A 170-page report compiled by the Cayman Islands Immigration Review Committee will be presented to Cabinet as early as next week.
According to the review team chairperson, local attorney Sherri Bodden-Cowan, members of the 19-person committee are being asked to sign off on the final report this week. Once that occurs, the report will be sent to Cabinet members for review.
“We’ve finished our work,” Mrs. Bodden-Cowan said. “Once Cabinet gets the report then they’ll decide how to implement any changes [to the Immigration Law].”
A number of options have been bandied about since last year 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.
Mrs. Bodden-Cowan said she could not immediately make a copy of the report public as it still needed to be reviewed by Cabinet.
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 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.
More than 800 people and businesses responded to the review committee’s survey conducted earlier this year seeking suggestions on how to improve and/or change the Cayman Islands Immigration Law.
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.
One issue that would have to be resolved by any changes to the country’s Immigration Law is what should happen to hundreds of non-Caymanian workers now being allowed to stay in the Islands beyond the typical seven-year term limit on residence, often referred to as the rollover policy.
Those individuals have applied for up to a two-year Term Limit Exemption Permit, which allows them to stay beyond the seven-year term, but does not entitle them to apply for permanent residence – the right to remain in the Cayman Islands for the rest of their lives.
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, 2011, and 31 March, 2012, 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.