Permanent resident test classes to resume in October

Study classes for non-Caymanians taking the Immigration Department’s permanent residence exam – or those who just want to learn more about the Cayman Islands – will resume in October. 

The University College of the Cayman Islands initially intended to schedule the next round of permanent residence study classes for September, but UCCI’s Professor Livingston Smith said last week there was a slight scheduling glitch and now the classes will begin a month later. 

“We took a short break over the summer and we should resume the first weekend of October,” said Professor Smith, one of two instructors for the course. 

Mr. Smith said the response from students in the first three cohorts of the class had been overwhelmingly positive, and he wishes to continue the classes “as long as there is an interest” from the public. 

The course has been held in four-hour sessions during one weekend day for four consecutive weeks. It instructs applicants on the history of the islands since their discovery in 1503, as well as issues of culture, governance and constitutional legislation. 

As part of their application for permanent residence in the Cayman Islands, prospective long-term residents must earn at least 110 points in a system that evaluates them in a number of areas, including investment in the islands, volunteer work, employment, earnings, age and nationality. 

The permanent residence test is a 40-question multiple choice exam on Cayman history and culture. Each correct answer on the test is worth half a point – for a total of 20 points – toward the residency application. 

The new permanent residence scheme, approved by the Legislative Assembly in 2013 and made law in October of that year, presents a much more difficult and expensive path to citizenship than previously. The UCCI test course was developed after some test-takers under the old PR scheme complained that the questions were too difficult or simply irrelevant to the issue of prospective citizenship. 

Since the advent of the new permanent residence system, there have been far fewer applicants for permanent residence. 

Although Immigration Department records indicate that more than 350 people have applied for permanent residence status since the law was changed in 2013, that number is a far cry from the hundreds of PR and key employee status applications the department and immigration-related boards were approving each quarter prior to the change in the law. 

The main reason for the decline in applications is thought to be the up-front costs now associated with filing them. 

Those costs include requirements to pay a one-year work permit fee, a one-time fee based on salary, a $1,000 application fee and any dependants’ fees. If the application is denied, everything but the $1,000 fee is returned to the applicant or the company supporting them. Depending on the person filing the application, the initial fees can total between $3,000 and $30,000 – or more. 

“I submitted one last week where the applicant was a high earner, had two children and a spouse listed as dependants and … the total fees submitted with the application [were] almost $40,000,” said local immigration attorney Daniel Altneu. 

People preparing to take their permanent residence tests can attend classes on the subject at UCCI from October. - PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY
People preparing to take their permanent residence tests can attend classes on the subject at UCCI from October. – PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY