Time limits will be set on non-Caymanian workers’ applications for permanent residence under revised immigration reform proposals, according to government officials.
Anyone seeking permanent residence under the new immigration legislation – which has not yet been approved by the Legislative Assembly – would have to apply during year eight of their residence in the Cayman Islands. A non-Caymanian worker who applied later or earlier would not have that application heard.
A special provision will be included in the proposal for workers staying here on Term Limit Exemption Permits who have reached nine years of continuous residence in Cayman and who wish to apply for permanent residence. Those individuals must apply for PR status within three months of the new law taking effect. That three-month deadline for applications applies only to those non-Caymanian workers who received term limit exemptions between October 2011 and October 2013, and who have lived on island for nine years.
An estimated 1,500 individuals who hold Term Limit Exemption Permits are awaiting the outcome of proposed legislation that will significantly change the existing Cayman Islands Immigration Law. Among those changes are provisions that allow any non-Caymanian worker to apply for permanent residence – the right to stay in Cayman for the rest of their lives – if they have been ordinarily resident in the islands for at least eight consecutive years.
All of those who stayed in Cayman on Term Limit Exemption Permits between October 2011 and next month will have at least reached the eight-year mark by the time the newly proposed Immigration Law takes effect, assuming lawmakers approve the legislation. Those workers would then be eligible to apply for permanent residence, according to drafters of the new policy.
Those workers remain in limbo, however, until proposed changes to the law take effect.
For anyone applying for PR status under the new system, a certain time frame will be set within which they must apply for permanent residence. The idea, according to Premier Alden McLaughlin, is to ensure that those applications are dealt with in a timely fashion, preferably before those non-Caymanian workers reach 10 years of continuous residence here.
“We’ve got to bring some finality to this process,” Mr. McLaughlin said Monday.
Under the new immigration proposal, Cayman’s current seven-year term limit for non-Caymanian workers is expected to be expanded a 10-year rollover period. Anyone who stays in the islands for eight consecutive years can apply for permanent residence rights. If they are refused or if they choose not to apply, they would be rolled over after they had been on island 10 years.
However, the permanent residence application process will change, becoming much more stringent and to a certain extent, encompassing requirements previously set for key employee designations for foreign workers.
The key employee status designation, required for non-Caymanian workers to stay in Cayman more than seven consecutive years, will be eliminated under the new Immigration Law.
What lawmakers are seeking to avoid is a repeat of what Cayman saw after its first rollover policy was implemented in 2004. At that time, any foreign worker who had been in the Cayman Islands for at least five years consecutively was allowed to remain long enough to apply for permanent resident status. The result was a huge backlog of permanent residence applications by individuals who fit that description, a backlog which in some cases has still not been resolved.
“I am looking at appeals of permanent residency denials that go back to 2005 and are still waiting to be heard by the Immigration Appeals Tribunal,” attorney Sherri Bodden-Cowan said in a recent interview.
If and when the revised Immigration Law takes effect, those individuals and any other foreign workers who have stayed in the Cayman Islands for eight years or longer will be allowed to apply for permanent residence without needing to receive a key employee designation. Premier McLaughlin had previously said that changes to the law would take effect before the Oct. 28 deadline set on the Term Limit Exemption Permits.
However, if the changes in the law are approved by then, immigration attorney Nicolas Joseph said it’s likely that many of those individuals will apply for permanent residence all at once.
“The 1,500, or however many there are now, many of them in October will be at nine years [continuous residence],” Mr. Joseph said, adding that the large number of applicants could lead to future backlogs. “There is a likelihood that many of those persons will be in the islands for an extended period.”
The exact details of the territory’s new Immigration Bill have not been revealed, and Premier McLaughlin said a review committee is still working out some of the finer points.
He said Monday that he hoped the bill would be ready for presentation to the Legislative Assembly either late this month or in early October, following a review of the 2013/14 budget.