Although nearly 650 applications for permanent residence in the Cayman Islands have been filed since October 2013, not a single one was accepted or denied during the past year, according to Immigration Department records.
The department said it responded to a total of 15 PR applications last year, requesting more information from the applicants in cases that had not been decided. Another six applications were not heard due to legal difficulties – the application being filed late for example. One application was withdrawn during the year.
Other than those cases, no decisions were made during 2015 regarding applicants who are seeking to remain permanently in Cayman.
The main cause of the delay involves a legal review undertaken by government following an August 2015 Grand Court ruling that questioned certain aspects of the territory’s Immigration Law.
David Ritch, the attorney leading the review, said he expected to have his evaluation of the ruling and recommendations of any changes the government might make completed and sent to the premier’s office by next month.
The issues identified in Chief Justice Anthony Smellie’s Aug. 28, 2015 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.
“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.
Legal delays aside, very few applications for permanent residence have been decided since the Immigration Law was amended to change the permanent residence system as of Oct. 26, 2013.
Of 638 total PR applications filed, 12 have been refused. Those refusals occurred in 2013 and 2014.
Not one person has been approved for a grant of permanent residence in Cayman since the law changed, according to Immigration Department records.
Other than the 12 outright refusals, one withdrawn application and another 15 applications that were barred from being heard by law, the remaining 610 applicants for permanent residence that have been filed since late October 2013 are awaiting decisions.
Large backlogs in the number of permanent residence applications awaiting processing are nothing new in Cayman. During 2006-2007, after the initial introduction of what is known as the “rollover policy” – a time limit set on a non-Caymanian workers’ residence – more than 4,000 PR applications faced the relevant immigration boards.
The number of permanent residence applicants declined sharply after the new approval system was put in place in late 2013, largely because it became extremely costly for most workers to apply, with PR application fees due up front.
“I submitted one where the applicant was a high earner, had two children and a spouse listed as dependents and … the total fees submitted with the application [were] almost $40,000,” Samson and McGrath attorney Daniel Altneu said in August.