New immigration regulations seek to clarify residence applications

All pending applicants for permanent residence in Cayman – of which there are now more than 900 – will receive the maximum 15 points awarded for their current job, regardless of what job they hold.

That change, along with a number of others affecting the permanent residence application process, is set down in regulations to the Immigration Law made public Wednesday. According to the document, the regulations were agreed in Cabinet on Feb. 28.

Regulations made in Cabinet do not require a vote of the full Legislative Assembly to take effect, but they can be subject to annulment via a “negative resolution” process in the House.

“We undertook to amend the regulations to get the Permanent Residency applications going again, and we have now done so,” said Premier Alden McLaughlin.

The Immigration Regulations govern how applicants for permanent residence are judged in their bids to remain in Cayman for the rest of their lives. The new regulations had not been discussed in Legislative Assembly by press time Wednesday.

Premier McLaughlin has said a number of times that his government would move ahead with changes to the permanent residence application process before the next general election in May.

The Cayman Islands government is facing significant legal pressure to resolve the backlog of, at last count, at least 916 applications for permanent residence filed since Oct. 26, 2013. At least two legal actions have been filed challenging the length of time it was taking government to hear those applications.

Both of those matters are still before the courts.

The changes to the regulations regarding permanent residence application scoring are expected to allow the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board to resume hearing those applications shortly, something it has not done since at least January 2015. The applications were delayed indefinitely over concerns about how occupations were being scored, in a system that Chief Justice Anthony Smellie called “opaque” and “prone to arbitrariness.”

The new regulations are an attempt to resolve and clarify those matters. The changes include:

The deletion of the former permanent residence application scoring where applicants were awarded points based on “the ratio of Caymanians to non-Caymanians” in the labor market. Now all applicants will be awarded the full 15 points, regardless of what job they hold.

Points for on-the-job experience will be awarded based on how many years and months an employee has worked in that field. For instance, if a person has worked for six years and six months, they would receive six full points for the six years and half a point for the six months, giving them a total of 6.5 points for experience.

Points awarded for property investment are to be given for “equity injections” into that property not made with borrowed funds. A section stating that points would only be given for “major investments” in the property has been deleted.

Evidence of an applicant’s savings at a local financial institution must now be provided for only one year, instead of the past five years.

Applicants between the ages of 61 and 65 will now be given six points in the “age” category on their application, rather than 0 points, reflecting the change in Cayman’s retirement age from 60 to 65. All applicants will be scored on the age at which they applied for permanent residence.

All changes made in the new regulations will be retroactive.

Other areas of the permanent residence points system remain unchanged. A successful applicant still has to achieve a total of 110 points. No changes were made to the history/culture test section (worth up to 20 points), or the community involvement section (also worth up to 20 points).

Points awarded for an applicant’s salary were also unchanged from the 2013 version of the regulations.

Slight changes to the “close Caymanian connections” scoring were made, but only affect a relatively small number of Cuban nationals who were granted leave to remain by Cabinet and who never had their immigration status regularized.

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