An estimated 793 applications for permanent residence in the Cayman Islands have been filed under the revised Immigration Law that took effect on Oct. 26, 2013, including 182 applications that were filed this year.
According to immigration records provided via an open records request, none of the applications has been approved.
The statistics made available as of July 6 show that a total of 709 residency applications have been received and processed since October 2013. An additional 53 applications contained missing information for which requests had been sent by immigration authorities. Another three applications were in various stages of the review process.
In February, the Immigration Department reported 12 permanent residence applications were refused following review. Those refusals happened in 2013 and 2014.
Another 15 applications were filed too late and the relevant immigration board had no legal power to review them. One application was withdrawn during 2015.
Since Jan. 1, 2015, no permanent residence applications have been approved or denied, according to immigration records, although requests for missing information were sent out for some of them in 2015.
So far in 2016, no action appears to have been taken on any of the 182 applications submitted this year, according to immigration records.
Permanent residence status in Cayman is the right to reside in the territory for the rest of one’s life. It is the first step in what is typically a 15-20 year process of obtaining British Overseas Territories citizenship and finally, the right to be Caymanian. Residency can be obtained in a number of ways, but most often it is applied for by the non-Caymanian spouses of Caymanians, or by non-Caymanian workers who have lived in the territory for at least eight years.
The law requires the permanent residence application to be filed by long-term residents who are not married to Caymanians between their eighth and ninth years in the islands. An application filed after the applicant’s nine-year anniversary on island would be considered too late. Non-Caymanian residents without family connections in Cayman are required to depart the islands for at least a year following nine years of consecutive residence in the islands unless they apply for residency.
A legal review, ongoing for a year since a landmark ruling of the Cayman Islands Grand Court in August 2015, has been identified as the main factor holding up the processing of these applications.
Chief Justice Anthony Smellie’s ruling cited two major areas of concern in the Immigration Law. As a result of that ruling, two women who waited nearly a decade for a decision on their cases were recently granted permanent residence by the Immigration Appeals Tribunal. Justice Smellie’s decision dealt with the actions of the appeals tribunal in the two cases in which the non-Caymanian workers had applied for residence. The actions, said the judge, amounted to a “miscarriage of justice” and required a rehearing of the case. The matter was reheard in June and the women were awarded permanent residence on July 12.
The second issue involved the awarding of points toward permanent residence applications that the court said caused “immediate and obvious concerns” about how applicants’ occupations were scored.
A consultant’s review on the permanent residence process, done at the request of Premier Alden McLaughlin, was completed earlier this year. Mr. McLaughlin said last month that he does not intend to release the report of that review, but that the territory would know shortly what changes the government intended to make in response to the concerns flagged by the chief justice.