A work permit processing system at the Cayman Islands Immigration Department that includes about 5,000 different job categories must be clarified, according to civil service managers who confirmed last week that even immigration employees are baffled by it.

Ministry of Home Affairs Chief Officer Eric Bush told lawmakers during Public Accounts Committee hearings last week that a revised system for classification of jobs held by non-Caymanian workers should be completed within the next six months.

“It needs to be simplified and we’re working towards that,” Mr. Bush said.

All non-Caymanian private sector workers in the Cayman Islands must hold a legal permit to work. Fees are paid by the companies that employ those workers each time a permit is awarded or renewed.

There can often be a vast disparity between what is charged for non-Caymanian workers, even for those performing the same basic types of jobs. For instance, in the legal profession, the annual permit cost for a bookkeeper is $4,600, but the same permit fee for a “clerk, bookkeeping/accounts” is $1,050. In the publishing industry, a graphic designer’s annual permit costs $6,000, while a graphic artist’s permit is $4,743.75.

In the hairdressing, beauty treatment and personal service activities industry, a non-Caymanian administrative assistant costs $1,575 to employ, but in the legal profession that administrative assistant’s annual permit fee is $2,100. In the programming and broadcasting industry, a work permit for a sales representative/agent costs $2,100 per year, while in the landscaping and gardening business, a sales representative permit costs $1,050 per year.

Difficulties with the current jobs classification system, which replaced the old “skill-based” permit evaluation method, are found on both sides of the immigration fence. Mr. Bush said local employers often complain of being overcharged for certain jobs, simply because a worker’s title has changed from the last employment period. It’s not unusual for weeks to be spent in a “back and forth” between the Immigration Department and a private sector employer over the actual cost of a permit, he said.

“The system that we have that’s based just on job title alone is very problematic for the department, it is problematic for the customers,” Mr. Bush said.

Public Accounts Committee member Winston Connolly said it was in a company’s best interest to browse through the hundreds of jobs in an industry category to ensure that “less money is spent on that work permit.”

Committee Chairman Ezzard Miller alleged that companies would often attempt to employ non-Caymanian workers in lesser job titles in attempts to cut their fees, hiring carpenters as “carpenter’s assistants” or stone masons as “mason’s helpers.”

Ministry Deputy Chief Officer Wesley Howell said immigration conducts about 40-50 assessments a month of local companies, and if some finagling with the job titles is occurring, those firms are fined.

“In the … six months up to January, there were 211 administrative fines levied by the Immigration Department. Most of those have to do with [an employee] not working within the correct job title,” Mr. Howell said.

Mr. Bush said some legislative change would be required to alter the job lists maintained by the department. Moreover, he said immigration would have to move further away from its current “paper-based” and “interaction-driven” permit system.

“We hope to make this more automated, more Web-based once the methodology of fees is agreed … and either they pay for [the permit], or they don’t,” he said.

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  1. What immigration has to pay careful attention to is persons who are married to Caymanians, working and not supporting their spouses.
    If we know about certain things goin on we have to let the immigration know, for them to do something about changing their paper work of regulations and concerns.
    When a foreigner marries a Caymanian and gets a RERC right to work in the Cayman Islands. The spouse of that person should be required to sign on the application form where the other party is employed. What is happening……..and there are too many concerns, whereby a spose who has a RERC leaves home every day telling the Caymanian partner that they are looking work all day but cannot find anything. When week end come then there is nothing coming forward to support the partner. Now the fact is that the RERC spouse is telling their Caymanian partner that because they do not want to support the home.
    THE CAYMANIAN PARTNER SHOULD KNOW WHERE THE RERC SPOUSE IS EMPLOYED, if this is not done then the Immigration is at fault, because they should see to it that the spouse is a part of that application. All times the spouse name is never even mentioned as a beneficiary, that is totally wrong. Immigration need to look into this.
    IF AN RERC PARTNER is not living with their spouse they should be asked to leave the island, and the immigration do put such stipulations in the letter, but the Immigration must be tough and see that it is carried out to the fullest. What must be realized that it sometimes will take the Caymanian partner a few months to apply for divorce proceedings against that partner, however if that partner is not staying with their spouse they should not be permitted to remain on the island, and is asked to leave until such proceedings are completed. This is a major problem and needs urgent attention.