The Cayman Islands Immigration Department is expecting an increase in temporary and full-time work permits for non-Caymanian employees over the next year, according to records for the upcoming 2016/17 budget.
The department estimated it had processed between 20,000 and 30,000 temporary and full-year grants and work permit renewals in the previous 12 months.
According to budget records, during 12 months of the next 18-month government budget cycle, processing is expected to increase to between 22,000 and 32,000 permits.
North Side MLA Ezzard Miller questioned whether the 2,000 additional permits foreseen by the government in the next year represent a “policy” of the Progressives-led government.
“The government has … for quite some years, a policy of granting work permits,” Finance Minister Marco Archer said. “A projected number of 2,000 work permits [increase] does not translate into a government policy.”
The government receives approximately $90 million a year from levying various immigration-related fees, most of which comes from businesses that employ work permit holders.
Mr. Miller said the additional 2,000 work permits would translate to an extra $6.9 million annually for the government.
The North Side MLA said that the last time a survey was taken on the topic, more than 1,500 Caymanians were unemployed.
“Where, then, is the demand for the 2,000 permits [stated] in the budget?” Mr. Miller said. “The only [way] to bring people in on permit in that scenario is to take jobs that people already have and give them to a non-Caymanian on work permit.”
Premier Alden McLaughlin said Monday that Mr. Miller was proceeding “on a completely false premise.”
“[The additional work permits] is a consequence of the government policy which is about economic growth and creating economic opportunities and employment,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “The business community is responding to government’s policies by expanding their businesses and hiring more people. Part of the consequence of that is more work permits and more work permit revenues.
“The member [referring to Mr. Miller] proceeds on the basis that clamping down on work permits will create economic opportunities for Caymanians.
“It is a completely fallacious premise and one that would have disastrous consequences for this country if we were to pursue it,” the premier said.
According to government revenue estimates, the Cayman Islands also expects to double its earnings from the granting of permanent residence applications during the next budget period.
During the 12 months of the 2015/16 budget year, it was estimated that Cayman took in $10 million from annual permanent resident fees. In the 18 months covered by the 2016/17 budget, the government expects to receive $20 million.
The government has not approved any grants of permanent residence under the revised Immigration Law since it took effect in October 2013. Immigration officials have not responded to questions about why they expect the large increase in permanent residence fees over the next 18 months.