Bermuda drops rollover policy
After more than a decade on the books, the Bermudian government Wednesday nixed its six-year term limit policy for foreign workers citing a need to grow the local economy.
And the Cayman Islands government is taking notice, Deputy Premier Rolston Anglin said.
“I believe on this issue, we certainly have been ahead of the curve,” Mr. Anglin said during a Thursday news briefing at the government administration building in George Town.
Cayman lawmakers approved a seven-year term limit for non-Caymanian workers that took effect in January 2004. However, about seven years after that took effect, lawmakers added term limit exemption permits to immigration legislation.
Those exemptions have so far led to more than 1,400 non-Caymanian work permit holders staying beyond their normal seven-year limit. All exemption permits will expire by October 2013, according to existing legislation.
What happens to Cayman’s Immigration Law between now and then may not be entirely for the current five-person minority government to decide. However, Mr. Anglin said government is in possession of the report from the term limit review committee, commissioned by the former United Democratic Party government.
That report recommended, among other things, that Cayman’s seven-year term limit be extended to 10 years and that all expatriate workers who stay for at least eight years be allowed to apply for permanent residence.
“What we’re committed to doing is ensuring that we continue this work,” Mr. Anglin said. “There will be certain recommendations coming to Cabinet imminently for us to consider.
“Whether that change happens between now and May, we obviously can’t say,” he added. “I would hope that members would see this as an issue urgent importance … because we certainly would not want any of our competition getting ahead of us.”
Mr. Anglin said the government realises immigration reform is something of a balancing act.
“Attracting talent for all of our industries is critically important,” he said. “But we have to also understand that we have small societies. Viable economies need people. We clearly recognise, in order to grow our economy, we need to have that continued involvement with Caymanians and non-Caymanians living harmoniously side-by-side and making Cayman a great place to live and work.”
View from the Atlantic
Bermudian Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy said Wednesday that the removal of his territory’s six-year term limit policy for foreign workers was one of several steps needed “if Bermuda’s economy is to grow”.
“The elimination of the policy: Measures to Inhibit Long-Term Residency represents a giant step forward,” Mr. Fahy said. “It represents the red-carpet approach, conveying that Bermuda is open for business.
“[The rollover is] a policy that has been identified as a barrier to job creation.”
Mr. Fahy differentiated between the six-year term limit and the issuance of work permits for foreign workers who are employed in Bermuda. He said the work permit system should be adequate to ensure that qualified Bermudians are given jobs ahead of non-Bermudians.
“I want to remind all Bermudians that every work permit holder is in Bermuda for a defined period based on the length of their work permit,” he said. “When a one, two, or three-year work permit expires, the job must be advertised.
“Where a qualified Bermudian applies for the job, the employer must extend the job to the qualified Bermudian applicant.”
Mr. Fahy said all work permit holders would have to sign declarations of their understanding that Bermudian Immigration Law does not confer rights of permanent residence upon work permit holders.
Cayman’s and Bermuda’s Immigration Laws are similar in that both require non-Caymanian workers to acquire work permits before becoming gainfully employed in the territories.
Although Mr. Fahy indicated in his announcement that he had the support of the Bermudian opposition party, members of the Progressive Labour Party disagreed sharply with that statement, calling it “erroneous and disingenuous at best”.
Prior to the 17 December general election in Bermuda, in which the former Progressive Labour Party government was defeated, the group had committed to immigration reform. However, Opposition Leader Marc Bean noted that the ruling government had campaigned on the promise of a two-year suspension and review of the term limit policy, not its elimination.
“The Progressive Labour Party understands the need for expatriate workers in Bermuda and supports the policies that make it more accommodating for them to set up employment and to relocate to Bermuda,” Mr. Bean said. “However, we also must strike a balance between this accommodation and ensuring opportunities for qualified and capable Bermudians are provided.”