Hundreds line up for permit extension

TLEP immigration

Update Tuesday: After experiencing huge crowds Monday, the Cayman Islands Immigration Department was relatively quiet through mid-day Tuesday as hundreds of non-Caymanian workers simply didn’t show up to get extensions through Dec. 9 stamped into their passports.

Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans said, through about 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, some 150 people on Term Limit Exemption Permits had gotten their passport extension stamped.

That’s a fraction of the 876 TLEP-holders who showed up to both the Immigration Department and Mary Miller Hall on Monday, she said.

“People are just not showing up,” Ms Evans said Tuesday. “The number we had was the number of current term limit exemption holders [1,466] current up through Oct. 28. We’re still waiting on 400 persons to be processed.”

The previous deadline for Term Limit Exemption Permit holders’ expiration was Monday. According to immigration legislation approved last week by the Legislative Assembly, those workers were all allowed to stay through Dec. 9 as long as they got their passport stamped to indicate they were working by operation of law through that date.

Facilities were set up at Mary Miller Hall Monday and Tuesday to handle the bulk of those individuals so that Immigration Department headquarters was not overrun later in the week.

“Headquarters can’t even handle 400 people,” Ms Evans said.

Anyone who doesn’t get their Term Limit Exemption Permit stamped will effectively be overstaying in Cayman by Wednesday of this week, Ms Evans said.   

Initial story: Work permit holders, Caymanian business owners and visitors lined up for at least a block along Elgin Avenue on Monday morning in the rush to get Term Limit Exemption Permits regularized by this week’s deadline. 

The Term Limit Extension Permits, which were to expire on Monday, have been extended to Dec. 9 in amendments to the Cayman Islands Immigration Law approved by the Legislative Assembly last week. The changes were gazetted on Friday, making them official state policy following signature by the governor.  

About 1,500 non-Caymanian workers who were residing here on those extension permits had between Monday morning and Tuesday evening to get their passports stamped. Most of them – roughly 1,100 people by Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans’s estimate – owed no money for the extension and simply needed to show up at Mary Miller Hall in Red Bay to receive their Dec. 9 stamp.  

Unfortunately, according to Ms Evans, many of those who should have gone to Mary Miller Hall ended up standing in line outside the Immigration Department for hours on Monday.  

“I’m not hearing positive things at headquarters,” Ms Evans said Monday morning. “There were about 1,100 Term Limit Exemption Permit-holders that didn’t have to pay anything and they all should have come here [to Mary Miller].”  

One man, who was seen at Mary Miller Hall earlier in the day, had been redirected to the Immigration Department and was standing in line with about 100 other people at 10 a.m. Monday.  

“Apparently, my TLEP was paid before the deadline,” the man, who did not want to be identified for fear of creating problems for his employer, said. “It’s frustrating.”  

The line was also something of a surprise to Beverly Day, a Caymanian business owner who went to the Immigration Department on Monday to drop off applications for some work permits that had nothing to do with the term limit exemption.  

“Somebody should be here telling [the TLEP-holders] to go to Mary Miller Hall,” Mrs. Day said, further observing that the line outside the Immigration Department on Monday reminded her of the 2003 Caymanian status grants, which also resulted in quite a long line outside the immigration hall.  

There was an Immigration Department employee outside the building Monday morning with a list of Term Limit Exemption Permit workers, checking with each person in line to see if they needed to be there or if they should instead go to Mary Miller Hall. Later in the morning, Chief Immigration Officer Evans arrived at headquarters to help sort things out.  

At Mary Miller Hall, things were moving along a bit better. Average wait times were about 10 to 15 minutes for individuals going in to get their term limit extension stamped. At 9 a.m. Monday, there were about 80 people sitting inside the air-conditioned hall waiting for their name to be called.  

Most of those TLEP-holders the Caymanian Compass spoke with said they had no intention of applying for permanent residence and probably wouldn’t make it under the current points system set up in the new Immigration Regulations, which were also gazetted Friday.  

“This is their home, we are here temporarily, they say we have to go and so we take it with a smile,” said Joel Talbert, a painter. “There are always other places, this is not the only option.” 

“[Permanent residence] is too hard right now, with how them puttin’ it,” said Eric Campbell. “I just want to work here and go home.”  

Messrs. Campbell and Talbert may be correct in their analysis. According to local immigration attorney Daniel Altneu of the firm Samson and McGrath, the new permanent residence points system described in regulations to the Immigration Law would require quite a bit of monetary investment into the Cayman Islands.  

“To be awarded the full 30 points, an applicant earning CI$5,000 per month would need to personally make a total investment of CI$120,000. If purchasing a property with a husband or wife, that figure doubles to CI$240,000,” Mr. Altneu said, indicating he expected the new points system to negatively affect the real estate market.  

“The need for a substantial initial investment and a more stringent points system act as deterrents,” he said. “Applicants could face the reality of narrowly missing out on a grant of permanent residence, needing to make plans to leave the Cayman Islands, but being stuck with a property in a market in which it takes an average of one year to sell.”  

All holders of Term Limit Exemption Permits in Cayman are allowed to apply for permanent residence – the right to reside in Cayman for the rest of their lives – if they hold a valid work permit and have been in Cayman for at least eight years. 

TLEP immigration queue

People line up outside the Immigration Department on Monday in George Town.
– Photo: Chris Court