EDITORIAL – e-Government gets ‘police clearance’

Today’s front page contains a welcome development from government – Cayman Islands residents can now apply online for police clearance certificates, potentially cutting in half the number of in-person visits needed to obtain these documents required by immigration officials, as well as some employers and businesses.

As all of the roughly 24,000 work permit holders in Cayman are well aware, the conventional process for obtaining a certificate (which is, basically, a person’s local “criminal record,” including arrests and convictions) involves making a trip down to the RCIPS Criminal Records Office on Walkers Road, waiting in line, producing the relevant identification document, paying $25 – then returning to the office at a later date, waiting in line again, producing the ID again, before finally picking up the certificate.

Cayman’s 24,000 work permit holders must make this two-stage journey every time their permits are up for renewal. Meanwhile, the nearly 1,000 people waiting for their permanent residence applications to be considered must reiterate this process every six months.

In this context, it is unsurprising that RCIPS issues around 36,000 certificates every year, which, at $25 a pop, works out to an annual revenue stream of $900,000 for the government.

Under the new system, people can use the government’s “e-services” portal to apply for the police clearance certificate, and then only visit the RCIPS records office once, in order to pick up the document.

If everyone takes advantage of the new initiative, it could reduce the number of in-person visits to the RCIPS records office from 72,000 to 36,000. It’s a small but significant victory for Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, who has been a major champion for “e-government” for years, dating back to his tenure as chief officer of the Portfolio for Internal and External Affairs.

The development is good news for work permit holders and for police administrative staff.

The bad news, however, is that obtaining a police clearance certificate is just one of the many bureaucratic hoops that work permit holders and PR applicants must jump through on a regular basis just to keep their immigration paperwork up to date.

Here we’ll focus on the nearly 1,000 people stuck in PR limbo. Our past writings on this population have focused primarily on the general injustice of their situation, as the Progressives government’s deliberate inaction – and unwillingness to follow the law they themselves crafted and passed – has left the applicants and their families stranded, without security of tenure or even a certainty of when they might have to leave.

Amid the big picture, what we haven’t discussed as much are the comparatively minor details – the costly and annoying inconveniences they must suffer for the sake of bureaucracy.

In addition to police certificates, people in the PR queue must obtain medical certificates every six months, an irritating and time-consuming exercise that includes blood tests for HIV/AIDS and chest X-rays to screen for tuberculosis.

We’re not sure what’s worse: Being treated like a number, a guinea pig, a pincushion or a microwave TV dinner. What we are sure of, is that if these work permit and PR applicants were voters, our politicians would never allow them to be treated this way.

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  1. We are applauding the creation of a better buggy whip! The process is still ridiculous! All of the forms and paper work should be online. There are third countries with better technology than we have.