The Cayman Islands has about 1,000 more people employed on work permits now than it did a year ago, according to records provided by the Immigration Department.
As of 31 December, 2012, immigration officers recorded a total of 20,823 people in the Cayman Islands employed on work permits, government contracts, or working as an operation of the law. Those figures do not include individuals who hold permanent residence or non-Caymanians who are married to Caymanians and therefore would not have to obtain a work permit for employment.
Local laws require any foreign workers who are not married to Caymanians or who do not have permanent residence to obtain a work permit or government contract before taking a job here.
On 31 December, 2010, immigration records showed there were 20,564 work permit holders, government contract employees and foreigners working as an operation of the law in the Cayman Islands. A year later, 31 December, 2011, that number was 19,816.
The year-to-year increase for work permits between December 2011 and December 2012 is roughly 5 per cent.
The figures provided by immigration are essentially a “snapshot” of what exists in the territory at a particular time. The work permit figures may change from week-to-week or even daily, but over time they can be used to determine trends.
According to statistics, a low point for work permits was reached around late March 2011, when the overall numbers dropped to 18,828. Since then, overall permit numbers have hovered between 19,000 and 21,000 people at any given time.
Year-end 2012 data shows the first evidence of any sort of sustained rise, albeit relatively slight, in work permit numbers since a major drop in permits that began in 2008. In the last quarter of 2008, more than 26,000 work permit holders were employed within the Cayman Islands.
The increase at the end of 2012 appeared mainly to be due to new permit grants and the extension of hundreds of term-limited workers’ permits through the use of Term Limit Exemption permits.
Local companies have applied on behalf of more than 1,000 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.
The Term Limit Exemption Permit, or TLEP, was created in lawmakers’ 2011 amendments to the Cayman Islands Immigration Law, mainly as a way to stave off the departure of a large number of foreign workers all at once and the economic blow that could carry. Many of those who came to Cayman just after Hurricane Ivan in 2004 or early 2005 would have reached their seven-year limit on residency sometime during 2011 or 2012.
Immigration officials have tallied some 2,350 workers in 2012 who would reach their seven-year limit on residence – often referred to as the rollover – and who would otherwise have to leave if they didn’t obtain key employee status or permanent resident status. All Term Limit Exemption Permits are set to expire in late October of this year unless government extends the legislation.
The same five nationalities continued to possess the lion’s share of work permits and/or government contracts within the Cayman Islands as has been seen during the past decade.
According to the Immigration Department’s data for 31 December, 2012, Jamaicans possessed 8,432 work permits or about 40 per cent of the total. Filipinos accounted for 2,678 work permits (13 per cent); individuals from the United Kingdom possessed 1,824 permits (9 per cent); Americans had 1,337 work permits (6 per cent); and Canadians were granted 1,156 work permits (5.5 per cent).
Other nationalities possessing the greatest numbers of work permits were Hondurans (752), Indians (735), Guyanese (300), Colombians (262), Nicaraguans (259), Dominicans (250), Irish (248), South Africans (246) and Australians (205). All other nationalities in Cayman, more than 120 nationalities in total, had fewer than 200 permits per each group.
Immigration officials made progress on reducing the numbers of individuals working in Cayman as a “operation of the law” – which means they are awaiting the outcomes of permanent residence applications or waiting to hear back on appeals of denied work permits.
According to statistics, there were 644 people who fit into that group as of 31 December, 2012. That figure stood at 1,182 in late 2011 and at the start of 2009 it was more than 3,000.
The number of foreign workers in Cayman on government contracts was mostly unchanged during 2012. At the end of the year, 988 people were working on government contracts. Non-Caymanians with government contracts have also dwindled since late 2008, when more than 1,500 people held those working agreements.
Typically, government contracts are awarded only to expatriate workers. However, there are some Caymanian civil servants older than 60 who are required to obtain contracts to continue working beyond the normal retirement age.