Court grants review of five permanent residency cases

Five permanent residence applicants have been granted requests for Grand Court judicial review hearings following claims that they suffered financial damages as a result of the government’s years-long delays in hearing their applications.

The judicial review proceedings authorized Tuesday are in addition to three other cases in which individuals who had already been granted permanent residence status pressed forward with their own legal challenges. Those three men are seeking monetary damages due to the earlier delays in hearing their cases.

HSM Chambers attorney Alastair David said he was not certain, at this stage, how matters would proceed – whether the court would combine the judicial review actions or if they would be heard separately.

“Nothing has been withdrawn,” Mr. David said. “[All five of the residence applicants] have cleared the first hurdle.”

More than 1,100 residence applicants – non-Caymanians who are seeking to remain in the islands for the rest of their lives – are awaiting word on their applications filed since October 2013.

Both the Cayman Islands Immigration Department and the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board have stepped up efforts to hear the backlogged applications within the last two months.

According to figures released Tuesday by the government, 12 permanent residence applications were approved last week and four were denied. Seventeen others considered last week were deferred to a later date.

Since the board and immigration staff began hearing the residence applications in May, after a two-and-a-half year delay, government reports that 26 people were granted residence, and 32 were denied that status. Seven other applications were withdrawn by the applicant and another four were not heard because they had been filed too late.

Thirty-nine of the applications considered since mid-May have been deferred.

HSM lawyers said they had received word that several of their clients had been granted permanent residency status in recent weeks; however, those applicants had not received written confirmation of the grants. Residence applicants are asked to provide a wide range of information to the government, including details of age, salary, education, employment, community involvement, investment in the islands and bank account records.

Those applicants who receive permanent residence are not told how many points they received on their application, Mr. David said. All successful applicants must receive at least 110 points out of a possible 215 under the Immigration Department’s scoring system.

The applicants who are refused residency will receive brief details stating how many points they achieved in each area and may appeal the refusal to the Immigration Appeals Tribunal and, ultimately, to the Grand Court. However, Mr. David said since his firm’s clients had not received any formal notifications on either approvals or denials, attorneys could not properly advise their clients on how to proceed.

“We are completely unaware of how the board [is] processing these applications,” Mr. David said.

In recent weeks, the board itself has delegated many of the residence applications to specially trained immigration staffers who are allowed, under the current law, to approve or deny applications under the chief immigration officer’s authority. The move has sped up the processing of applications within the past two weeks.

The Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board was hearing about 10 applications per week. Administrative staff are reviewing an average of 30 per week so far.

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