18 months after Immigration Law change
Approximately 350 permanent residence-seekers in the Cayman Islands will be taking the required “history and culture test” as part of their PR application over the next five to six weeks.
The first batch of tests was given to 19 people at the University College of the Cayman Islands campus last Friday, and another 38 candidates for permanent residence took the test on Saturday, immigration officials said.
Another group of applicants will be given the test this Friday and Saturday and each week thereafter, with the goal of completing all of the tests for current applicants around the end of June or the first week in July.
Acting Chief Immigration Officer Bruce Smith said Monday that the department is attempting to get the history and culture tests done without further delay due to the earlier holdups that have occurred in hearing permanent residence applications under the revised Immigration Law.
“We’re trying to get this done as quickly as possible,” Mr. Smith said. “The applicants are getting very anxious.”
According to records provided by the Immigration Department in late March, 337 residency applications had been received since changes to the law made that status far more difficult to obtain. Since Oct. 26, 2013, when amendments to the Immigration Law took effect, none of the PR applications has been heard because of legal uncertainty surrounding how to interpret the points system that governs whether an applicant will be successful. That legal uncertainty was cleared up earlier this year, and the next step is for the prospective permanent residents to take the history and culture test, which accounts for up to 20 points on their PR application. Successful applicants must receive 110 points out of a possible 215 to gain PR, which is the right to remain in Cayman for the rest of one’s life.
A number of applicants who took the history and culture test that was administered under the old Immigration Law have privately expressed frustration to the Cayman Compass about questions on that 20-question test. Some of the questions provided to the Compass last year from the old test revealed that they included queries about the names of the wood beam that ran through the center of Cayman-style houses [the crosspiece], the name of the pen in which live turtles were kept [a kraal] and the name of a local fiddle player who once performed at the Grand Ole Opry [Radley Gourzong].
Under the new test, which has 40 multiple choice questions, each correct answer will be worth half a point, with a maximum of 20 points. Successful applicants must earn other points in a system that judges them based on numerous categories, including investment in the islands, volunteer work, their job, their earnings, their age, their nationality and any Caymanian connections they may have.
Once the tests are complete, each application will be evaluated to determine success or failure. According to Mr. Smith, the “contentious applications” will be heard by the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board. However, applications where the person clearly has enough points to earn permanent residency, or obviously does not have enough points, can be heard by one of two Immigration Department administrative workers.
Mr. Smith could not state exactly when applicants would begin hearing back about their permanent resident status, but with the administration of the tests, the final hurdle to the board or immigration staff considering those applications has been removed.
Dozens of permanent residence applicants have enrolled in a test class at the University College of the Cayman Islands since early April. The class is designed to help them study for the Immigration Department history and culture test.
The class costs $200, not counting additional expenses for buying books, and consists of a month-long, weekend course aimed at assisting potential “new Caymanians” in taking the permanent residence test. The course can be taken on Saturday or Sunday, typically lasts for four hours, and will be taught by either UCCI professor Livingston Smith or professor Christopher Williams. Following completion of the course, UCCI will provide the Immigration Department with the names of the class participants.
Several books available at the UCCI bookstore have been listed as approved study materials. They include: “The Cayman Islands in Transition: The Politics, History and Sociology of a Changing Society” by J.A. [Roy] Bodden, “Founded Upon the Seas: A History of the Cayman Islands and Their People” by Michael Craton and the New History Committee, and “Caymanian Expressions: A collection of sayings and phrases used in the Cayman Islands” by Kevin Goring.