Eighteen months after Cayman’s legislative Public Accounts Committee said the territory’s work permits job category system must be simplified, more than 1,100 job categories remain, along with more than 5,000 sub-categories of positions within the larger job groupings.
According to a review by the Cayman Compass of 24,880 work permits held by non-Caymanian workers as of last month, many of the jobs listed separately appear to describe the exact same type of work but are in different sub-groupings.
Some of the sub-categories sent to the Compass following a Freedom of Information request appear to have been created by simple misspellings.
Adding to the confusion, some of the jobs that are essentially the same position held in different industries attract vastly different annual work permit fees.
All non-Caymanian private sector workers in the Cayman Islands must hold a legal permit to remain in the islands. Fees are paid by the companies that employ those workers each time a permit is awarded or renewed.
The numbers reviewed by the Compass for July include all annual permit grants and renewals, as well as temporary permits, government employment contracts held by non-Caymanians and individuals employed in the special economic zone.
Also included are individuals applying for permanent residence who have been granted permission to continue working under the law while their applications are pending.
Non-Caymanians not included in the permit numbers are permanent residents and non-Caymanians married to Caymanians working under a residency and employment rights certificate.
‘Account Officer’ and ‘Accounts Officer’
The job categories have more than a dozen types of accounting jobs listed in various industries around the islands. In one of those job categories – “accounts officer” – there appears the following three sub-groupings: Account Officer (2 permits), Accounting Officer (1 permit), and Accounts Officer (1 permit). The documentation sent to the newspaper did not explain the difference between an “Account Officer” and an “Accounts Officer” sub-groupings in the “Accounts Officer” job category.
Similarly, there were roughly two dozen sub-groupings for “Bartender” in Cayman. Those include: Bartender/Beverage Server (1 permit), Bartender/Food and Beverage Server (4 permits), Bartender/Food and Beveraage (sic) Server (1 permit), and Bartender/Server (6 permits).
The category of “Diving Instructor” – which held a total of 226 permitted jobs, included sub-groupings: Scuba Instructor (1 permit), Scuba Diving Instructor (1 permit), and Scuba Instructor (19 permits).
In the job category of “Gardener,” there are four work permits for the sub-group of “Gardener/Handyman.” Meanwhile, in the category for “Handyman,” there are nine permits active in the “Handyman/Gardener” subgroup. Whether these permit subgroups are describing the same or different permit holders is unclear.
Under “Beach Attendants,” there are seven sub-groupings for “Beach Attendant/Deck Hand.” There is also a separate job category of “Boat Deck Hand,” in which there are eight sub-categories for “Beach Attendant/Deck Hand.” Again, it’s not clear if these listings are repeated permits.
The Compass contacted FOI managers and Immigration Department representatives with questions about the job categories and sub-groups but had not received a response by press time Monday.
Same job, different fee
Differences in work permit fees charged to various jobs in separate industries has been a complaint voiced by the Cayman Islands business community in recent years. There can be significant differences in what an employer will pay for a permit, depending on the industry. Private sector companies can often spend weeks in dispute with immigration officials over a particular worker’s permit fee.
For instance, in the legal profession, the annual permit for a bookkeeper costs $4,600, but the same permit for a “clerk, bookkeeping/accounts” costs $1,050.
In the publishing industry, a graphic designer’s annual permit costs $6,000, while a graphic artist’s permit is $4,743.75.
In the hairdressing, beauty treatment and personal service activities industry, a non-Caymanian administrative assistant costs $1,575 to employ, but in the legal profession that administrative assistant’s annual permit fee is $2,100.
In the programming and broadcasting industry, a work permit for a sales representative/agent costs $2,100 per year, while in the landscaping and gardening business, a sales representative permit costs $1,050 per year.
The last time work permit fees had a major adjustment was in 2012. Fees were increased at the time mostly to help pay for the Cayman Islands government’s burgeoning operating deficit.
The current jobs classification system used by the Immigration Department replaced the old “skill-based” permit evaluation method about a decade ago.
Immigration Ministry Chief Officer Wesley Howell said in March 2016, the last time the Public Accounts Committee reviewed the issue, that the Immigration Department was conducting about 40 to 50 assessments of local companies per month to ensure those businesses were not fiddling with job titles to lower their permit fees.
From January through July of this year, about $152,000 in administrative fines have been levied by the Immigration Department, including fines in 112 cases in which a non-Caymanian was found to be working “outside of their permit.” That means doing a job other than the one they are permitted to perform on island.