Parties want major change for work permits

There are some fairly big differences between the Cayman Islands’ two official political parties in their views on how the country’s immigration system should be changed.  

However, the People’s Progressive Movement and the United Democratic Party are alike in one thing – they’re pushing for major alterations of existing work permit policies in their respective political manifestos.  

The United Democratic Party has advocated getting rid of the country’s term limit on foreign residents altogether.  

The Progressives want to keep some term limit intact, but eliminate the mechanism known as ‘key employee status’ and allow everyone who stays in Cayman for more than seven years to be allowed to apply for permanent residence.  


The UDP plan  

The UDP starts with the premise that the seven-year term limit on foreign workers’ residence has had a negative economic impact and is making Cayman noncompetitive.  

“Eliminating the term limit policy will help spark economic growth and create employment opportunities for all Caymanians,” the manifesto states. 

At the same time, the party wants to “manage expectations of security of tenure”. 

To that end, the UDP manifesto proposes to: “Require all work permit holders to sign a declaration confirming their understanding that the law does not confer rights of permanency and that the holder has no expectation of such.”  

That proposal is similar to what Bermuda does with all its work permit holders.  

However, Bermuda has no established path to citizenship for its work permit holders, unlike Cayman.  

The UDP also wants to increase labour inspections at work sites and focus on training Caymanian workers to take specific jobs that are available within the market.  

With 54 per cent of the workforce being non-Caymanian, the UDP said it would seek to “control the growth of work permits in certain categories until Caymanian unemployment is reduced to an acceptable level”.  

That would only apply to certain jobs, and not those where no Caymanians are available to fill the positions.  

Similar ‘Caymanian-only’ jobs legislation was passed by the Legislative Assembly in March, but left it to Cabinet to specify which jobs would be designated in such a manner.  

“We need to depend less on foreign workers,” the UDP manifesto states. 


The Progressives plan   

The PPM also admits economic and competitiveness concerns with regard to the continued existence of the country’s immigration policies.  

“We must strike the right balance between the understandable desire of business to operate with minimum regulatory control and the legitimate aspirations of Caymanians to be given the opportunity to participate fully in the local economy,” the Progressives manifesto states.  

To accomplish this, the PPM proposes that all current work permit, permanent residence and Caymanian status applications are dealt with administratively. It seeks to eliminate the involvement of politically-appointed boards in the permit process until the appeals stage.  

Also, the party seeks to create complete separation between the labour/licensing functions of the Immigration Department and the border control/enforcement section.  

In order to stay in Cayman long enough to apply for permanent residence, a foreign worker who is not married to a Caymanian or who does not have some close family connection to Cayman must be given key employee status via application of their employer.  

The key employee designation allows the worker to stay here for up to nine years and apply for permanent 
residence within that time.  

The PPM would do away with key employee status. So, as long as a non-Caymanian worker continues to receive a valid permit, they can apply for permanent residence after having 
lived in the islands 
for more than seven years.  

The problem, according to the PPM, is most foreign workers aren’t spending money in the local economy or becoming connected with the local community, with the prospect of having to leave in seven years.  

Under the new proposed system, the PPM states: “Not everyone who applies can expect to be granted permanent residence, but everyone will have an equal chance.  

The current system of only key employees being able to apply is highly discriminatory and means, in practice, that 
mainly professional and managerial employees get permanent residence. 

“We believe in fair and equal opportunity for all.” 


  1. Now concerning the change in work permit by political parties, I am scratching my head on which comments to believe. I am inclined to believe those of the PPM although I am not a full supporter of that party; I however split justice. Why I am inclined to believe the PPM is because they have been saying the same things all along. That is honesty. What I do not like is happening with old and new candidates of various parties, is that they Are lying to the people again to obtain votes. This I do not like. I am an old horse in this political arena and know what some of them are doing. Cayman has come to a serious situation where employment is concerned, and I am quite positive that the government and the private sector is going to see a big rise in crime after election if something is not done quickly. Stop lying to the people and get Caymanians on a job. There are two many expatriates in positions Caymanians can hold. Besides many of the women expatriates from certain country is causing family break ups. I do not need to call any names but it is getting out of hand and this is another situation that is going to cause problems.

  2. Change sure is needed Any employer or work permit holder will tell you the system is totally broken. From the top employers on island to the single permit holding company. It is a total mess even if you have friends on the board.
    It really should work like this fill out the paperwork , pay the fee DONE. no waiting or approval. The application with health backround check etc. in its current form is pretty good and detailed. If an employer wants the applicant and the applicant is eligible DONE deal.
    Also what makes you people think that everyone wants Residency?

  3. Hunter – your hypocrisy is, unfortunately, embarrassingly typical and shameful. These ‘women expatriates’ you speak of wouldn’t be ‘breaking up families’ if the MAN of the family stayed home (respecting/supporting his wife and children) and didn’t go out looking for It. It takes two to tango.

  4. Our biggest problem in work permits has always been quotas. Just like fred sanford has said about if you are qualified you should get it . No waiting, but you all shouldn’t come from one place. There needs to be a quota system so that Cayman stays Cayman . If one country is allowed to bring only their people . Then it will take a small amount of time before we only listen to their music, their food, their language,their customs, their religion, etc.

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