Non-Caymanians who have obtained permanent residence through application after eight years living on the islands will find a more complicated path, at least initially, to renew that status, according to revisions to the Cayman Islands Immigration Law.
Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans said Tuesday that there had been some difficulty with the issue and that a more comprehensive explanation from the department would be forthcoming shortly.
“The [Immigration Department] website is being revised to make it clearer what the process is for those holding permanent residence prior to the law change and those obtaining [it] after the law change,” Ms. Evans said.
At the moment, current permanent residence-holders who received that status under the previous Immigration Law, are being required to fill out a five-page form listing various details of the applicant’s personal and professional life. The application is lengthier than the form work permit holders must fill out to renew their contracts.
“People who applied for permanent residency before the Immigration Law was reformed in October 2013 need to provide immigration with information about their holdings and other circumstances, which are now required under the new law,” Ms. Evans said. “The information will be used to establish a baseline, which doesn’t currently exist in their files for the comparative purposes going forward.
“There is a subsequent form for those same permanent residence holders, which is one page, asking to confirm if there are any changes and that is the form they would then use [after the first year].
“If you obtained PR after the law change, then the new PR application form will have already provided us with the baseline info we need,” she said.
In addition to the five-page form, requirements for additional documentation to be submitted with a permanent residence application have caused some confusion among residents seeking to renew that status.
For instance, each permanent resident must show evidence of property ownership, if it applies to their circumstances, to ensure they maintain their current investment in the Cayman Islands.
The wording contained in a two-page checklist regarding property ownership led to questions about whether permanent residence-holders must obtain a new property valuation each year they apply to renew their resident status, a step that could add another $300 to $500 to the annual application process. However, immigration attorneys contacted by the Caymanian Compass Tuesday said new property valuations of the same home or condo would not be required each year.
“In these circumstances, no new valuations are actually required,” said Nicolas Joseph of HSM Chambers. “Enclosing the old valuation with evidence [of] the ownership of the property has not changed should … be satisfactory.”
Daniel Altneu of Samson and McGrath concurred: “There is no need to submit any additional documentation if ownership of the property has not changed since permanent residence was obtained.”
Mr. Joseph said some of the finer points of the permanent residence renewal process may need fine tuning in the coming months.
“There seems to be a lack of understanding of some elements of the procedures in relation to some of the more junior immigration officers who may not yet have been able to have training on the intent and effect of the new provisions,” he said. “Much of what is happening now could be fairly described as ‘growing pains’ rather than an intentional effort to be obstructive.”
Ms. Evans said later on Tuesday that the ‘check-list’ form, that contanied property declaration requirements and other items for permanent residence renewals was left on the Immigration Department website in error and should never have been there in the first place.
“The annual declaration submission was never intended to carry any supporting documentation required to accompany the form,” Ms. Evans said. “However, if upon subsequent internal review of the annual declaration and your circumstances had changed substantially since obtaining PR then you will be asked to explain further and it may require specific documentation to support your explanation depending on the circumstances.”
Copies of a number of documents, including an employment letter from the permanent resident’s job, evidence of marital status, bank references, dependents’ birth certificates and other forms related to dependent children must all be submitted with the initial renewal application under the new Immigration Law. In addition to evidence of property ownership, other proofs of local investment – including any shareholdings or businesses – must be updated.
Annual fees for permanent residence, equal to the fee for a one-year work permit for the job the person currently holds, are still payable to the government as well. Unlike work permit fees, which are paid by the employer, it is up to any arrangement between the employer and the worker as to who pays the annual residency renewal fees.
Nonpayment of permanent residence fees has cost the Cayman Islands government millions, according to Ms. Evans, who said as early as 2010 that the Immigration Department had “written off” hundreds of thousands of dollars in permanent residence fees after individuals who owed them left the islands and debts could not be collected.
Mr. Joseph said it has long been clear that fraud has been perpetrated by some holders of permanent residence and that the more stringent yearly reporting requirements were implemented to bring an end to it.
“The ‘frauds’ range from working in a role not permitted by the certificate, purchasing property for the application and then selling or transferring it once granted, or pooling funds with friends to generate a bank statement to make it appear that an applicant has substantial savings,” Mr. Joseph said.
The current immigration law requires a permanent resident who sells his or her property to purchase another one of equal or greater value within six months of the sale. Initial permanent residence applications are judged partly on how much savings individuals have in their Cayman Islands bank accounts.