A British couple who gambled on a move to the Cayman Islands after appearing on the BBC television show “Wanted in Paradise,” say their dream turned into a nightmare after they were confronted with the reality of Cayman’s immigration system.
Jason and Paula Davis say they spent five months in Grand Cayman and Cuba waiting for their “fast-track” three-month temporary work permits to be approved.
The permits were eventually turned down and the couple have returned to Darlington, in northern England, having spent all of their savings – around 20,000 pounds (about US$31,000).
“We sold our businesses, we sold our car, we sold everything we had, basically,” said Mr. Davis.
“Now we are back in the U.K. and we have to start our lives all over again.
“The worst thing about it is, if they had told us within a couple of weeks, we could have just gone home, but they left us hanging for months.”
The hourlong television episode, part of a series about couples in the U.K. seeking moves to sunnier climes, followed Mr. and Mrs. Davis as they made a trip to Grand Cayman to investigate the possibility of immigrating to the island permanently.
The show, which filmed in October last year, featured scenes with Mr. Davis investigating jobs as a welder and his wife looking for work at hair salons.
In one scene, the couple, who were married in Grand Cayman, try to calculate how much money they can make by selling their possessions to pay for the trip. The cameras follow them as they check out rental properties and visit the supermarket to see if they can afford to live in the Cayman Islands.
The show ends with the couple tearfully telling Mr. Davis’s family in a Skype call from the beach that they are moving to Cayman.
Mr. Davis said the show had been good publicity for Cayman and that they were recognized across the island.
“We were walking down Seven Mile Beach and the governor recognized us. She said, ‘Hello, I’m Helen, I thought it was a really good show.’”
Despite the good reviews and optimistic title of the show, “Wanted in Paradise,” the couple found that when it came to work permits, the reality was very different.
Mr. Davis told the Cayman Compass he and his wife were offered jobs in February this year for an on-site handyman and maid services at Regal Beach rental properties on Seven Mile Beach.
They flew to Cayman, ready for the move, believing the fast-track three-month work permit was a formality.
They left for Cuba while the application was being processed. But the permit was deferred and an expected three-day wait turned into a month.
Mr. Davis said they were informed that the job had to be advertised through the National Workforce Development Agency before their permits could be approved. He said the employer conducted some interviews with candidates referred by the agency, but apparently could not find a suitable local applicant.
After being told by a representative from the governor’s office, who made inquiries on their behalf, that they could return to Grand Cayman, they came back to the island to stay with friends and await the decision.
Finally, the bad news came in a letter from the Immigration Department in July, informing them that the application had been refused because at least one local applicant was capable of doing the job and because they had been on island as visitors when the application was submitted.
Mrs. Davis said it was a “kick in the teeth” to be turned down for those reasons, despite believing they had permission to stay on island while the applications were processed. She said she felt frustrated and let down by how long it had taken to process the permits.
“We feel we have lost everything waiting on a three-month work permit over the last five months in Cayman.”
Bruce Smith, acting chief immigration officer, said he could not comment on individual cases, but Mr. and Mrs. Davis had been informed of the reasons by letter and their employer had the right of appeal.
He said only the chief immigration officer had the right to approve applications from people on the island as visitors, and only then in cases where there were “extenuating circumstances.”
Ergun Berksoy of Seven Mile Beach Investments, the company that applied for work permits for the couple, said, “I only know that the application was rejected and they returned back to U.K. That is all I can say about this subject.”
The governor’s office took an interest in the case after seeing the show and acted briefly as a liaison between the couple and the Immigration Department. Gary Benham, head of the governor’s office, said any communication with them was simply to pass on information from the department.
He said the governor’s office had done what it could to assist them and felt bad that their final impression of Cayman was not a good one.