Cayman’s small Romanian community is beginning to feel the impact of new visa requirements apparently introduced in response to a handful of credit card crimes committed by tourists from the eastern European country.
Both Romania and Bulgaria have been removed from the list of 51 countries that do not require travel visas for citizens to enter the Cayman Islands as tourists.
The change was made in March through an amendment to the Immigration Regulations.
Many of the islands’ Romanian community were unaware of the new requirement until friends coming to visit were stopped at the airport.
Travel visas required
In the past month, at least five visitors from Romania have been stopped at the airport, without travel visas, according to Valeriu Danulescu, an engineer who has worked on island for eight years and is currently employed by various companies in the Caribbean as a consultant, working from Romania.
Mr. Danulescu said he learned of the change after Romanian citizens visiting friends on island, as well as a former resident returning to visit friends and sell some of her property, contacted him for assistance when they were stopped at Owen Roberts International Airport.
In all those cases, he said, the travelers were eventually allowed to enter the country and apply for a visa after-the-fact.
He said he was shocked that the Cayman Islands would change its entire policy toward Romania on the basis of two or three incidents.
Mr. Danulescu, who served as a translator in court proceedings in Cayman, including those involving Romanians accused of credit card fraud, said he was stunned by the new policy.
“It is a pity to see a whole country blacklisted on the basis of the actions of three or four guys. I lived and worked in Cayman for eight years and gave my services as a translator to the court, and if I come back to visit I need a special visa.
“It is a pity because if you look at the majority of crime in Cayman, it is not committed by Romanians and Bulgarians.”
In the most recent case involving three Romanians convicted of ATM scams using fake credit cards, the evidence in court was that they were part of a gang of five, including a Briton and an American.
Mr. Danulescu said, “In that case, the Romanians actually played a secondary role. Are they going to make this requirement for British and American people as well?
“There was another case recently involving Canadians convicted of the same thing. Why are only Romania and Bulgaria being banned?”
According to figures from the Immigration Department, there were 70 Romanians and 19 Bulgarians living in the Cayman Islands on work permits in 2016.
The vast majority of visitors to the islands from those countries are likely friends and family of those people, says Mr. Danulescu. He said it was unfair to punish them because a handful of eastern Europeans were among a number of criminals, from all over the world, convicted of committing credit card fraud after traveling to the Cayman Islands.
“I don’t see why they chose to approach the situation like this instead of working with the Romanian cybercrime police to target those who are really responsible and stop the situation,” he said.
The Cayman Compass has no record of a debate in the Legislative Assembly over the changes to the Immigration Regulations. Premier Alden McLaughlin did not respond to requests for more information this week.
The issue was discussed during a separate debate in April over changes to the Penal Code to create the new crime of “possession of articles for use to defraud.”
That law allows customs officers to detain people at the border if they are found with cloned credit cards or credit card skimming technology.
During that debate, Attorney General Samuel Bulgin said the crime had become a major problem in recent years, with a “number of foreign nationals convicted.”
He cited Romanians and Bulgarians among them, and indicated government had put additional visa restrictions in place against some of those countries.
During the debate, East End legislator Arden McLean called for much tougher action, saying Romanians should be banned from the country as a result of credit card fraud by some of its citizens.
“If we see the Romanians are the ones doing it, put them on the prohibited country list. Let them stay over there,” he said.
There is no official record of the number of criminals from different nationalities convicted of various crimes in the Cayman Islands.
However, Cayman Compass records indicate two recent cases involving people from Romania.
In March 2016, five individuals, three from Romania, one from the U.S., and one from the U.K., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud by using cloned credit cards in ATM machines in the Cayman Islands.
In March 2015, three Romanian nationals admitted similar offenses.
Compass records show only one case involving a Bulgarian national, who was jailed for 20 months for a similar scam. Other cases have involved people from Canada and Malaysia.