More than 700 await PR, status Resolution

Although government-appointed board members have managed to significantly reduce a backlog of immigration-related applications, there are still more than 700 people awaiting the outcomes of permanent residence and Caymanian status bids.

Cayman Islands Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans said during the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee last week that more than 400 applications for permanent residence before the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board are still awaiting decisions.

About half of those applications were filed under the former Immigration Law and will be handled according to provisions of the old law, prior to sweeping amendments passed by lawmakers last October, Ms. Evans said. The other half will be heard under the new law but have so far been unable to be considered.

In addition to the permanent residence applications, another 300 or so applicants seeking the right to be Caymanian are awaiting a decision of the board.

While the numbers may sound daunting, Premier Alden McLaughlin said Thursday that they actually represent a reduction in the numbers of backlogged PR and status applications.

“When we took office [in May 2013], there was something like a backlog of 1,000 [permanent residence applications],” Mr. McLaughlin said. “The board is working through essentially 40 applications a week…and has made huge progress.”

The premier also pointed out that PR and status bids require the immigration board to consider quite a bit more information than a standard work permit application, since officials are essentially deciding whether someone can remain in Cayman for the rest of their lives.

“Each application requires careful consideration,” he said.

East End MLA Arden McLean questioned why it had taken government nearly a year to reappoint members to the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board following their election in May 2013. The new board was named in April 2014.

“{After taking office] we left in place the board that was in operation [at the time],” Mr. McLaughlin said. “The Caymanian Status [and Permanent Residency} Board was the last one we made changes to.

“It’s not ideal, it’s certainly not where we need to be…..but we’re doing the best that we can.”

One issue that is holding up the processing of permanent residence applications under the new Immigration Law is that the board members are unsure how to score those applications.

The first section of the permanent residence points system established by the Immigration Law (2013 Revision) awards a potential total of up to 30 points based on the applicant’s job. A person can receive anywhere from zero to 15 points for their job, depending on how much demand there is for that position, based on the current ratio of Caymanians to non-Caymanians in the labor market.

Up to an additional 15 points can be awarded for a “priority job,” meaning a position that is needed for advancement of national economic, cultural or social objectives on a long-term basis.

However, which positions are considered “priority jobs” have not yet been defined.

Premier McLaughlin commented on this last week: “In a relatively short time, I think we’ll be able to make some announcements on our view on whether we ought to determine if there should be some priority occupations and what they should be.”

Mr. McLaughlin said no consideration is being given to changing the current PR points system.