Work permit, staffing plan boards named

Two of Cayman’s three main immigration-related boards have been reappointed with mostly new members.

The members include a new chairwoman for the Work Permit Board, attorney Sheena Frederick-Westerborg, and a new chairman and deputy chairman for the Business Staffing Plan board.

Cayman Enterprise City Chief Executive Officer Charlie Kirkconnell, who was previously a staffing plan board member, succeeds Danny Scott as chairman. Caribbean Utilities Company human resources director Philip Jackson is the deputy chairman.

Mrs. Frederick-Westerborg succeeds Maples attorney Sophia Dilbert as chairwoman of the Work Permit Board.

Reappointed members of the Work Permit Board are deputy chair Sarah Barnett, Lavern Daykin, Gary Rutty and Irma Arch. New members are Judy-Ann Ebanks, Edward Hessing, Elizabeth Walton and Christine Archer-Solly.

Reappointed members of the Business Staffing Plan Board are Tammy Seymour and Ken Thompson. Newly appointed members are Rhonda Ebanks, Christopher Goddard, Edward Chisholm, Tristana Ebanks and Ruth Williams.

The appointments come at a time when the government appears to be moving away from the current work permit approval system.

The Progressives-led administration has set out a medium-term goal to eliminate – to the extent possible – the involvement of appointed boards in the work permit approval process.

Changes approved as part of the Immigration [Amendment] [No. 2] Bill, 2013 last month already grant the chief immigration officer, or her designated subordinate, the ability to approve work permits and permanent residence applications. Previously, immigration officers only had the ability to stamp “non-controversial” work permit applications for jobs where no qualified Caymanian had applied.

According to Premier Alden McLaughlin, the idea is to eventually have as many work permit, permanent residence and other immigration-related applications as possible dealt with by the Immigration Department. The government intends to have immigration handle all initial applications and leave only appeals of permit denials to entities like the Work Permit Board and Business Staffing Plan Board. Some serious discussion will be needed on this point, the premier acknowledges. “I’m told by those experts within the system that we’re probably going to need to retain a board to deal with more problematic matters [work permit applications where a qualified Caymanian applied and did not get the job, etc.].”

Government has established a Work Permit Process Review Committee to review a number of aspects in the current immigration permit system. The committee will work toward the goal of bringing further amendments to Cayman’s Immigration Law by May 2014.

Business Staffing Plan Board deputy chair Jackson, in his first appointment on an immigration-related board, said he believes there will always be a role for appointed bodies to plan in the work permit approval process.

“If you have competent and qualified staff at the Immigration Department, they can handle the administrative, transactional type of cases,” Mr. Jackson said. “The more complex, controversial stuff will get passed on to the board.

“I think we need a balanced approach to immigration, but at the same time, we need to ensure that employers are taking care of their responsibilities to make sure they effectively recruit and train Caymanians.”