Six new employees are being brought in to speed up the processing of more than 1,000 permanent residence applications, Immigration Minister and Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin said Friday.
The ministry staffers, described as “administrators with senior management and technical experience” will begin reviewing residence applications this week. Five will fill full-time positions and one post is part-time, Mr. McLaughlin said.
Permanent residence grants a non-Caymanian the right to remain in the Cayman Islands for their rest of their lives. The Cayman Compass reported last week that more than 1,100 applications filed since October 2013 seeking that status are still awaiting a hearing before the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board.
The current rate at which the board is hearing those applications would not allow it to catch up with backlogged residence requests for more than three years. By that time, it is likely many more applications will have been filed.
Premier McLaughlin said Friday that the residence application process should be done as quickly as possible, but he did not want immigration administrators or the board to make decisions lightly about whether someone should be able to stay in the islands throughout their life.
“Our main focus is to ensure each application is thoroughly reviewed and given fair consideration,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
Residency applicants are asked to provide details on a number of aspects, including their jobs, education, training, earnings, investments in Cayman, community service and personal financial details. An application and supporting documentation filed by one person can often exceed 200 pages.
Acting Chief Immigration Officer Bruce Smith said Friday that while a number of residence applications are being “deferred” – delayed by the board until another meeting – that is often to the applicant’s benefit.
“The … board doesn’t want to refuse an application just because the information needed to process it is no longer valid,” Mr. Smith said. “They are deferring in the interests of the applicant by allowing them to provide up-to-date information before a final decision is made.”
The Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board started hearing backlogged residence applications in mid-June and has had five meetings since then.
According to government records, 13 applications have been granted and another 16 were refused. A total of 17 applications were deferred until a later board meeting. Four others were withdrawn, and three were not heard because they were filed late and could not legally be considered.
Assuming that hearing rate is maintained, the Compass calculated that it would take approximately 163 weeks (three years, seven weeks) for the board to get through the backlogged applications if it holds hearings once a week for all 52 weeks of the year.
Premier McLaughlin said the new administrators were being brought in to ensure it does not take that long, but he urged the public’s patience and cooperation in the meantime.
“We expect to see an increase in productivity, but we are aware such drastic change will not happen overnight,” he said. “This is a top priority for government and it will continue to be so until this matter is resolved.”