Despite some public discussion to the contrary, the Cayman Islands government’s often-maligned “rollover policy” will not be eliminated by proposed changes to the country’s Immigration Law.
The term-limit period for non-Caymanian workers’ residence will change from a maximum of seven years to a maximum of 10 years, if and when the Progressives-led government administration’s plans are approved. The government has set a late October deadline for the approval of those changes in the Legislative Assembly.
Home Affairs Ministry Chief Officer Eric Bush confirmed last week that foreign workers reaching their 10-year term limit who have not applied for or been granted permanent resident status would be required to leave the islands for at least a year, as per the current policy. After the year break, former work permit holders would be allowed to apply for jobs in Cayman.
Mr. Bush said the issue is still under discussion and would not go to Cabinet for approval until next month, but that no change had been contemplated in the current break in stay requirements.
The only facet of the existing policy that will be removed, as envisioned by the Progressives administration, will be the key employee designation. Key employee status allows non-Caymanian workers who receive it to stay an additional two years beyond the typical seven-year term limit, if they continue to hold a valid work permit. The two-year extension allows those workers to stay in the country long enough – eight years – to apply for permanent residence.
That two-year extension will no longer be required under the new regime as long as the foreign worker continues to obtain work permit renewals. Once an individual has been continuously resident for eight years under the new scheme, he becomes eligible to apply for permanent resident status.
However, the requirements for being granted permanent residence are likely to become more stringent following a review of the existing law in the coming months. That review will focus on redefining criteria for the awarding of permanent residence to align with government’s “economic, social and cultural objectives”.
“The aim is to ensure persons granted permanent residence are drawn from a diverse cross-section of our society and are also assets to the community,” Mr. Bush said in an earlier statement. “The revised criteria will also take into account the impact of the removal of the initial filter afforded by the key employee feature of the term limit process.”
Premier Alden McLaughlin said that under the existing immigration system, it is likely that a person awarded key employee status will eventually be granted permanent residence. The same approval rate cannot apply if a significantly greater number of individuals are allowed to apply for permanent residence, he said.
Under the existing system, local businesses essentially make the first decision on who gets to stay and who must leave when they choose workers to designate as key employees. The difference under the newly proposed system is that government will be the sole arbiter in the decision, once a permanent residence application is received.
Cayman’s newly elected government is taking a slightly different tack in amending the islands’ immigration policies than the UK overseas territory of Bermuda did earlier this year.
It was the Bermudian policy, created in 2001, that initially informed the Cayman Islands’ similar plan that first took effect in January 2004.
According to Bermuda’s Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy, “[The rollover is] a policy that has been identified as a barrier to job creation.”
In an address announcing the cancellation of the policy at the start of 2013, Mr. Fahy said that the country’s 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.”
The same rules apply under the Cayman Islands Immigration Law with regard to the granting of work permits.