Non-Caymanian nurses or domestics who help local families care for elderly, infirm or disabled relatives will again get a break on the Cayman Islands Immigration Law’s “rollover” provisions.
Legislation made public last week seeks to re-establish the “Certificate for Specialist Caregivers” under the law, allowing those workers to stay up to 10 years beyond the end of their normal term limit on residence in the islands, as long as they are still caring for the same individual.
Unlike the previous version of the law, approved in 2010 under the United Democratic Party government, applicants who successfully obtain such a certificate would be able to apply for permanent residence once they have reached at least eight years of continuous residence on the islands.
Currently, all non-Caymanian workers must leave the islands for at least one year after nine years of continuous residence, unless they are married to a Caymanian, have obtained a government contract or obtain permanent residence. The Certificate for Specialist Caregivers adds a fourth option that allows someone in that particular occupation to apply for a five-year extension to continue working for the same family.
The five-year extension on residence takes effect at the end of the caregiver’s ordinary term limit on residence and can be renewed for another five years. In the case of a specialist caregiver who has been “rolled over” for less than a year, they would be allowed to apply for a five-year certificate in the same manner. Anyone who left Cayman for more than a year could simply apply for a new work permit.
The extension lasts only as long as the caregiver works for the same person or family, it cannot be transferred to another individual. Also, if the elderly, sick or disabled person dies, or if the condition of an ill or disabled individual improves, the caregiver permit would end.
The initial caregiver’s certificate in the Immigration Law in 2010 was repealed in amendments to the law that took effect in October 2013.
About a year later, under the prompting of Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush, who filed a private members motion on the subject, Premier Alden McLaughlin noted that the repeal of the caregiver’s certificate was being reconsidered by government.
While the current Immigration Law allows those in specialist care occupations to stay in Cayman long enough to apply for permanent residence, Premier McLaughlin acknowledged that it is generally difficult for lower-paid workers to qualify for that status.
“The great struggle is to reconcile the desire to have this person long term, with the concerns about how those people will fit into the immigration regime that we have,” Mr. McLaughlin said during a Legislative Assembly debate on the subject. “These caregivers are generally some of the lower paid persons in employment in the Cayman Islands, and the chances of them being able to meet their permanent residence requirements … are quite slim in most instances.”
Mr. Bush said changing the law was a simple matter of compassion. “It’s the right thing to do,” he said.
“The provision was put in the law to help our senior citizens who are in need of those caregivers,” Mr. Bush said. “They don’t adjust well to new faces or a new routine. They are very difficult to handle and it’s best when they are satisfied with someone to leave that person in place.”
North Side MLA Ezzard Miller noted that the certificate under the 2010 version of the law would have allowed those caregivers to remain in Cayman up to 17 years – potentially without obtaining any citizenship rights.
The new changes, if approved, would change that to 19 years, if the caregiver did not receive permanent residence.
“I believe it may be difficult for immigration and the government to deny someone who has been able to work here for 17 years any rights,” Mr. Miller said during his portion of the debate on the original specialist caregivers bill in 2010.