Though an in-depth review of the Cayman Islands’ immigration policies is under way, it won’t be completed anywhere near the Oct. 28 deadline.
Non-Caymanian workers residing here on Term Limit Exemption Permits will be allowed to resume holding regular work permits under proposed changes to the territory’s Immigration Law, as long as those workers can retain a valid work permit. The legal changes are due before the expiration of those exemption permits on Oct. 28, Premier Alden McLaughlin said.
Work permit review
Meanwhile, the work permit review committee, which is delving into separate, long-term policy issues, will present a final report to Cabinet next April.
According to terms of reference issued by the group last week, the intent of the territory’s work permit regime is to, first, ensure Caymanians are provided with fair opportunity for employment; second, that foreign labor is imported within the context of conditions applied and; third, that only those individuals of good character and who pose no threat to national security are allowed to enter and work in Cayman.
The review committee is examining the territory’s work permit process, seeking to highlight areas “which do not align with the elected government’s manifesto and/or beliefs.”
“With over 20,000 work permit holders in our workforce, coupled with over 1,500 Caymanians registered as unemployed, it is believed that our current system is not working as it should,” according to the terms of reference for the review. “We must better align our work permit regime with the country’s needs of protecting its own with the industry’s need of foreign labor in some circumstances.”
Several broad areas have been identified in the terms of reference for the immigration review.
The criteria for application and approval of a work permit will be reviewed, to include how long it takes to approve a work permit and the cost of that process. Work permit fees “specifically for small business” will also be reviewed, according to the terms of reference.
The terms also call for the use of modern technologies to better coordinate the work of the National Workforce Development Agency with other government departments that deal with the work permit process.
Finally, the work permit appeals process will be examined.
The timeline for the committee’s review calls for an interim progress report to Cabinet by next month. They will make a second preliminary report at the start of 2014 and wrap up with a final report/recommendations to Cabinet in April 2014.
Ministry of Home Affairs chief officer Eric Bush has been named committee chairman, with Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans and the National Workforce Development Agency’s acting director Lois Kellyman serving as co-deputy chairmen. Other committee members include representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, Cayman Finance, the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, the Cayman Islands Contractors Association and the Cayman Islands Human Resource Professionals Association.
In a separate effort, immigration reform legislation to address an urgent issue is due to be brought before the Legislative Assembly after the government’s new budget is approved in October.
As of now, between 1,500 and 2,000 non-Caymanian workers would be required to leave the islands when the Oct. 28 deadline on their term limit exemption expires.
If and when the revised Immigration Law takes effect, those workers 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 the requirement that they receive key employee designation.
Under the new legislation, there will be time limits set on permanent residence applications, according to officials. Anyone applying for permanent residence must do so during their eighth year of residence in the Cayman Islands. The only exception will be for Term Limit Exemption Permit holders who have already been in Cayman for nine years. Once the new law takes effect, those individuals will have three months to make their permanent residence applications.
A draft of the new legislation has not been released. Lawmakers are due to take it up by next month.