Permanent residence tests delayed another month

The Cayman Islands government has delayed citizenship tests for current permanent residence applicants another four weeks to give test-takers a bit of study time.

Last month, government officials appeared to clear up some legal uncertainty that was delaying the hearing of new applications by those seeking to remain in Cayman for the rest of their lives. Cabinet members also approved changes to the residency “points system” that will make it a bit easier for applications to succeed.

Part of the process under the revised Immigration Law (2013) requires applicants to take a 40-question test covering a wide range of subjects related to Cayman Islands history, politics and people.

Some dates for multiple-choice tests had been set this week, the first that would have been administered since the law was revised in October 2013. However, Ministry of Home Affairs Chief Officer Eric Bush said that seemed a rather short time frame.

“Testing has been postponed for about four weeks in order to provide persons with reference material they should review before taking the test,” Mr. Bush said. “This was thought to be fair to those who have been waiting and are now being scheduled to take the test.”

Mr. Bush clarified that the study materials would not be provided by the government to test takers, but would merely list copies of books, magazines or other publications and references applicants could examine.

Last year, the Compass reported on test questions administered under the previous Immigration Law. They contained some relatively obscure references, including: What was the code name for the U.S. naval base that was here from 1942-1945? Which institution in Cayman houses an animatronic doll? and Which Cayman fiddler appeared on the Grand Ole Opry?

The old tests were 20-question multiple-choice exams. Each correct answer earned one point toward a permanent residence application. The new tests have 40 questions, and each correct answer earns half a point toward permanent residence. The exact list of questions for both the old and new tests is not considered public information, according to immigration officials.

The new points system puts in place strict time limits during which that test must be taken. The initial date given by immigration, going forward, will be within 30 days of the filing of the application. The applicant may reschedule only once. If applicants fail to take the test within 30 days, they will receive “zero” points toward permanent residence, according to the regulations.

Easing requirements

While the test may prove challenging for permanent residence applicants, other areas of the points system have been eased through changes made earlier this year. It is presumed that those changes will be applied to current PR applicants, but the government has not expressly said so.

For instance, changes to the points system seek to clarify and ease the process by which non-Caymanian property owners are scored on their local investments.

The formula now in the points system requires applicants to report their total investment in property, or in a local business, and divide that number by 40 percent of their total salary earned in the past five years, then multiply that number by 30. A maximum of 30 points would be awarded for anyone who has more than $500,000 total investment.

In cases where a property is owned jointly by spouses, the total investment will be counted. Under the previous system, the total investment was divided in half for married couples, presumably under the assumption that those couples had split the costs of paying for the home, apartment or business.

Savings

The requirements for the total amount of savings an applicant must maintain have been reduced drastically in the new points system.

Previously, to receive the full 15 points under this section, an applicant’s savings had to total 5 percent of aggregate salary over five years. If the applicant’s aggregate salary was $250,000 ($50,000 per year) over the five-year period, for example, he or she would have to maintain a bank balance of at least $12,500 to receive the full points. Under the new system, the bank balance is based on a percentage of the aggregate salary over the past 12 months. In that case, the same person making $50,000 a year would have to maintain just $2,500 in an account to qualify for the full 15 points under that section.

Volunteering

A number of local attorneys and immigration-related professionals raised questions following the introduction of the October 2013 points system regarding whether volunteer activities that non-Caymanians often undertake in the islands would count toward community service on permanent residence applications. There were concerns that volunteering, particularly at environmental and animal protection groups, might not be counted.

Applicants will now receive up to 1.5 points for each year (with at least 35 hours of service) spent volunteering for charitable organizations.

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