an interview last month. “Immigration have been doing a really exceptional job of ensuring applicants have submitted full applications … so when they come to the board an application is complete.”
Ms Dilbert said she has yet to see an incomplete application for a work permit.
Although applications that come before immigration staff are supposedly non-contentious, records provided to the Compass show they are sometimes refused. More than 1,400 permit applications were refused by immigration staff, according to the records; although that only accounts for about 7.5 per cent of all those processed between April 2011 and March 2012.
By comparison, 9 per cent of applications that went before the Work Permit Board during the past year were turned down. Just 2 per cent of those that were presented to the Business Staffing Plan Board were nixed, according to immigration records.
Overall, work permit applications were approved more than 90 per cent of the time between 1 April, 2011 and 31 March, 2012, the Immigration Department records showed.
A review of the Immigration Department’s activities during the past two years presented to the Cayman Islands Tourism Association last month showed some progress on speeding through business permit applications.
The department said the average processing time for work permit applications had been reduced from eight weeks to five weeks as long as the complete application had been submitted by the employer.
Applications for permanent residence – the right to remain in Cayman for the rest of one’s life – had been averaging about two years. That has been significantly reduced, according to the department, to around three months per application.
The Immigration Department is also working on establishing a fully electronic filing system for work and residency applications, rather than the physical files the department has relied on.
Immigration maintains more than 125,000 files, although it is estimated just around 30,000 are active. Some 80,000 files have been scanned through the computer database, the department noted.