Rollover returnees make Cayman home

Since the term limit on foreign workers’ residency took
effect in January 2004, there have been a significant number of people who have
been “rolled over”, left Cayman for a year, and then returned to take up
another job or even the same one they held before they left.

According to the policy, any workers who had been legally
resident in the Islands for at least five years as of 1 January, 2004, were all
allowed to stay long enough [eight years] to apply for permanent residence; the
right to stay in Cayman for the rest of their lives.

Getting through the backlog of residency applications from
that took years. However, anyone who hadn’t been in Cayman for at least five
years at that stage was forced to leave if they did not obtain permanent
residence or were not married to a Caymanian. That period of leave had to be
for a calendar year from the date of departure.

The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman’s now legendary personal
assistant and concierge Leroy Jordan was one of those. Mr. Jordan got “rolled
over” in October 2008 after he “opened’ the Ritz in 2005.

“It’s definitely not an easy thing,” Mr. Jordan said. “It’s
expensive if nothing else. I think that’s what may deter people from coming
back. It’s pretty stressful, but I knew there was no doubt in my mind that I
was going to get back [to Cayman] one way or the other.”

Mr. Jordan isn’t alone. In fact, as early as 2009, when some
rollover returnees started to reach the end of their year-long break in stay
period, then-immigration chief Franz Manderson noted a significant number of
non-Caymanian workers coming back.

Mr. Manderson, now the deputy governor, didn’t give specific
numbers at the time, but he estimated there were easily “hundreds of people”
who had come back after being rolled over between 2007 and 2008.

“Almost on every agenda that we deal with, whether it’s
temporary work permits or annual work permits, there are at least one or two
persons who are returning now,’ he said.

Mr. Manderson said it would be the policy of immigration
staffers, who handle many routine work permit applications, to give preference
to the rollover returnees over new permit applicants.

“We know those persons,” he said. “They’ve been with us for
seven years, so it would make sense to give that person priority over someone
who had never been on the Island before. Why not give them some preference?”

Mr. Manderson stressed that there were no cases where a job
seeker who had been rolled over after seven years would be given preference
over a qualified Caymanian or permanent residence-holder that had applied for
any post. Cases where a work permit applicant has been selected for a job over
a qualified local applicant would normally be processed by the Work Permit
Board or Business Staffing Plan Board and not by an immigration officer.

The Immigration Department handles only items like work
permit renewals or new applications where no local applicant had sought the job
being offered.

By early 2010, Leroy Jordan had found his way back to the Islands
after a 16-month stint working at the Marriott in his hometown of Edmonton,
Canada.

“Going home for a year…you really learn to appreciate
[Cayman],” he said. “I kept my stuff here. It’s an amazing Island, the
Ritz-Carlton is an amazing company and the guests coming through the Ritz are
amazing.”

Realtors not bowled over
by rollover
 

Cayman Islands realtors celebrated when the government
suspended the so-called ‘rollover’ policy in September 2011.

As a group and individually, realtors have consistently said
the seven-year work permit scheme handcuffed the property market. Simply put,
people are hesitant to buy homes not knowing if they will be allowed to stay
permanently.

Following the rollover suspension announcement, the Cayman
Islands Tourism Association and the Cayman Islands Real Estate Brokers
Association issued a statement in which they jointly supported the suspension.

“With the numerous challenges that both industries have
faced during the economic downturn it is a relief for businesses to have the
pressure of rollover removed, even if only on a temporary basis. If this had
not been addressed there was tremendous concern over the economic loss that our
country would continue to face.

“Between the effects of a shrinking population, the
increasing cost of recruitment of new employees and the negative impact of our
service standards when valuable team members are forced to leave, the situation
was/is seen as critical,” according to the statement.

In October 2011, CIREBA’s then-president Jeremy Hurst wrote
in a market analysis. “The good news is that we appear to have turned the
corner in relation to this particular policy as now both political parties
appear to have come to the realisation that rollover, despite its best
intentions, clearly doesn’t work and any benefits it may have had were greatly
outweighed by its negative effects on the economy.”

In January 2012, new CIREBA president Jeanette Totten said,
“The rollover policy instituted in 2004 has forced many people to leave the
country and discouraged home purchases. Government made a significant step
toward addressing the problems with the term limit policy when it announced in
September that rollover would be suspended for two years.”

In July 2012, RE/MAX broker/owner Kim Lund said multi-family
properties were at “all time lows” in terms of occupancy and sales prices. “If
there was ever a beaten down segment of our real estate market, this is one of
them,” he said. “The recession and rollover has decimated the returns for most
of these properties, which traditionally sell for a capitalisation rate based
on their return on investment.”

Also in July 2012, RE/MAX broker/owner James Bovell said the
rollover policy was a progressive step from the previous one-year-at-a-time
work permit policy.

He said, “Years ago we did not even have the privilege of
knowing that we had at least seven years of opportunity to work and reside
here, and each work permit was scrutinised on an annual basis as to whether
they would remain on island or not.

This set the stage for a truly migrant population where very
few were willing to make long term investment in property. Setting up a path of
progressive rights that led someone to permanent residency and ultimately
status was, to my mind, a sensible way to give people the chance to become part
of the community, put down roots and purchase property and has significantly
helped Cayman’s real estate industry. The rollover policy was brought into
place to reduce Cayman’s long term liability to provide for migrant workers and
their families that the country just could not afford, but still allowed time
for those wanting to invest.”

He said, “Every time Immigration has given more time or
opportunity for people to stay or join our community, Cayman’s real estate
market has benefitted greatly, so have many other industries.”

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