Nearly half receive exemption permits

Close to 1,400 foreign workers received Term Limit Exemption Permits by 31 December to stave off being “rolled over” from the Cayman Islands at the end of their seven-year residency.

The Term Limit Exemption Permits, or TLEPs, were brought into being by an amendment to the Immigration Law that took effect in October 2011. The temporary permits can only be extended up to two years from the initial start date, 28 October, 2011, no matter when they were issued to the worker.

According to Immigration Department statistics, at 31 December, 2012, some 1,250 workers had been initially granted a one-year exemption permit, allowing them to stay beyond what normally would have been their residency term-limit. In addition, 143 workers got renewals for an additional exemption permit.

Judging from statistics compiled by immigration officials, the 1,393 TLEP-holders make up about 49 per cent of the non-Caymanian work permit holders who would have reached their seven-year term limit between October 2011 and December 2012. Put another way, it appears that nearly half of the 2,861 individuals that the Immigration Department said would normally have had to leave between October 2011 and December 2012 ended up staying on TLEPs.

Typically, non-Caymanian employees who reside in Cayman are required to leave after seven years of continuous residence here unless they are granted what’s known as key employee status, which allows a worker to remain up to nine years. During that added time the foreign worker can apply for permanent residence – the right to remain in Cayman for the rest of their lives.

Legislators approved changes to the territory’s immigration law in early October 2011 that allowed for up to a two-year suspension of enforcement on term limit provisions for those qualifying foreign workers. That legal suspension is what has been granted to the 1,393 workers now on Term Limit Exemption Permits.

However, according to the amended law, the additional time spent in Cayman on a TLEP will not be allowed to count toward an individual’s continuous residency application.

During a debate in the Legislative Assembly just prior to the passage of the amended Immigration Law, former Premier McKeeva Bush said the TLEP extensions would not lead to a flood of permanent residence applications. “Any time spent working here on a Term Limit Exemption Permit will not count toward the eight-year residence requirement in order to apply for permanent residence,” Mr. Bush said. “Any suggestion that we are creating another bottleneck of permanent residence applications is … unwarranted.”

Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin said during his debate on amendments to the Immigration Law that the proposal could lead to a different kind of bottleneck. Mr. McLaughlin said the bill created “the legal fiction that you are lawfully a resident, but you are really not resident for the purposes of the law”.

“With all of the potential that brings for legal challenge, on a number of fronts … I cannot quite understand why the government would expose itself and the country to that possibility,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

The expiration of all Term Limit Exemption Permits is set to occur in late October of this year. It will be left up to the government of the day to decide what, if anything, should be done with those individuals.

The reason TLEPs were created under former Premier Bush’s administration has to do with a nettlesome problem created in part by September 2004’s Hurricane Ivan and the massive influx of foreign labour that arrived in Cayman in the year or so after the monster storm struck.

Sherri Bodden-Cowan, the former chairwoman of the government’s immigration term-limit review committee, said that with the influx of foreign workers that came to the Cayman Islands in late 2004 and in 2005 following Ivan, it was possible that thousands of people would either have to apply for key status or leave the islands.

It is not possible to determine from available immigration statistics how many people who arrived after Hurricane Ivan actually stayed in Cayman the full seven years. Cayman’s labour force statistics clearly show a massive influx of people arrived in Cayman during 2005, compared to a sharp drop in the population around the time Ivan occurred.

By the fall of 2004, Cayman’s total workforce was just 23,453 people, with fewer than 11,000 non-Caymanians in that group, according to the government’s Economics and Statistics Office.

A year later, the workforce had swelled to 36,767 people with 17,439 non-Caymanians in the work force – an increase of about 6,500 non-Caymanians in the labour force in just 12 months.


  1. Tintin, don’t tell me you are one of those who still think less expats means more jobs for Caymanians?Everyone need to realize that companies in Cayman prefer not to pay Work Permit fees and deal with turnover due to the 7 year term limit. Unfortunately, there is just not enough skilled Caymanians to fill the positions. So, when no one can fill the position – it will most likely will be eliminated altogether. When this happen on a larger scale, the company will suffer and end up having to close. And of course this would mean even more Caymanians will be unemployed.

  2. This is evidence that they need to get rid of the rollover policy. It is just a nother way for government to squeeze money from the pockets of good workers. It is a disgrace!

    Right now, we need people on this island more than ever before. The rollover policy is causing people to leave and with them, their money. People are not dumb. They are going to pull out their money too, and this will mean less money in the economy. Also, this thing about expats taking jobs away from Caymanians: simply have a law that every business establishment should have at least 33% minimal of their staff Caymanian; that’s 1/3 of their business personnel. And any company or business that have 2/3 of their staff Caymanian, be exempted from having to pay certain Immigration fees. Simple. You don’t need to break up relationships (encouraging Marraiges of Convenience) and disrupting businesses by a rollover policy to protect Caymanian employment.

    Also, businesses that devote their resources to educate Caymanians and make them skilled, should be rewarded. We don’t need any arbitrary immigration law in place! We just don’t need it! It will end up destroying people’s businesses and increasing the size of a government that is asking too much money from the private sector.

    We need to stop killing jobs!

  3. I never quite understood the need for roll over. In business it is very difficult to recruit and retain long term staff no matter what nationality they are. Firstly people are not always honest on their CVs and then you find out after employing them that they can not do the work they claimed.

    Secondly people move on due to lifestyle requirements as their lives mature. Thirdly your business changes with economic times.

    Thus to retain staff for long periods is not easy. So it does not help when political immigration policies keep changing. Let’s bear in mind a 7 year employee has to have the correct work ethic, be honest and loyal.

    So before we hear all this expat bashing let’s ask the local Caymanian workforce how many of them have worked for the same firm for 7 years and how many have changed jobs because of a whim.

    Surely if you want to grow your population is it not better to have known expats to work their work to status after 15 years then having new unknown and testing expats, who come and go.

    We have close to 20,000 expat workers and only 1500 have stayed over 7 years. Let them stay on and apply for residence which not all will qualify for and work their way to status.

    Let’s make renewals automatic so that business and market forces decide who stays and who does not. But here is the kicker let make new work permits hard to get until the unemployment come down again.

    This way existing businesses can continue to stay in business and they know to expand they must employ more Caymanians.

    In return Caymanians must understand that it not about rights for a job but about work ethic to keep a job and just like in any other country that if you can’t do what the job requires it is only your own fault that you lose it and that applies to everyone no matter what their nationality.

    At the same time we can’t afford to keep expanding the public service based on work permit population and then keep it that size when work permit population drops.

    We also can’t afford to subsidise 6000 people in work because employers are paying low wages.

    A working minimum wage of CI 10.00 per hour needs to be introduced then Caymanians can afford to take jobs instead of the government paying to sit at home and the cost of living then will drop and the minimum wage will be worth more.

  4. needlecase,

    I know a lot of couples to avoid breaking apart have decided to marry in order to keep the foreign one here, and that means immature marriages because of an immigration policy. Too often I find that it is our own laws that are causing good folk to break the Law, and when they get in trouble, they have to pay hefty fines or serve time for it. I met a young man who told me that if his fiance have to go away to live somewhere else because of the policy, he will have to follow her. Where she go he will go! He is willing to leave a government job because he is in love with a foreign woman that has made her home here. You think it’s a joke?! But be honest, if you are seriously in love with someone, how in the world are you going to wait for an entire year to be with them? You are not going to take parting from a love one stress-free. We are currently losing our own brilliant and intelligent young people because of this policy! I hate to say, but we are making home a hell for many young Caymanians!
    Immigration laws is messing up our market. I met employers that have to do more than downsize their businesses because of the double increased in Work Permit fees! A construction worker use to be 1000, now you have to pay 2000 for his permit. So imagine a person starts a construction company, struggling to get by due to the bad economy and now he has to pay double for all of his employees that are not from here. With 10 construction workers, he has to pay 20,000 to keep them here for one year! If that’s not censoring to the small business owner then I don’t know what is! Some have decided to close down their businesses altogether and leave the island. I see it with my own eyes. Stores being closed down in George Town. People complaining about government. I hear of robberies and the increase of unemployment. Young people getting themselves educated but can’t find a job because businesses can’t hire. These events folks are real life events that are going to get worse if we don’t have responsible people in government to fix it! I hear of employers cutting pay, forcing their employees to pay for their work permits, etc… because of this policy. Are we going to place all the blame on them and continue to believe that nothing is wrong with our immigration system?
    I hope and pray our people open their eyes and our leaders revisit immigration laws and policy. We can’t afford to destroy businesses in Cayman for foolish laws; especially small businesses, which are the life-blood of our economy and job-creation.


  5. Nearly half received exemption permits, and with a bit of basic arithmetic we can say that more than half didn’t, so they left.

    I’m sure glad I got out of the rental business.

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