By the time non-Caymanian residents who stay in the islands at least eight years have applied for permanent residence, territorial citizenship and Caymanian status, they will have given a copy of their passport to immigration or to police at least a dozen times, assuming they are successful in each step of the application process.
It is an example of what one senior government official describes as individuals “bringing paper from government back to government.”
The passport would be needed for their initial work permit application and in each instance when they apply for police clearance from the Cayman Islands when their work permit is renewed.
Copies of the same passport will be needed upon the residents’ application for permanent residence and, under the current system, every six months after that while that application is being processed to obtain further police clearance documents. The same passport is again required for police clearance and for government record-keeping purposes for their application for British Overseas Citizenship and for Caymanian status, which is the right to be Caymanian.
The passport is just one of a number of duplicate records required under the current immigration processes. The same people going through the same application process described above will have to provide multiple copies of letters signed by their employers, certified copies of university diplomas, birth certificates for themselves, spouses and any dependents, as well as marriage licenses, depending on what stage their immigration application has reached.
Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said Friday that the difficulty with duplicate records requirements exists in a number of areas across government, and he indicated that the civil service intends to eradicate it within the decade.
“It is our goal, within three years, that is by mid-2019, [that] no Cayman Islands government entity will be allowed to ask a customer to provide any information owned by a government entity or that is already in its possession, other than to establish identity,” Mr. Manderson said.
Mr. Manderson, who chairs Cayman’s e-government steering committee, noted that some ideas are currently being developed toward this end.
Ministry of Home Affairs Chief Officer Wesley Howell, who has oversight responsibility for immigration and some areas of policing, noted that the duplicate document copies issue has more to do with providing good “customer service” than ensuring security.
Mr. Howell said the use of modern record-keeping through information technology is the obvious solution, but that continued reliance upon paper records by many government departments, including immigration, may take a while to address.
“Sharing of documents or even verification of information without moving paper are opportunities for reducing the inefficiencies that come from asking our customers to bring paper from government back to government in cases [where] the same departments produced the original document,” Mr. Howell said.
Certain examples of the “smart use” of technology are under way in the immigration area, Mr. Howell said. One example is the National Workforce Development Agency sharing data on its registered job-seekers with the immigration boards that handle work permit processing.
The linking of workforce agency applicants with the immigration boards is part of a government plan announced last year to allow the public unprecedented access to the territory’s immigration system.
The government had proposed an online system that allows the Immigration Department to do a number of things it cannot accomplish in the current paper record management system. For example, the system now allows the relevant immigration officer or immigration-related board considering a work permit application to see – in real time – who has applied for specific jobs, including Caymanian applicants, and their relevant qualifications for the post.
Once the system goes fully online, any business applying for a work permit will be able to do the same, at any time. It is envisioned that applicants for various immigration services will also be able to pay fees online around the clock.
In addition to the immigration-related services, the site is expected to function as a jobs database where employers can post positions and certain job-seekers can post resumes which can then be viewed by businesses.
“This … paves the way for more automated and online processing,” Mr. Howell said.