Hundreds of permanent residence seekers who have been waiting for years to learn whether they will be granted that status are unlikely to receive word for many months, according to local immigration advisers.
The newly formed Ministry of Immigration announced last week that the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board would start hearing applications sometime this week, bringing an “immediate resolution” to the outstanding 900-1,000 permanent residence applications.
However, from a practical standpoint, it is expected to take some time for Immigration Department staff and the board to consider all the applications individually.
“The [government news] release describes the resolution as immediate,” HSM Chambers partner Nicolas Joseph wrote in an email Friday to the firm’s clients who are applying for permanent residence. “Unfortunately, for many of you, the delays will continue.
“There will be no resolution unless and until an application has been dealt with in full accordance with the law and regulations. With the best will in the world, for some of you that will take several months. For those that have already been waiting for more than a year, that will be several months too late.”
The HSM correspondence indicates that a number of applicants, some of whom applied as far back as late 2013, may feel the damage has already been done by unexplained delays in hearing their cases.
“We still do not know why there has been any delay in relation to many candidates who did not need to rely on any factors in doubt to achieve the prescribed 110 points,” Mr. Joseph wrote. “The loss and damage occasioned by some of you has reached the point where it is unfair and unreasonable for you to be expected to simply waive your legal entitlements.”
Three men being represented by HSM have already sued the government over damages derived from 30-month to 42-month delays in hearing their applications. Those cases have not been resolved.
The Immigration Department previously announced that all applicants for permanent residence, or their legal or business representatives, would be contacted to provide an “update” to those records before the applications are heard by the board. Once that update is provided, the department indicated, the board would do its best to hear their application within the next 30 days.
Immigration advisers noted last week that it is important for people to make application information as current as possible, particularly if the person has not done so since their application was filed. The applicants from late 2013 who recently filed updates could have their cases heard by next week, the board indicated.
Residence applications will be heard in the order in which they were received, so applicants who filed in October 2013 would go first, followed by November 2013 and so on.
The Immigration Department advised applicants who are updating their permanent residence documents to wait until they are contacted by government representatives. If the updates are filed too early, the information may be out of date by the time the application is considered by the board, officials said.
Reviewing close to 1,000 permanent residence applications will take significant time, according to Immigration Ministry Chief Officer Wesley Howell. Many of the applications are hundreds of pages long with detailed information about each applicant’s job, education, training, salary, personal finances, community involvement activities and investment in the country, among a host of other areas.
Mr. Howell said certain measures would have to be taken to “overcome various human resources and other challenges,” associated with processing the documents.
“The Department of Immigration has reassigned staff members and has recruited Caymanian university graduates to advance the processing of applications,” he said. These additional workers will review the applications initially and prepare them for the board’s review, he said. Immigration staff will also shadow board members for training purposes.
The ministry has not clarified whether the Immigration Department would make decisions on any of the residency applications as it is now allowed to do, or whether the board would be required to hear all applications filed since October 2013.