Strict new conditions for permanent residency
Non-Caymanian workers employed in the Cayman Islands core government services will not be affected by a newly proposed nine-year term limit on residency for foreign workers, if the Immigration (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill passes muster with the Legislative Assembly next month.
However, there are new provisions in the legislation that seek to even the playing field between government and private sector workers.
According to Section 30 of the new bill, both private sector and core government workers who are non-Caymanian may apply for permanent residence upon reaching their eighth year of continuous residence in the islands. Permanent residence is the right to stay in Cayman for the remainder of one’s life.
Any private sector worker who applies for permanent residence and doesn’t get it would have to leave the islands for at least a year and then, if they wished to return, would have to seek a new work permit following the expiration of that year abroad.
Government workers who apply for permanent residence during year eight and don’t get it would not have to leave the islands as long as they maintained a valid working contract. However, any government employee who failed in a bid for permanent residence would have to wait another nine years before applying for that status again. In other words, a government worker could not apply every year for permanent residence status until they received it.
Home Affairs Ministry chief officer Eric Bush said the nine-year period between permanent residence applications for government workers was an attempt to place public sector workers on roughly the same footing as private sector employees when it comes to the right to apply for permanent residence applications.
The immigration amendment bill also sets out strict conditions following the award of permanent residence to any individual, whether in the public or private sector.
First, the holder of a residency and employment rights certificate generally restricts the holder to “working within the particular occupation or occupations specified” by the relevant immigration board or the chief immigration officer who approved the residency application.
“There shall be no entitlement to self-employment [for permanent residence holders],” according to the bill.
It will be a responsibility under the new bill, if approved, for any permanent resident to notify immigration officials of criminal convictions, unemployment status, whether they continue to hold assets in the islands and any change to marital status or number of dependants.
The immigration bill goes further to set a timeline for the purchase of another property if they sell a property listed in their initial application for permanent residence. In such a case, the alternate property purchase “shall be completed within 180 days of the sale [of the first property] unless there are exceptional circumstances” the law states.
The employer of a permanent resident who holds the right to work is also required to report to immigration officials anytime there is “any change in the holders circumstances” including the worker being fired, promoted, demoted or redesignated.
Any child of a residency and employment rights certificate holder does not have the right to reside in the islands as a dependent of the certificate holder after age 18 unless they are engaged in “full time tertiary education,” according to the bill.
Permanent residence granted under the new bill can be revoked for several reasons, including subversive political activities or the causing or promotion of racism, whether within the Cayman Islands or outside of it; lying on a permanent residence application; conviction for a criminal offense in Cayman or outside of it; becoming destitute; becoming mentally defective; acquiring a communicable disease making the person a danger to the community; the person engages in prostitution; the person fails to maintain the level of financial investment stated in his or her permanent residence application; working in a job not approved by an immigration board or the chief immigration officer; or if the person is “deemed by the governor to be an undesirable inhabitant of the islands.”
A special category of work permit created under the previous United Democratic Party government, that of “specialist caregivers,” will be done away with under the new bill, if it is approved and signed into law.
However, an application for a certificate of specialist caregivers made before the commencement date of the new law will be considered according to the terms of the old Immigration Law, 2010 revision.
The certificates, approved by lawmakers in 2010, let foreign-born caregivers who nurse sick, elderly or handicapped residents stay in the Cayman Islands beyond the expiration of their final work permits.
The domestics could do so only if their employers obtained a certificate from either the Work Permit Board or chief immigration officer that allowed helpers to remain up to five more years. That extension only applies as long as they remain with the same employer.
Without the special certificate, caregivers who did not obtain key employee or permanent resident status were forced to leave after reaching seven years of continuous residence in the islands.