EDITORIAL – The agony of hiring overseas

For employers in the Cayman Islands, each employee is an investment – in fact, a large one – particularly when work permits are involved.

And so, even when the immigration system works well, it rarely works quickly, which is a huge issue for employers since they nearly always need speed.

For our readers who may not have much experience with human resources, we’ll walk through the process required to hire one single employee and bring them to Cayman.

Week 0: We identify a vacancy, either through attrition or expansion. Let’s say we need a senior-level reporter with at least five years of professional journalism experience.

Week 1: We create a job advertisement for the Senior Reporter position and place it in the print edition of the Compass to run for two consecutive weeks. We also place an identical advertisement with the National Workforce Development Agency for the online database. We give a three-week window to apply for the job.

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Weeks 3-4: With the application deadline approaching, we read, examine and discuss the resumes and supporting materials, if any, we have received. We then begin interviews with qualified Caymanians, if any have applied for the position. If none have, we proceed to advertising the position on international websites, such as JournalismJobs.com.

Weeks 5-6: We conduct the initial round of interviews with overseas candidates by email, telephone and Skype. We sort the applications, group them, cull them and finally arrive at a single finalist for the Senior Reporter position.

Week 7-8: We invite the finalist, on the company’s expense, to come see Cayman, tour our headquarters and meet our management staff. We fly the applicant in, meet with them over the span of a few days, then fly them back out again.

Week 9: Assuming all has gone well on the “site visit,” we extend a job offer to the finalist. They accept!

Weeks 10-11: The candidate undergoes a medical exam, collects a police clearance certificate, amasses supporting information and fills out Department of Immigration forms. We (or our human resources consulting agency) assist as necessary, pull together the work permit application package, write the necessary checks and submit the bundle to the Department of Immigration.

Weeks 12-19: We wait, usually six to eight weeks while immigration officials consider the application. As a responsible, community-minded employer (nearly 70 percent of our staff is Caymanian), Pinnacle Media ensures that our applications meet all legal requirements. Accordingly, when we apply for work permits, almost all of them are approved.

Weeks 20-24: At this point, our new incoming Senior Reporter gives notice to their current employer – if they are honorable, usually two to four weeks. They book plane tickets, prepare for the importation of household possessions and arrange for their accommodations on the island.

Nearly half a year after we identified the vacant position, our new Senior Reporter eventually arrives in Cayman.

Importantly, if the new employee has children, then they must be enrolled in private school because of Cayman’s segregated educational system. Paying private school tuition immediately reduces a relatively lucrative salary into borderline subsistence wages, and that requirement alone eliminates a large quantity of otherwise qualified applicants.

In light of this, it is understandable that nearly every employer would prefer to hire Caymanian candidates. The effort, the expense and the time it takes to employ a foreign worker is close to prohibitive.

And yet, the country is brimming with more than 20,000 workers on permits, each having gone through the same hoops, hurdles and mazes we listed above. They are here, of course, because employers simply must have qualified personnel in their critical positions.

The six to eight weeks it takes to get a decision on a permit application is crucial, if not crippling, since the applicant cannot give notice to his current employer until he can be assured he will be allowed to live and work in the Cayman Islands. This simple conundrum can add up to three months to an already lengthy process.

And, Heaven help employers if the foreign worker does not work out, and the process must begin anew …

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