More than 500 non-Caymanians have applied for permanent resident status in the Cayman Islands over the past two years under the revised Immigration Law, but so far none have been awarded that status.
The reason is largely due to the fact that so few applications have come before the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board for consideration since the law was changed on Oct. 26, 2013.
According to records provided by the Immigration Department late last week, 11 people who applied after working here more than eight years were refused permanent resident status when the board determined they were “not eligible.”
Those were the only applications, as of last week, to have been considered so far by the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board, the department stated. A total of 522 people have applied for that status since the Immigration Law was amended in late 2013, making the process for seeking permanent residence much more stringent.
The Immigration Department noted that seven of the applications submitted were never considered by the board because it was determined officials had no legal power to hear those cases. In most instances, those came from people who had filed after they had reached nine years of continuous residence on the islands; in other words, too late for consideration.
Another 57 applicants were contacted by the Immigration Department with requests to provide additional information.
According to the Immigration Department, when a permanent residence application is submitted, it is reviewed by an individual working in the department’s permanent residence section. If the reviewer finds that the applicant has not provided required documents, the files are set aside and the applicant is contacted with details about the information they must provide and when they must provide it. Once the relevant records are received, the application goes back into the pile of cases awaiting board consideration.
The remaining 447 permanent residence applications are currently at that status – awaiting board consideration.
The applicants could face further delays following the announcement that the government is now delving back into certain areas of the territory’s Immigration Law to ensure legal issues raised in August by Chief Justice Anthony Smellie are addressed.
The issues identified in the chief justice’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 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. Justice Smellie concluded 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.
The occupation section of the points evaluation is 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.
Law firm Ritch and Conolly has been retained to assist the government in analyzing both the current permanent residence points system and the permanent residence appeals process, which, in one of the cases Justice Smellie ruled on, involved an application that was filed in 2006.
The firm’s senior partner, David Ritch, a former chairman of the government’s Work Permit Board, was one of the chief architects of the initial basis for the territory’s current Immigration Law, which introduced the term limit or “rollover” policy for non-Caymanian workers.
Premier Alden McLaughlin has alluded to the possibility that the review could result in further delays of current permanent residence applications. “The government is cognizant of the need to have all outstanding applications and appeals dealt with in a timely manner,” according to a statement released by the premier’s office this month.
Additional data released by the Immigration Department last week indicated that the total number of work permits and government contracts held by non-Caymanians in the Cayman Islands had increased by several hundred between July and this month – typically considered the tourism “off season” for Cayman.
As of Oct. 15, there were 22,618 active work permits or government contracts in the islands, an increase of about 400 permits compared to three months ago.
The off-season increase was mainly due to a rise in grants of new work permits and an increase in temporary permits (three-, six- or nine-month permit grants) during the period.