Editorial for September 3: Expats ask: 'Am I staying – or going?'

We ask readers today to put themselves in the shoes of one of 1,500 Cayman Islands residents now helplessly awaiting their fate as the local government decides what to do with those individuals granted Term Limit Exemption Permits.

Imagine that it is you living on borrowed time, uncertain what will happen as of Oct. 28 – the deadline for the expiry of all Term Limit Exemption Permits – which is now less than two months away. You have been resident in this overseas territory for eight or nine years and face the possibility of being expelled unless officialdom can get its act together in a few weeks and pass a law that completely changes the territory’s immigration system.

You start to panic. You place a phone call to the Cayman Islands Immigration Department seeking more information. The problem is not one person there can tell you what the new policy will be when lawmakers finish voting on the legislation.

Faced with a looming “evacuation” deadline, you finally decide to pull up stakes and leave Cayman, not wishing to wait around until “rollover day” becomes a reality. This decision, of course, puts current employers at an extreme disadvantage as they were hoping to retain your expertise and contacts developed over the course of eight or nine years in the islands. Sadly, that option is simply no longer available.

What we have just described is a very real dilemma now facing thousands of non-Caymanian residents and their families. They, and their employers, are forced to take a “wait and see” attitude to determine what direction the trade winds of bureaucracy blow lives and economic development.

We are unable to comprehend how such a situation can be seen as helping the Cayman Islands in any way whatsoever.

It is obvious that not every foreign worker coming to Cayman will be able to stay long enough to obtain permanent residence, and all should understand that fact. We understand that the government must enact some measures to deal with potential overpopulation and to assist in employing the local workforce in a small territory.

What must be eliminated, however, is the uncertainty created by workers and their employers not knowing from day to day whether those individuals can stay or must go.
Added to the never-ending uncertainty surrounding Cayman’s immigration regime is a system that has now become so complex and unwieldy that not even the people who work within it can understand it, much less explain it. We’ve now gotten to the point in the Cayman Islands where companies and individuals are almost forced to hire specialist attorneys to carry on with daily operations.

A lot is riding on the production, within an exceptionally short period of time, of the Progressives-led government’s new immigration policy. We can only hope that some form of clarity is found for an issue that remains one of the most crucial to Cayman’s continued development and success.