Banning grants of Caymanian status to long-term non-Caymanian workers who have no family ties to the Cayman Islands would be a “regressive” move that would hurt the local economy and the average Caymanian worker, Premier Alden McLaughlin said last week.
North Side MLA Ezzard Miller and East End MLA Arden McLean noted during Legislative Assembly budget debates over the past two weeks that they believed grants of Caymanian status should be reserved for individuals who are married to Caymanians or who have close Caymanian relatives.
Premier McLaughlin said he was “concerned” by this pronouncement, especially coming from Mr. McLean – a former Cabinet minister who served with Mr. McLaughlin during 2005-2009 – and characterized the statement as “playing to a particular audience.”
During his response to the budget debate, Mr. McLaughlin said, “[Mr. McLean] knows as well as I do we cannot go back to 1976. The country has advanced. We attracted outside labor and expertise to help us grow and build the country.
“When you have fair but suitable immigration policies, they help attract and keep the best and the brightest. We need to ensure that Caymanians have opportunities for available jobs, by all means. But we all know that if we are to attract new talent, we need to allow them the ability to not only to work and grow Cayman, but to also invest in the country directly, to participate fully in society and to, at a minimum, have a fair opportunity to qualify for residency.
“It will not help us to think we can put up walls and close our doors. This type of thinking is regressive and, if ever implemented, will do real harm to Cayman and Caymanians.”
Mr. McLaughlin noted the debate in Cayman’s sister British Overseas Territory, Bermuda, which has raged over the past year regarding whether the Bermudian government should allow non-belongers [foreigners with no family ties to Bermuda] to have a “path to citizenship,” similar to what Cayman maintains currently.
The premier said Bermuda “has come to appreciate” the kind of economic damage that can occur from improperly managed immigration policies.
“In regard to [Mr. McLean’s] call to stop granting Caymanian status, I have to say, in my view, he’s wrong,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
Since the implementation of Cayman’s new Immigration Law regime in October 2013, no applicants for permanent residence under the new law have been granted that status. About 700 people have applied for it under the 2013 version of the law.
Permanent residence is the first step toward being granted Caymanian status in a process that typically takes about 15 years. Now, any worker who stays in Cayman as a legal resident for at least eight years is allowed to apply for permanent residence – the right to reside in Cayman for the rest of their life. The residency status does not convey citizenship rights, either in the U.K. or Caymanian status rights here, both of which must be sought separately and only after qualifying for permanent residence.