500 TLEP holders leave Cayman

A third of foreign workers who held Term Limit Exemption Permits have left the Cayman Islands rather than seek new work permits or apply for permanent residency.

Five hundred have left and only 54 have so far applied to stay on the island permanently.

The special permits were all due to expire in October last year, leaving nearly 1,500 workers in immigration limbo.

To deal with the issue and prevent a mass exodus of employees, the Progressives government relaxed the original conditions of the permits as part of an extensive package of immigration reforms.

TLEP holders, all of whom had reached the seven-year threshold which under previous rules would have required them to leave the island, were given the option of seeking new work permits under the terms of the Immigration Amendment Act, which pushes that “rollover” date back to nine years.

Those here longer than eight years were also given the chance to apply for permanent residency under new conditions outlined in the legislation.

Statistics released by government on Friday show that 274 TLEP holders have been granted new work permits. A further 576 have applied for permits, while only 54 have applied for permanent residency.

Some are still on the island as visitors while 547 have left.

A government spokeswoman said the vacant positions were open to Caymanians willing and qualified to do the work.

“Government is working with employers to ensure that Caymanians are hired for jobs vacated by those who held TLEPs through the National Workforce Development Agency,” she said.

Premier Alden McLaughlin said the relatively low number of applications for permanent residency vindicated government’s decision to make that option available to TLEP holders.

“We knew from the outset, and even stated, that not all of those people on these special permits would want to seek permanent residency and the numbers show that we were right,” he said.

He added that it would have been bad for the country for all TLEP holders to be forced to leave en masse when the original October deadline was reached.

“We would have had close to 1,500 people with dependents leaving the country at once; people not buying groceries, not paying rent, not buying gas. It just wasn’t in the best interest of the Cayman Islands,” he said.

Term Limit Exemption Permits were created in October 2011 by the former United Democratic Party government. The idea at the time was to help local businesses stave off a wholesale departure of thousands of non-Caymanian employees who had come to Cayman after Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.

Many of those individuals who remained on island were reaching their seven-year term limit by 2011-2012 and the term limit exemptions allowed them to stay up to two extra years between October 2011 and October 2013, if they were granted. All of the TLEP workers have been in Cayman for longer than seven years and most have been here longer than eight years.

That situation created a bit of a legal dilemma for the government. The previous term limit exemption legislation stated that those workers would not be eligible to apply for permanent resident status, even though they had stayed in the Cayman Islands for the requisite eight years.

Mr. McLaughlin’s government, as part of a package of immigration reforms, agreed to allow any of those individuals who have been in Cayman eight years and who hold a valid work permit to apply for permanent resident status, citing the potential for human rights-related lawsuits if they did not do so.


  1. How many of these jobs have been filled by Caymanians I wonder. Any word on Ezzard’s quest to replace the expats with Caymanians? This rally just seems to have gotten swept under the table. Also how’s Al Suckoo’s job drive working out?

  2. Why would people mark disagree to a simple question like the one I asked. Unless some people just think that it’s a question that shouldn’t be asked because they wouldn’t like the answer. If you disagree with something It would be nice to know why. But on the other hand if you have nothing intelligent to say or cannot offer and adequate reason or debate, I guess it would be best to keep quite. People make their minds up based on the facts that are put in front of them, so If you have a logical disagreement with someone position you really should voice your opinion, you may just change someone’s mind if your argument holds merit.

    In this case without any other facts to show otherwise I am left to believe that Miller couldn’t find any qualified or willing replacements so the jobs were filling with more work permit holders.

  3. I can’t say how many of the jobs have been filled by Caymanian. What I can say is that many of the Caymanians that apply for jobs are completely ignored even if they have the required qualifications.

  4. Thanks Mack, why do you think employers would just ignore Applications from qualified Caymanians when they have to pay a large fee to hire an Expat ? Is there anyone out here that owns a business and can confirm that this is common practice and maybe speak on it..

  5. The individuals within these companies don’t care about the fees involved as they don’t have to pay the fees personally.

    Companies are required to look for the best qualified person for any given job if no qualified Caymanian is available. However, what we have in Cayman are people who are trying to find jobs for their friends and fellow countrymen.

    You don’t need to strain your eyes to see what is right in front of you.

  6. I see your point Mack about people trying to find Jobs for their friends and family. That’s probably the norm anywhere not just in Cayman so I can believe that is happening but how does this explain the Caymanian owned businesses that hire expats ?

    I frequently eat at certain restaurants of which I know the Caymanian owners and I see waitresses and cooks that are not Caymanian I also know a few Contractors that are Caymanian who hire expats that do things as simple and painting and landscaping. Can you offer any explanation for why these guys would hire expats ?

  7. While it might be the norm anywhere; what you are not understanding is the impact that this type of conduct has on a small country with a small local population. It is not appropriate to compare the impact that this type of conduct has on Cayman with the impact it has on larger countries.

    The unfortunate truth is that a lot of these so-called Caymanians that own or manage these restaurants are Caymanian in name only. These are mostly the people that have been given Caymanian Status but don’t actually have any love for this country outside of the money that they can earn and the workers they can exploit.

    If you took the time to speak with some of the workers at these restaurants you will quickly understand why the owners don’t want to hire Caymanians. Many of these workers are being exploited but are afraid to come forward for fear of losing their jobs. I have taken the time talk with many of these workers and I repeatedly hear the same story. They are either friends (or fellow countrymen) of the owners or they are being exploited in some way.

    It is more difficult for business owners to get away with this conduct when they hire Caymanians so it should be clear to you why they would not want to hire Caymanians.

  8. Thanks Mack I appreciate your insight. Can you give me some examples of the type of exploitation you’re referring to. And maybe share one or two of the stories you’ve heard. I’d like to see if it contradicts some of the stories I’ve heard about issues with Caymanian Employees which I do believe to be somewhat exaggerated but may have caused a certain stigma of the years.

  9. I did extensive research into this issue over a six month period of time in 2012 and heard many stories of employers making their workers’ pay 100% of their pension and health insurance and even more stories of employers paying workers less than what any human being could reasonably be expected to live on in the Cayman Islands. There was also a small number of complaints of verbal abuse.

    While some Caymanian employers might be guilty of this despicable conduct I think you will find that the vast majority of employers involved originate from some foreign land.

  10. Mack thinks that because people work hard, they are exploited.

    Also, I wonder whether stores like Fosters and Kirks feel the impact when 500 work permit holders leave, taking with them their families and possibly other work permit holders (like domestic helpers). I have no doubt that they do. As a result they order less stock, paying higher prices, passing it on to the public.

    Probably 500 more cars for sale now, driving down prices for used cars and lowering the demand for new cars– also ending up increasing cost to do business for all the car sales businesses.

    Also a drop in demand for electricity and water, thereby increasing the unit costs we all will end up paying.

    The list can go on…

  11. @Bob Savage: Where in any of my comments did I indicate that because people work hard, they are exploited? I specifically mentioned things that are clearly illegal in the Cayman Islands (e.g. employers making employees pay 100% of their pension and health care costs).

    You clearly have a chip on your shoulder and/or are under the influence of some illegal substance.

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