Unwanted in paradise: No Hollywood ending for TV couple’s dream move

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. 

Jason and Paula Davis

Jason and Paula Davis won’t be settling in Cayman.
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  1. Why these people thought that they could just pick up and move to the Cayman Islands defies logic. We are a country of laws and it is good to see that for once the system has worked as it is expected to work.

    I know that the bigots will not like what I have said but those individuals that that can muster the strength to be honest with themselves know that what I am saying is the truth.

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  2. This is only the tip of the iceberg. The immigration process is a utter shambles and department and the government are making it worse. Trust that no pr papers will be read until after the next election.

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  3. Hoops hoops and more hoops, now lets get them moving and maybe now we light them on fire…. wooooo hoooo, why not simplify the process where you don’t need a degree from MIT to figure it out

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  4. Very sad, the story of hell in Paradise – thanks to Immigration red tape for English couple from darlington, UK, who had hoped to relocate and work in Grand Cayman. It would seem that Jason and Paula Davis were not properly advised of their rights re a 3 month temporary work-permit and had to spend 5 months in GC (and Cuba!) waiting for the permit that never came, that was refused. And as for checking out rentals on Grand Cayman and prices of food and consumer goods on the Big Island – no surprise that they (and gas) were prohibitively expensive! Here is an opportunity for the Cayman business and banking community to right the wrong and injustice done to the Davises – to quickly arrange for a modest rental accommodation, and two jobs, one for a welder and one in a hairdressing salon, so that this worthy couple, ignorant of Cayman’s rules and regulations could retrieve their dream of living in Paradise!

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  5. Just another scene to cast a dark cloud over the Cayman Islands by people who come with a plan. We applaud the couple’s decision to have chosen Cayman for this "WANTED IN PARADISE" movie, but like any other place on earth, we have our rules.
    The Caribbean has many other places to call PARADISE why not choose one of them before, or after it never worked out here in CAYMAN PARADISE; instead of paper-pampering us, for whatever reason I wish I knew. .
    My suggestions is that each person need to read between the lines in this report very carefully. In between there is fine print not visible to the eye but obviously to the brain. Read it again before you comment.
    I don’t see where the immigration did anything wrong, but I see invisible signs of two people having a plan; and truly speaking, concerning them trying to weave-in the Governor of this Island. I say Birds has no business in cat fight. When Mr. Bruce Smith is not going a good job he will read it in the papers. Carry on.

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  6. I think this couple has to recognize they are at fault here. If you are moving to a new country, you had better research what it required to move there before selling all of your possessions.

    I am not an expert on work permits (although I am an expat), but aren’t the fast track permits just for short-term permits? They tried to jack the system by getting the fast-track permit even though their real plan was to stay long-term.

    They applied for the permit while on island (which is against the rules although I don’t understand why), they applied for jobs Caymanians can perform and they applied for the wrong permit.

    What on earth made them think the fast-track permit was a formality? Where they misled by an employer or was it simply wishful thinking on their part? I find it hard to believe anyone at immigration told them it was a formality.

    This is a sad story, but ultimately they are to blame for their own misfortune.

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  7. Well nothing is written in stone there is a chance factor in life with all things. Sometimes you win and sometime you don’t. Life is full of rules, i wonder why?

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  8. As an expat I agree that they should have followed the rules, no matter how silly they may seem. But more than that I think they expected too much here and got blinded by the television fantasy. I feel bad they wasted so much time, but why would you spend all your savings and sell all your possessions to come work as a handyman and maid? Second, these are the kind of jobs young or unskilled Caymanians can and should be doing. I hope they found a local applicant to take these jobs and didn’t just move on to the next expat.

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  9. Perhaps I am not one of the biggest fans of the immigration department, however, I must say I believe the couple, for what ever reason caused their own problems.

    Who in right mind sells all of their possessions, a business, etc and moves to a foreign country without seeking local legal advice from a local expert?

    I believe the government and the immigration department are at fault when they set up rules, procedures and an immigration program only to sit back and refuse to honorably institute the program.

    Individuals who think they can "skirt" the system (especially while on foreign ground) should not be allowed to do so. Case closed!

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  10. It looks like the Immigration Dept reached the right conclusion here, and Mr and Mrs Davis were either badly advised or very reckless.

    I must however ask why the Immigration Dept took 5 months to resolve this? That seems wildly excessive.

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  11. Cayman Islands immigration policy is online and very detailed , why the didnt just read up on the rules before comitting , is kind of dumb , Any country i visit including britain all info is a simple click away , so dont blame the immig dept , the blame lays with the couple , seems their fifteen minutes of fame went to their head,

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  12. I feel very sorry for this couple. But it does seem very silly to sell everything you own before getting a work permit.

    Certainly no one should be able to work here on a visitors permit. But I must admit being a little puzzled about why one can only apply for a work permit from overseas and cannot just stay here meanwhile as a non-working visitor.

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  13. The problem wasn’t that they were refused, but that the "express" process took an absurd amount of time, during which time they cannot work.
    Rules go both ways.
    In other cases we have seen immigration using the excuse that delays have "advantaged" the person applying allowing them to stay for years while the process dragged on interminably. That is hardly an excuse and does not make up for the stress and uncertainty caused.

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  14. Quite a few of us does not know what go on in Cayman; and unless you spend some quality time around the Good, the Bad, and The Ugly, you will never know.
    People should not fool them selves into thinking that the immigration does not know what go on here when they take extra time in processing a work permit application, they do; because during the time, BELIEVE IT OR NOT many of those people who put in applications "WORK UNDER COVER".
    People should not think that because they put in an express application that the immigration should not cross all T’s and dot all I’s. I have been in that position before of having to wait almost two weeks for an express permit. Now I am happy that I just sat patiently and waited for immigration to make a decision. Right is right and Wrong is wrong, and we just need to accept it.
    People come to this island with tricks up their sleeve for immigration department. Some slip through the cracks, but I am not going to put down my immigration department because I know they are doing an exceptional job protecting the islands from some people who do not deserve to live here.

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