The Cayman Islands law firm at the center of two high-profile court challenges to the local Immigration Law said Thursday that Cabinet-approved changes to the system used to evaluate permanent residence applications were “largely cosmetic” and would not negatively affect most applicants.

More than 900 people are awaiting word on their applications, some of which were filed more than three years ago. Legal delays and confusion over the permanent residence grant system have led to no applications being heard since at least January 2015.

It was not immediately clear when either the Immigration Department or the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board would begin hearing the backlogged applications for permanent residence – which is the right to remain in Cayman for the rest of one’s life. The government made no specific announcement regarding that but Premier Alden McLaughlin said Wednesday the changes would clear the way for the applications to now be heard.

“From what we gather, it will be a combination of the board and Immigration Department administrators who will be making assessments and it is hoped, therefore, that this will mean that the backlog is dealt with quicker than may otherwise have been the case,” an email sent to PR applicants from HSM Chambers law firm partner Nicholas Joseph read.

The biggest change from the prior regulations governing the grant of permanent residence is that all applicants, regardless of what job they hold, will be given full points (15) for their current position.

“Every applicant, whether they are the head of large financial services enterprise or a domestic helper, will receive 15 points for … current occupation,” Mr. Joseph said.

However, the new regulations, which were approved on Feb. 28 by Cabinet, make no mention of what government intends to do with its “priority occupations” list described in the law. Priority occupations are specifically designated jobs which are considered to be especially important or desired within the Cayman Islands economy. If an applicant for permanent residence holds one of those jobs, the regulations allow them to receive up to an additional 15 points for their occupation.

At this stage, Mr. Joseph said, it is assumed that all applicants will receive no points under the priority occupation designation, since no jobs have been listed as priority occupations.

“HSM Chambers’ general view is that the new regulations are largely cosmetic and do not constitute a material change for most applicants,” Mr. Joseph said. “Our view is that these changes taking effect today will mean that almost all applicants will receive more points.”

For instance, a surgeon applying for residence would have received eight points for his or her occupation under the former regulations. With the changes made on Feb. 28, that applicant now receives 15 points, an increase of seven points.

Permanent residence applicants under the Immigration Law must receive a total of at least 110 points to be awarded that status and are judged on a wide range of areas, including job, salary, experience, education, community involvement, age, nationality and whether they have Caymanian family connections.

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The HSM analysis also cleared up a few other areas of the new points system for residency applicants.

Applicants with “school age” children, those above four years and nine months old and below age 16, will have $15,000 deducted from their salary for each child of that age they have when their salary is evaluated under the points system. Applicants who have children above age 16 and below four years and nine months, will have $12,000 deducted from their salary for each child, when that score is calculated.

All permanent residence applicants are scored based on their age, but those applicants between the ages of 18 and 24 at the time their application is made are currently given only four points out of a possible 10. Those applicants will now be judged on their age at the time their application is heard by the board or Immigration Department, not at the time they applied. If those applicants are between 25 and 34 years old at the time the board hears the application, they would be given a full 10 points.

For all other applicants, they will be judged on their age at the time the application was filed, not when it is heard.

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