Programme to come on line in 2013
Although it likely won’t start the process of fingerprinting work permit holders until next year, the Immigration Department does intend to use fingerprint recording machines in the field at work site inspections once the programme gets up and running.
Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Gary Wong said some legal changes will be required in order for site inspection officers to use the devices in the field.
The devices allow workers to place their fingers into the machine and will use those prints to search an electronic database to determine if they have a current permit on file.
“This will help us identify work permit holders when we go on site,” Mr. Wong said.
The overall plan is for the Immigration Department to fingerprint every work permit holder and student visa holder in the Cayman Islands sometime early next year. The department has been talking about taking this step for several years, but said Friday that it now has the necessary technology in place and has received general approval from government.
“We met with the government caucus some time ago and gave them our proposals,” Mr. Wong said. “They accepted the proposals for student visas and work permit holders [to be] fingerprinted.”
Permanent residents and spouses of Caymanians who are non-Caymanian will not be fingerprinted in the first tier of the proposal, although they could be added to the immigration database later, Mr. Wong said.
The deputy chief immigration officer also cautioned that the immigration fingerprint database will be kept separate from the current Royal Cayman Islands Police Service fingerprint database, which tracks criminal suspects and convicts.
“[The police] will have to get a court order to search the [immigration] database,” Mr. Wong said, adding that a magistrate must sign the order for it to have effect.
The additional protections will be placed in the process because “you’re basically infringing on privacy”,” Mr. Wong said.
Immigration officials are also still working out the details of how to fingerprint more than 20,000 work permit and student visa holders in the Cayman Islands. New foreign workers or students will simply have their fingerprints taken as part of the initial process to get a permit to reside in Cayman.
“We realise most of the enrolment will have to be done here at the [immigration] headquarters,” Mr. Wong said. “Some of it may be able to be handled at the airport … but we really don’t want to inconvenience the travelling public too much.”
The Immigration Department will probably have to open some weekend days to get everyone into the fingerprint database, he said.
“There was talk at one point that we would contact some of the bigger companies … for them to come here; we would just lock off the building and deal with them for that period of time,” Mr. Wong said.
The fingerprinting system, set up by Cogent, is already being used by immigration authorities to print individuals who are arrested for offences under the Cayman Islands Immigration Law. However, those records are transferred immediately to the police system since they involve allegations of crime.