In September 2011, Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush
announced he would ask Cabinet to suspend the term limits in place for most
foreign workers for up to two years to allow for a comprehensive review of the
law and its effects since being introduced in 2004.
That review committee, which completed its report in June,
recommended keeping a term limit on foreign nationals, but extending that term
limit to 10 years and allowing any foreigner who stayed continuously past seven
years the opportunity to apply for permanent residency before their eighth
Although the review committee called for and received input
from the public, the government called for additional input from the public
about the review committee’s recommendations. Finally the matter is set to come
back before Cabinet later this month.
Premier Bush and Leader of the Opposition Alden McLaughlin
have both indicated that Cayman’s term limit policy is in need of reform and
both seemed to support a plan of easing the current regime in some way. However,
there’s a protectionist segment of Cayman’s citizenry that would prefer the
term limit regime remain the way it is or become more stringent with regard to
the length of time expatriate workers can remain in the territory. These people
believe that the rollover policy should help create jobs for Caymanians after
expatriates are forced to leave.
The fact that unemployment among Caymanians went up, instead
of down, as more expatriate workers have left the Cayman Islands during the
past five years should be a clear indication of the fallacy of their arguments.
But with elections coming up here in just seven months, the protectionists are
bound to make a lot of noise about any plan to relax the rollover policy.
With many businesses already pushed to their limits in terms
of operating expenses, the government needs to at least give them the comfort
of knowing how long they can keep their work permit employees. To kick the can
down the road at this point in an effort to placate protectionist voters would
just be a sign that the government doesn’t really care about Cayman’s
businesses. The time is now for a decision on Cayman’s rollover policy.