The Cayman Islands will retain control of its own passport applications and distribution, keeping its territorial name on the travel documents, as well as local workers in the government passport office employed.
However, those passports will soon be printed out of the United Kingdom.
Premier Alden McLaughlin said in a statement issued last week that once the U.K. begins printing passports for its overseas territories, Cayman passport applicants will enter information here where it will transmitted to the U.K. The passports will be printed in the U.K. and returned to the Cayman Islands Passport Office for distribution.
Mr. McLaughlin said in December that he had “grave concerns” about the U.K. deadline of December 2014 for the repatriation of passport printing to Britain, a move that could have led to the elimination of British Overseas Territories passports, including Cayman’s.
The premier said last week that he feels “a bit more comfortable” about the current arrangements with the U.K., although Cayman still does not know what it might cost to procure a computer system capable of sending the passport information to the U.K. or what arrangements might be made for the issuance of emergency passports locally.
“We expect that [the cost of the new system] will be substantially less than the figure originally estimated [between $4.5 million and $5.5 million],” Mr. McLaughlin said. “The U.K. is still working on an acceptable long-term solution to the emergency passport issue, which will permit the overseas territories to be able to swiftly issue a secure, internationally acceptable temporary travel document.”
Cayman now has about two years’ worth of emergency passport stock held locally. The U.K. issued passports will contain biometric identification data. The current Cayman Islands/British Overseas Territories passports do not.
In late 2013, the U.K. presented its remaining overseas territories with several options with regard to passport printing, which the mother country was adamant about repatriating.
The first option involved the Cayman Islands submitting securely transmitted passport details through an automated computer system to the U.K., which would then print the passport and issue it directly to the passport holder. This is the option the Cayman Islands government appears to have taken.
A second option involved the transmission of that data via non-automated systems; a third option would be starting with non-automated systems and eventually transitioning to the fully automated data transmission. A fourth option, retiring Cayman Islands passports and replacing them with British passports, was ruled out immediately, the premier said.
In all cases, issuance of emergency travel passports would be done – at least in the short term – in Cayman from existing, non-biometric passport stock. However, keeping additional passport stock in Cayman for emergencies – even after the U.K. begins issuing the passports in December 2014 – would still cost money. Moreover, it is not known how long the United States will continue to accept foreign passports that do not contain biometric ID chips.
Another issue, long term, is that the providers of the laminate for the locally printed, non-biometric emergency passports will no longer produce the laminate after the next batch of passport stock is ordered, meaning the territory’s current stock will eventually run out.
Emergency passport issues can sometimes be a “life and death” matter, according to the premier, for instance, if an older person whose passport has expired must fly to the U.S. or Jamaica for urgent medical care.
Legally speaking, the only citizenship issued in the Cayman Islands is British Overseas Territories citizenship. A Cayman Islands passport conveys that citizenship.
The designation of Caymanian status conveys “belonger” status to the individual holder in Cayman, but it is not recognized internationally as a citizenship designation. It is possible to have Caymanian status and not British Overseas Territories citizenship and vice versa.