Mother Who?: UK not OK for Cayman PR

The British aren’t coming! The British aren’t coming!

… And neither are the Jamaicans, Filipinos, Americans and Canadians …

At least, that’s the message being propagated by the new points system for permanent residence under the Cayman Islands Immigration Law.

A person’s “nationality,” you see, is included as one of the 10 factors the Caymanian Status & Permanent Residency Board considers when assigning a numerical score to a PR application (along with occupation, education, finances, the notoriously idiosyncratic “history and culture test,” connections to Caymanians and age).

The maximum score an applicant can receive is 215 points. The minimum “passing” grade, allowing an application to be considered by the PR Board for approval, is 110 points.

The “nationality” factor counts for up to 10 points and is designed to promote “cultural diversity” by assigning more points to people of nationalities that are relatively rare in Cayman.

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A person of a nationality that represents fewer than 5 percent of active work permits would receive the full 10 points. A person of a nationality that represents between 5 percent and 10 percent of work permits would receive five points. A person of a nationality that represents more than 10 percent of work permits would receive no points.

For example, according to the latest numbers from the Department of Immigration, just about 40 percent of Cayman’s 21,403 work permits are held by Jamaicans, and 13 percent are held by Filipinos. That means PR applicants from Jamaica and the Philippines would receive zero points for their nationality.

Applicants from the U.K. (9 percent of work permits), U.S. (6 percent) and Canada (5 percent) would be awarded five points. But applicants from India (4 percent), Honduras (4 percent), Ireland (1 percent), Nicaragua (1 percent) and South Africa (1 percent) — in addition to more than 100 other countries, from Turks and Caicos Islands, to Vietnam, to Kuwait (each of which has exactly one work permit holder in Cayman) — would receive the full 10 points.

Broken out in this fashion, it appears that rather than awarding extra points to people with culturally diverse backgrounds (whatever that means in this day and age, in an international financial center in the Caribbean), the “nationality” factor is just another way for Cayman’s government to punish applicants from two particular countries — Jamaica and the Philippines — while taking swipes at three other countries — the U.K., U.S. and Canada — who altogether provide Cayman with nearly three-quarters of its work permit holders and underpin the country’s human and economic capital.

(So much for the local apothegm — “the devil you know.”)

Most striking, perhaps, is Cayman’s backhanding of the British. After all, Cayman is a British Overseas Territory; our flag features the Union Jack; and U.K. appointees fill some of Cayman’s most important civil positions, including the Governor and Commissioner of Police. (Indeed, the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II graces our money — though we suspect our Cabinet would make an exception and grant her status if it were her royal wish.)

Practically speaking, the U.K.-Cayman relationship on immigration is not reciprocal. Caymanians (who have British Overseas Territory citizenship by virtue of living in Cayman) have free access to the U.K.’s market, including for education, residency and work. The Brits who want to live in Cayman, meanwhile, are docked five points on account of their origin.

Something here doesn’t seem right, and if we were British expatriates we’d be clamoring about the inequity.

Our experience with the succession of U.K.-appointed governors has instructed us that Cayman’s governors are strictly “one-way functionaries.” That means they are here to represent the U.K. government’s interests in Cayman, and not the other way around (i.e. Cayman’s interests in London), not even on behalf of their fellow U.K. passport–toting British subjects.

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  1. I know the editorial board has been going to lengths to promote and sell its news, but please it is time to calm down on the Highlighting of Immigration and its decisions.
    Everyone know that topic makes people cringe, cause ears to be to the ground and raised eyebrows.
    I am sure the immigration is very aware of what is happening in Cayman, but what I cannot understand is why people are afraid to go back to their country for a year to check on their children, mom and dad plant a few corn, and then come back refreshed.

  2. I have a friend who applied for PR, did all the right steps according to the application which included the purchase of a 245k ci home and her application has been rejected and has run out of extensions and now must leave. This is absolutely insane to mess with people lives like this! Now, she loses her job and also the ability to pay her mortgage…. How many others are facing this same dilemma? There needs to be legal action take CIG!!!!

  3. Ms Vargas, I always admired your openness on this forum, but sometimes your comments stop me in my tracks. You really think it is so easy to go back to their country for a year? I moved country several times – it is never easy! Starting with packing your life which you were building for the last 5-7 years (and costs associated!) to uprooting kids, to continuing paying mortgage on top of expenses you bear while living away. And, of course, I am sure my employer will be thrilled when I come to her/him and ask to take me back after a year-long absence which is not a maternity or sick leave. Really, the mind boggles… Yep, just go for a year and come back. And how many time would I need to do that to prove my worth?

  4. There are many people well deserving of PR and who have met all the government requirements to reside on the island. So, WHY have their application for PR been rejected? It’s unfair! I don’t care what the nationality is, if the person(s) meets all requirements, then what is the problem?

    Further reviews should be made to ensure that the applicants well deserving of obtaining PR are fairly considered.

  5. Twyla, that year IS a problem to many people AND importantly their employer! Ultimately, that, is a problem for Cayman and its’ economy. Indeed the rollover may have forced people to apply for PR who might not have done so at that point in time if at all!

    For the person, there is a subtle question of income – sure many firms off island offer ‘short term contracts’ (which may be an interim solution) but more often than not there is an implicit expectation that the person will be available to extend and indeed many turn into full time jobs. Also in some fields, a year is a lifetime if you’re finger is off the pulse…

    If a person is made redundant after for example 7 or 9 years of employment. There is a severance package…
    But if the employment fizzles out because of government policy that person has no such buffer!
    There were also those granted Key-Person who as a result of a post ex facto legal change lost out…
    This is morally questionable and may have redress in law.

    As for the employer, it is equally damaging – someone who has been there for a number of years, is efficient and a good fit with the culture, has a proven work ethic and knows the ropes in short they are doing the job and earning the company Profit! At what cost to the business is that sudden skills vacuum?

    Now here’s the dilema – Do they pay that staff member a retainer and keep them as a consultant for the year – solving problems by phone and teleconference.
    In the mean time do they limp along with the position unfilled?
    Or hire a temporary worker and put up with the loss of productivity. Or do they write off that employee and start from ‘scratch’ training another. If the person IS that good and they anticipate their return, what happens when their new temporary employer also discovers their worth and decides to keep them… Their Cayman employer gets a rude awakening 12 months down the line.

    Many countries berate an effect called the ‘Brain Drain’ the loss of the brightest and best to other countries. Cayman has policies which actively force an artificial brain drain on the businesses and the economy here.

    It is perhaps time for MLA’s to start acknowledging that businesses are actually competing to recruit AND RETAIN the best staff, and policies are hamstringing that goal. Staff retention is seen by many HR departments worldwide as their greatest challenge even without any additional government hurdles.

    The flaws in the initially nebulous new PR policy only cause issues when combined with the rollover policy – an arbitrary timescale which rarely coincides with a convenient time for both the strategy of the business and/or the personal development of the staff member. In simple terms of common sense, if somebody is in a job for 5 years – the company wants to keep them and government interference in their employment status is probably counterproductive.

    There is a yawning chasm of difference between creating barriers and dis-incentives for companies who wish to hire ex-pats versus creating incentives and opportunities to hire Caymanians – I don’t believe there is a business on island who would not support the latter, nor who haven’t fallen foul of the former (yet that seems the basis for the policies in question).
    Time for some imaginative policy making – a rising tide lifts all boats.

  6. This all explains why I say it’s not a good idea for someone on a Work Permit to invest in a home in Cayman when they will eventually most likely be asked to leave and will then be left with the burden of trying to continue paying for a house in Cayman or trying to sell it from overseas. Getting PR is all about money, who’s pocket you put it into and who you know in high places. And to ask someone why they are scared to go back to their own country for a year to check on their kids and plant corn is just a way of trying to make it seem like these folks are trying to escape something, It also has subtle racial overtones. most people after living and working somewhere for years are reluctant to uproot themselves and move again and as far as kids you can best believe that the one applying for PR have their children with them in Cayman.

  7. Compass Editorial Board, to appear somewhat balanced towards the nations hosts- the Cayman citizens and the expectation for transparency and equity in media coverage of this topic. Prior to the CIG rolling out its new points system (2014). Did they not go into pains taking lengths to qualify their approach to establishing a balanced and transparent process? Is the problem right now only unfair because of who is currently apparently disadvantaged by the process? Would these unbiased views have been same if the current national numerical spread had been reversed?

    Unfortunately, it seems quite apparent that this medium have little regard to representing a factual balanced view toward its nation hosts. While however, it is absolutely necessary that the system ensure that the requisite professional skills, services and social infrastructure is maintained. It does not mandate that such social infrastructure must be represented by a specific national/regional class of persons.

    Perhaps one could research without the influence of what many are asserting to be a biased media house, on what the current immigration control practices are for developed nations of say, Germany, the US, Australia, and the UK? Please openly share the comparatives between the above states and the CI (Union Jack).

    Internet, though often skewed at times, is open to everyone.

  8. The major point people don’t seem to be getting here is, Cayman is a small place. Extremely small. We are hardly able to be even counted as a small town/county in many countries. We can’t have everyone just flying in and setting up shop. Well run out of greenery and beach sand real soon if we were to do that. Not to mention the gridlock every morning at 7.30 and evening at 5 everyone complains about it.

    Now if you were a government and you were worried about (eventual) overpopulation, bad road traffic, environmental destruction, how would you deal with it?

    They have to limit UK and US citizens coming in especially. Imagine (the unlikely scenario) that every UK passport holder decided to up and move to Cayman? Yes UK is the mother country, but how in the world would we deal with the influx? Without restrictions they’d all be legally entitled to come here, but they feasibly can’t.

    Now clearly the reverse scenario is possible so they have no real reason to phase us out.

    I believe however, that those who are already here should adhere to the old law. And if they qualified for PR they should stay.

    But in the end, we have to have controls in place to keep the population on our small island in check. No matter which way you look at it, it’ll seem harsh/unfair.

  9. @Neil Shaw. There is a lot of sense in what you are saying. Of course, you need to set up limits/scales for newcomers. But it does not always harsh/unfair, or at least not with the majority of applicants. Canada, for example, has a well-established system. Not everything in it I like, but I do understand that it is fair. Say, level of English is important as Cayman Islands is an English-speaking country. I am fully on-board with introducing exams for that as a requirement. Nationality? Still do not think it is fair as it is something that can’t be helped or amended.