Recommendations issued last week by government’s Term Limit Review Committee on the Cayman Islands’ seven-year residency term limit for foreign workers match almost exactly proposals made a year ago by opposition party members.
Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin, whose June 2011 proposal was a significant departure on the term limit stance previously taken by his People’s Progressive Movement party, said Saturday that he was pleased with the committee’s recommendations.
“If there are no surprises [in the committee’s 100-plus page recommendation document], this may very well be one of those issues that government and opposition agree on,” Mr. McLaughlin said Saturday. “It’s basically our plan, so it’s difficult for me to demur.”
The proposals made by the review committee – led by Deputy United Democratic Party Chairwoman Sherri Bodden-Cowan – have not been accepted by Cabinet members. Premier McKeeva Bush said he wished to obtain more feedback from the public on the matter before bringing it to Cabinet.
Anyone interested in the plan was asked to provide comments on the committee’s report within 30 days of 15 June. Comments were asked to be sent to the e-mail address [email protected]
Two key provisions under Mr. McLaughlin’s 2011 plan were the repeal of the current seven-year term limit on residence for foreign workers and the elimination of key employee status designations that allow those individuals to stay long enough in Cayman to apply for permanent residence.
Mr. McLaughlin said the pair of rules under the current Immigration Law combined to create a “laissez-faire system that hopes natural attrition and employer choice will limit the number of people that stay here”.
“There should be a general provision, which provides that all persons on work permit are entitled to apply for permanent residence after they have lived in the Cayman Islands for eight years and that they must do so by year 10 if they wish to remain in the Cayman Islands beyond that point,” Mr. McLaughlin suggested.
What the Term Limit Review Committee ended up recommending was the elimination of key employee status altogether and the increase of the term limit on residence from seven to 10 years. Applications for permanent residence – the right to stay in Cayman for the rest of one’s life – must be made between the seventh and eighth year of residence in the Islands, according to the committee’s proposal.
Mr. McLaughlin admitted that the creation of the key employee provision within the Immigration Law had been a “major mistake”.
The committee also suggested that the government revise the government points system to “ensure it meets current government economic and social objectives”. Right now, any applicant for permanent residence must achieve at least 100 points, according to the scale government uses.
Mr. McLaughlin said, the way the scale is structured, it is almost impossible for someone who does not own property or have another significant investment in Cayman to obtain permanent residence, unless they are married to a Caymanian.
“We should not set the bar for permanent residence so high that only professional and managerial persons can ever hope to achieve it,” he said. “Nor should we set it so low that just about anyone will qualify.
“It’s social engineering … for the government to set criteria, or qualifications, you want persons who stay here long term to have. That ought not to amount only to money.”
Mr. McLaughlin said the key to determining success or failure of that system would depend on how the requirements for permanent residence were set up under the new immigration regime.
“You don’t want a system where the goal for PR is changing constantly,” he said.
“It all depends on how effective and efficient the implementation of this is.”
Read the report of the Term Limit Review Committee by clicking here.