Fee earnings nearly triple in decade
The Cayman Islands Immigration Department took in $89.5 million in revenues during the last government budget year, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs annual report, nearly tripling fees collected by the agency from a decade ago.
The $89.5 million collected during the 2014/15 fiscal year, which ended on June 30, represented between 13 percent and 14 percent of total central government earnings for the year.
Work permit fees collected by the government during the year – approximately $60.4 million – made up the lion’s share of the Immigration Department’s earnings.
Some other areas making up the immigration-related fee collections included $2.2 million in permanent residence certificate issue fees, $1.6 million in the continuation of working rights for individuals who applied to remain in Cayman on a permanent basis, about $500,000 in fines from immigration enforcement activities, $1.3 million in repatriation fees and $619,000 in fees for individuals awarded Caymanian status.
The fee collections represented about a 27 percent increase from those generated during the 2010/11 budget year.
Ten years ago, during the 2005/06 budget, the Immigration Department recorded $33.4 million in revenues collected. This means immigration-related revenues based on fees charged by the government have gone up about 167 percent in a decade.
Another way of looking at it is the earnings by the Immigration Department last year were enough to cover the entire budget of all Cayman Islands public safety agencies, including police, fire, immigration, the 911 Emergency Centre, hazard management and the prisons service combined.
Records released by the Immigration Department in October 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.
The government contract workers – about 900 of them – are not charged work permit fees.
As of Oct. 15, there were 22,618 active work permits or government contracts in the islands, an increase of about 10 percent since mid-2014.
Large work permit fee increases took effect in the beginning of 2010, with fees nearly tripling for some job categories. On average, permit costs increased by $3,000 per employee in most professional categories at that time. Work permit fees were increased again during 2012.
Work permits are required for any foreign employee in the Cayman Islands who does not have Caymanian status or who is not married to a Caymanian. Permanent residents who are not Caymanian also must pay a yearly fee to maintain their right to work here.
Although the work permit business is booming, Cayman’s grants of permanent residency have dropped to nearly nothing in the past two years.
More than 500 non-Caymanians have applied for permanent resident status in the Cayman Islands since October 2013 under the revised Immigration Law, but so far none have been awarded that status.
According to records provided recently by the Immigration Department, 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 to have been considered by the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board as of mid-October, 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.