Attorney: Basis for rollover policy ‘did not apply’ to Cayman Islands

Mrs. Harris
Mrs. Harris

The reasons government leaders initially gave for the establishment of the Cayman Islands term limit policy on foreign workers’ residence apparently did not apply to the British Overseas Territory at the time the so-called “rollover policy” was introduced into local legislation.

That bombshell was delivered last week in a lecture at the VC Tutorial center by attorney Sophia Harris, one of the island’s foremost authorities on Immigration Law and chairman of the territory’s Immigration Appeals Tribunal.

“In open and public statements, the public was advised that under the European Convention on Nationality, which we were told was applicable to the Cayman Islands, third-party residents in a country for 10 years or more were entitled to citizenship…” Mrs. Harris told about 25 people attending the speech at the Pasadora Place business on May 13.

“It appears that this was, in fact, never the case and the convention did not apply to Cayman,” said Mrs. Harris, who is also the managing partner of the Solomon Harris law firm.

“This was the basis for justifying the rollover policy, not only during the campaign to introduce the rollover policy into law [during 2003], but indeed up until relatively recently,” she said.

In its initial proposals to extend Cayman’s term limit on foreign workers’ residence from seven years to 10 years, the ruling Progressives party said it believed 10 years was the maximum time the territory could possibly extend the “rollover” without running afoul of international conventions. The term limit was eventually extended to nine years last October.

When pressed about the convention’s application to Cayman, Mrs. Harris indicated that legal research into the question had been done and this was the answer that was received. High-ranking civil servants, who did not want to be identified for this article, indicated that the attorney general’s chambers had researched the question.

Mrs. Harris said the information had been “known” for about the last 18 months, but was never announced publicly.

During her address, Mrs. Harris compared the adoption of the term limit policy into Cayman Islands Immigration Law to what had occurred in Bermuda, the first British Overseas Territory to adopt a term limit policy for resident non-nationals.

“Cayman [adopted] Bermuda’s immigration rollover policy almost verbatim, expect for one critical, if not fatal, point: Bermuda’s rollover policy was just that, a policy, and it was never enshrined in legislation,” she said.

Bermudian law did not, and does not, contemplate any path to citizenship for non-Bermudians. Prior to the “rollover” changes, Cayman had dealt with the issue of citizenship by first placing a “moratorium” on the grants of Caymanian status. That ended in 2001, when the moratorium was challenged in court and was abolished. At one stage, there was provision for a quota in place regarding how many individuals could gain permanent residence/status rights each year, but government never implemented it.

Cayman lawmakers approved the territory’s first term limit policy in late 2003, setting the “rollover” period at seven years and requiring a two-year “break-in-stay” before non-Caymanian workers could return to employment in the islands. The law took effect in January 2004.

“It is without a doubt that Cayman then went through one of the most tumultuous phases that impacted not just how business was done in Cayman, but affected the lives of workers in Cayman and, in fairness, affecting some Caymanians also, perhaps in a way that most were never prepared for and certainly never anticipated.

“Whatever one’s views are of the rollover policy, the adaptation of the rollover policy into law was approved by both of the existing [political] parties at the time,” Mrs. Harris said.

In its manifesto ahead of the 2013 general election, the United Democratic Party [now the Cayman Islands Democratic Party] supported the abolishment of the term limit entirely. The Progressives supported an extension of the term limit from seven years to 10 years in their manifesto during the 2013 campaign.


  1. well I hope they do something quick. I would be interested to see the year over year decline in work permit renewals because of the roll over policy.
    I know more that a dozen of friends that have already been rolled or are about to be rolled and won’t even consider apply for PR because it is so convoluted.

  2. A robust rollover policy might be critical for a small country like the Cayman Islands where the foreign population far outnumbers the local Caymanians.

    One of the major issues that has never seriously been spoken about in Cayman is the impact that immigration is having on the local population, culture and values. Caymanians often complain that the changes that have been witnessed over the years from traditional Caymanian values and the traditional Caymanian culture are having a mostly negative impact on our society. Additionally, more often than not, the people that are accepted into the community do not share traditional Caymanian values and do not want to truly integrate into the Caymanian culture.

    Immigration policy should not simply be about money and the desires of the mostly foreign controlled business entities, but should reflect what Caymanians want for the country from a social and cultural perspective.

  3. Mr.Boland, can you please be more specific about traditional Caymanian values. What are they? No pun intended.
    You can’t stop cultural globalization,you have no control over it; but you can focus on its negative side overlooking the positive.

  4. Mack Boland, according to the Economic and Statistics Office, as of the end of 2012 the Caymanian population outnumbered the Non-Caymanian population by 32,201 to 24,531, in contrast to your statement that the foreign population far outnumbers the local Caymanians. But maybe you don’t count paper Caymanians.

    And yes, just what Caymanian culture are you referring to? Do you just long for the old days when life was tougher and more simple or do you have specific examples of the type of culture us foreigners should adopt? As far as I can tell the younger generation doesn’t share the same traditional Cayman culture either. Should we adopt a rollover policy for them – either conform to traditional values by 18 years old or you’re out!

  5. @Lucia Bell: Thank you for your feedback.

    Caymanians should have control over the people that are allowed to enter and stay in the Cayman Islands. I fully accept that this has not been the case for some time and that various special interest groups and individuals have been allowed to hijack the process. While some will concluded that this is unstoppable cultural globalization, I am of the belief that Cayman can take steps to arrest the decline in morals and values that we have experienced over the past 15 years.

    The fact that you are not familiar with traditional Caymanian values and culture speaks volumes. However, if you are willing to share your address I would be happy to send you a book (free of charge) that I think would be very helpful to you as you journey to find a better understanding of traditional Caymanian culture and values.

    All the best.

  6. Rollover policy was introduced because politicians in charge deemed it necessary. If this basis was illegitimate and they had known it then, they would just have provide another basis. So I don’t see any bombshell here. This is law serving politics, not the other way around.

  7. @Christoph Waltz:

    If you took the time to do a little research you would notice that many of the younger generation that you reference in your comment are actually the offspring of the same people that you have categorized as ‘paper Caymanians’. Maybe this speaks to what happens when people are allowed into the country that are not a good fit from a values and culture perspective.

    The term ‘paper Caymanians’ that you have introduced might actually be a good way to describe some (but not all) of the people that have joined our community over the past 20 years. These ‘paper Caymanians’ are the people that have been given Caymanian Status but who truly have no love for Caymanians, Caymanian culture, or Caymanian values, and whose first and true loyalties are to a foreign country.

    I will extend to you the same offer that I made to Lucia Bell so that you can also get a better understanding of traditional Caymanian culture and Caymanian values.

  8. Mr.Boland, you deeply care about your country,vs.being indifferent. I respect that.
    I am just curious about Caymanian culture and how it differs from lets say, Jamaican culture. If you are talking about moral values,I don’t think they are different from universally accepted moral values.

  9. Mr. Boland.
    I also am not quite sure about what is meant by traditional Caymanian values.

    I have lived here over 30 years and have seen many changes. The rise is crime being the scariest.

    But it is not the children of attorneys and bankers who are beating up fellow classmates or mugging people on the street. And of COURSE it is only a TINY minority of Caymanian children who do this too.

    The old ways were tough ways. No electricity and smoke pots to keep down the swarming mosquitoes. Just imagine no a/c, no cars, no telephones, no TV. And of course no cell phones or internet anywhere.

    Menfolk left these islands to earn a living at sea. Women stayed home to bring up the children and hardly ever saw their husbands.

    Not really times I think anyone, Caymanian or ex-pat wants to return to.

    As for your derogatory use of the term paper Caymanians. The vast majority of these people regard the Cayman Islands as their HOME. Their birthplace was just somewhere they were born, but have no desire to return to.

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