Premier Alden McLaughlin announced a series of immigration initiatives Thursday with implications for Chinese, Jamaican and Caymanian travelers.
On the heels of China’s announcement granting Caymanian ships “most favored nation” status, Cayman will also enable the passage of Chinese travelers.
“Cabinet has agreed to amend the immigration regulations to exempt nationals of the People’s Republic of China from the requirement to possess a visitor’s visa for the Cayman Islands for a stay of up to 30 days,” Mr. McLaughlin said at the Fidelity CEO conference at the Kimpton Seafire Resort.
The exemption will apply to holders of a valid Canadian, U.S. or U.K. visa who are traveling directly from the country where the visa is held.
“The latter requirement is to ensure that their U.S., U.K. or Canadian visa is authentic,” he said.
The visa exemption will also apply to Jamaican travelers. Mr. McLaughlin said he hoped the measure would improve business relations between the islands.
Caymanian travelers to the U.S. are also expected to benefit from eased restrictions starting in March. Mr. McLaughlin said the Cayman Islands will be joining the so-called “six-month club,” meaning Caymanian travelers will only be required to carry a passport valid for the length of their stay in the U.S., rather than the current requirement of six months.
An additional agreement is in the works to allow immigration pre-clearance for eligible passengers at the Miami International Airport for passengers en route to Grand Cayman. The plan is intended to reduce local immigration lines.
“This will also have the added benefit of improving strategic border control cooperation between the Cayman Islands and the United States,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
Once at Owen Roberts International Airport, passengers may also be assisted by volunteers with the ambassadors program, which will offer employment to retired Caymanians interested in continuing to work.
Mr. McLaughlin alluded only briefly to the elephant in the room, the permanent residency system that has been mired by more than three years of delays.
“Concomitant with preparing our people for the growth and jobs of the future is a fair and transparent immigration process. As would any country that has experienced massive immigration over the past four decades, the Cayman Islands has had its share of challenges, from issues with work permits to permanent residency,” he said.
“I have to confess that managing these issues is a task akin to walking the razor’s thin edge, but suffice it to say that we will manage it with the same resolve that has seen us rise to the top of the economic pyramid in the region.”
Trump politics permeate the day
The U.S. political environment set the tone for much of the CEO conference. Mr. McLaughlin joked about what he might post on Twitter, in an indirect reference to President Donald Trump.
He facetiously suggested tweeting: “I will be performing live at the Fidelity CEO Conference on Feb. 2 and it is going to be amazing. So if you are not here, you are a loser. Sad, so sad.”
Alas, the post would be 18 characters too long for the Twitter format.
Conference moderator Jackie Morris also joked about President Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, saying any conference comments the audience may disagree with were merely “alternative facts.”
Forbes Magazine political economy editor John Tamny offered an analysis of “Trumpism” early in the day, outlining the possible pros and cons for a nation like Cayman. He described President Trump’s ideas as ranging from good to terrifying. On lowering corporate and estate taxes, he said Trump was on the right track.
He said anti-trade rhetoric, however, could be immensely damaging by forcing the economy to focus on less productive economic pursuits. He also described President Trump’s stance on immigration as “unfortunate.”
“He makes the odd case that the arrival of immigrants is in fact a barrier to economic growth or a burden. Nothing could be further from the truth. When immigrants arrive, they once again bring essential energy, ambition and ideas that transform the economy,” Mr. Tamney said.
Regarding regulatory pressure on the U.S. banking industry, Mr. Tamney pointed to openings for the Cayman Islands.
“The opportunities are huge for offshore sources of innovative finance to do what banks in the U.S. can’t do or are no longer allowed to do,” he said.