Unprecedented access to immigration coming

The Cayman Islands government wants to provide local businesses, Caymanian job-seekers and non-Caymanian work permit holders a heretofore unseen level of access to employment and immigration-related data.

A request for proposals to create and implement a computerized immigration and labor database, available online 24/7, is expected to be released by government Monday.

The online system would allow the Immigration Department to do a number of things that it either struggles with now, or that it simply cannot do in the current paper record management system.

For example, the system seeks to allow the relevant immigration officer or immigration-related board considering a work permit application to see – in real time – who has applied for specific jobs, including Caymanian applicants, and their relevant qualifications for the post.

Once the system goes online, any business applying for a work permit will be able to do so at any time. It is envisioned that applicants for various immigration services will also be able to pay fees online around the clock.

In addition to the immigration-related services, the site is expected to function as a jobs database where employers can post positions and certain job-seekers can post resumes which can then be viewed by businesses.

“We believe online services at immigration will mean a reduction of long wait lines and wait time in the immigration hall and a lessening of the burden of cumbersome forms and documents,” Premier Alden McLaughlin said.

Other functions of the system could allow doctors, who must perform health tests on work permit applicants, and local police, who must conduct criminal background checks on applicants, to upload those records directly to the relevant applications.

The online system could also be made available to government entities such as the National Workforce Development Agency and/or the Trade and Business Licensing Board to assist in their work.

The level of access for various system users will be a key issue for any successful bidder to resolve, Ministry of Home Affairs Chief Officer Eric Bush said Wednesday. For instance, a work permit holder seeking to determine whether his or her application has been approved would need a different level of access to the site than a business owner trying to submit a staffing plan or a payment.

“That’s still under consideration,” Mr. Bush said. “Basically, we want two things: Increased customer service for the businesses, the work permit holder and Caymanian [job-seekers] and increased communication between immigration and its customers.”

The deadline for the request for proposals for the online system is April 15.

The big picture

Proposals for an online system are part of an overall work permit reform process that began in 2013 with the general goal of reducing the involvement of appointed boards in work permit approvals.

A consulting review completed by Deloitte advised the government on creating a work permit approval system that is faster than the current process and which also includes less subjectivity in the decision-making. The computerized database was recommended as part of that effort. Consultants also recommended reducing the details currently required on work permit applications.

Premier McLaughlin has said he does not believe appointed boards can be entirely taken out of the work permit approval process and, in any case, some mechanism will be needed for work permit appeals.

The “big-picture” idea is to eventually have as many work permit, permanent residence and other immigration-related applications as possible dealt with administratively.

Now, immigration staff members approve or deny a significant number of work permits. The ruling Progressives government has said its goal is to have immigration handle all initial applications and leave only appeals of permit denials to entities like the Work Permit Board and Business Staffing Plan Board.

Immigration-Queue

People line up outside the Immigration Department in October 2013. Government hopes a new data management system will make scenes like this history. – Photo: Chris Court
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  1. Mr Premier, this is not what Caymanians are complaining about access to job applications only , they need jobs in their own Islands, you can’t sell then all and expect the people of the Islands to have a good life and support their kids. What you are doing is putting too many hands in the soup, why have a work permit board, and have Immigration handle all applications, and a Business staffing board too. I didn’t see anything about if you are Caymanian and are qualified and have the experience for the job, the work permit would be denied. This is fixing it Alden way.

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