PR points system revisited
The Cayman Islands government will be delving back into certain areas of the territory’s Immigration Law to ensure legal issues raised by the chief justice last month are addressed.
Specifically, Premier Alden McLaughlin said the current “points system” used to evaluate applications for permanent residence made by non-Caymanians would be revisited “in so far as it will directly address the issues identified by the chief justice.”
“[It] is not meant, or intended to be, a wholesale review of the legislation,” a statement issued by Mr. McLaughlin’s office late Thursday indicated.
The issues identified in Chief Justice Anthony Smellie’s Aug. 28 judgment dealt with two major areas: First, the actions of the Immigration Appeals Tribunal in two cases where non-Caymanians had applied for permanent residence in which the tribunal’s actions with regard to those applications were determined to be a “miscarriage of justice.” Those applications were made under a former version of the Immigration Law.
The second matter involved the current permanent residence system and how points toward that status are awarded to applicants. Chief Justice Smellie concluded in the judgment that there were “immediate and obvious concerns” about the current two-tiered system for awarding permanent residence applicants a total of 15 points for their occupation and another 15 points if their job is considered a “priority occupation” according to regulations attached to the Immigration Law.
“It is difficult to imagine a policy that could be more opaque, uncertain and prone to arbitrariness than one by which points are to be allocated to occupations based upon merely subjective assessments of their importance in the context of the local economy,” the chief justice wrote in his 40-page judgment.
“Recent amendments to the Immigration Law and Regulations have sought to improve upon various aspects of the legislation, but it is acknowledged that further work is now necessary in that regard,” the premier’s statement Thursday indicated.
The occupation section of the points evaluation forms part of the system that now requires non-Caymanian applicants to obtain at least 110 points out of a possible 215 before being awarded permanent residence – the right to remain in Cayman for the rest of their lives.
According to Cayman Islands attorneys familiar with the regulations that govern permanent residence, the “importance” of a particular job to the territory is judged largely on how many work permits currently exist for that occupation. In other words, the more work permits granted to foreign employees, the more demand for a particular job and the more points awarded. The fewer permits, the fewer points.
Currently, no points are being awarded to anyone under the “priority occupation” section of the regulations, meaning PR applicants all lose a potential 15 points immediately and are trying to obtain 110 points out of what is, for all practical purposes, a total of 200. The Cabinet has determined that, at this point, no jobs qualify as priority occupations.
The law firm Ritch & Conolly has been retained to assist the Cayman Islands government in analyzing both the current permanent residence points system and the PR appeals process which, in one of the cases Chief Justice Smellie ruled on, involved an application that was filed in 2006.
The firm’s senior partner David Ritch is a former chairman of the government’s Work Permit Board and was one of the government’s key advisers in the establishment of the territory’s current Immigration Law, which introduced the term limit or “rollover” policy for non-Caymanian workers.
The premier described the review as a “forward-looking exercise” aimed at reviewing the lawfulness and fairness of any decision related to current applications for permanent residence and appeals involving PR applications. The review seeks to provide advice to government in these matters “on an urgent basis,” the premier’s office said.
The statement alluded to the possibility that the review could result in further delays of current permanent residence applications, hundreds of which have been pending since government changed the Immigration Law in October 2013. At last count, more than 400 individuals had applied for PR status since Oct. 26, 2013 when legal changes introducing the new permanent residence points system took effect. To date, only applications that had some technical difficulties, such as those that were filed too late, have been dealt with, according to the Immigration Department.
“The government is cognizant of the need to have all outstanding applications and appeals dealt with in a timely manner,” the premier’s statement read.