Changes that introduced five new members, including a new chairman, to the immigration board that decides on grants of Caymanian status and permanent residence will not significantly delay any pending residency cases, senior government officials said Thursday.
The Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board has reviewed more than 200 applications during a series of hearings since May from non-Caymanians who are seeking to remain here for the rest of their life.
The terms of the appointment for the entire board expired Aug. 31, when the former members of the appointed body had their final meeting. Reappointments were announced Wednesday, one day before the board was set to meet again.
Immigration Ministry Chief Officer Wesley Howell said the new appointments, including new board chairman John Meghoo, will need some training and time to get up to speed with board procedures, but that would not significantly delay processing of any applications.
“The quorum of the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board is five voting members, and six of the members are reappointments, including the deputy chairman,” Mr. Howell said, explaining those members will have significant experience to assist the newcomers. “The plan is to continue with meetings this week or next week and the training of the new members will be completed within the next couple of weeks.”
In practice, the majority of the permanent residency applications are now being heard by half a dozen Immigration Department staffers who review and make recommendations before they are sent to the board. A number of residency applications which clearly have enough points or clearly do not have enough can be decided by staff.
Mr. Howell said staff would continue reviewing applications this week.
“The 2013 Immigration law provides for the chief immigration officer to issue delegations to Department of Immigration staff to make decisions on permanent residency applications, independent of the board,” Mr. Howell said.
Just before hearings resumed for permanent residence applications in the spring, records obtained by the Cayman Compass revealed that more than 1,100 people were awaiting word on those applications, some of which were filed as long ago as the last quarter of 2013.
A few applications were heard during 2013 and 2014, but by January 2015 the board decided to no longer hear those cases due to legal uncertainties regarding how points should be awarded to applicants for their job titles.
The delay lasted for about two-and-a-half years, until a handful of longtime residents began filing legal actions against the government over delays in hearing their matters. All eight of those people have since been awarded permanent residence.
Thus far, applicants who awaited a board or staff hearing of their cases have succeeded about 60-65 percent of the time.
Immigration staff have been considering residency applications between four and five days a week since August, and Premier Alden McLaughlin has said getting through the backlogged requests is one of government’s top priorities early in the term.