The former head of the Cayman Islands government board tasked with approving Caymanian status and permanent residence applications said in a statement last week that he was “not a proponent” of the 2013 system that granted residence to non-Caymanian applicants.
According to a social media post by attorney Waide DaCosta, that was one of many issues he sought to raise with administration officials that went unaddressed during the past four years.
Mr. DaCosta has been contacted numerous times by the Cayman Compass, including last week before his replacement on the board by new chairman John Meghoo, but he did not respond. On Friday, a two-page statement he wrote appeared on various social media sites.
“For avoidance of doubt, I was not a proponent of the new permanent residence system and have noted many issues with it,” Mr. DaCosta wrote. “However, once enacted it had to be enforced. It is my view that notwithstanding the cumbersome PR application process, it is easier to obtain PR under the 2013 PR system.”
The last comment refers to changes in the Immigration Law that took effect in late October 2013, which included significant amendments to the ‘points system’ government uses to determine whether a non-Caymanian person may remain in Cayman for the rest of their lives. That points system, among other things, requires that successful applicants obtain at least 110 points and submit hundreds of pages of documentation to support their bids. The previous PR system required only 100 points and required much less paperwork.
Mr. DaCosta said it was his belief that the permanent residence system was amended in October 2013 to allow people staying in Cayman on temporary ‘term limit exemption permits’ which existed at the time to apply for residence.
“[The legal changes] opened the category to any and everyone to apply for PR, regardless of contribution to Cayman or ability to provide for themselves whilst residing in Cayman,” Mr. DaCosta said.
According to Immigration Department statistics, far fewer people have applied for permanent residence since the law changed in 2013, largely because applicants now must pay their full fees, which can often cost tens of thousands of dollars, “up front” – prior to the application being heard.
Mr. DaCosta also noted that a “directive” was given by government that the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board “would no longer deal with PR,” instead allowing the chief immigration officer and her subordinates to do so. The board was reappointed for a two-year term that ended in 2016.
“It was clear that it was intended the board would be phased out by 2016,” Mr. DaCosta wrote.
That did not happen. Instead, board members were reappointed again in 2016 for a term expiring on Aug. 31, 2017. It was shortly after the expiry of the term that Mr. DaCosta and several other members of the board were replaced. Mr. DaCosta wrote on Friday that he had stated to senior government officials earlier in the year that he would be leaving the board on Aug. 31.
Mr. DaCosta said, once the decision was made to go ahead with the application processing, the board worked as hard as it could to get through the backlog.
“Ten-hour meetings became the norm,” he said. I have always been committed to reducing the backlog of the PR applications in a fair and considered manner. The board had nothing to do with the backlog.
“I have been vilified in the press with respect to the PR issue and, frankly, it is time to set the record straight,” Mr. DaCosta wrote. “I served the Cayman Islands faithfully for eight years and to be treated in this manner is unworthy.”
Also on Friday, Mr. DaCosta raised the issue of what are sometimes referred to as ‘ghost Caymanians’ existing within local society.
“This requires urgent attention by legislators,” he wrote.
These individuals are younger people who, for whatever reason, needed to get their Caymanian status regularized with immigration authorities but did not do so by the time they reached age 18. Noted local immigration attorney Nicolas Joseph has estimated there could be as many as a few thousand younger Caymanians now in that position.
Mr. DaCosta said if the matter is not addressed, these younger people could end up in a legal “no man’s land.”
“I was informed by the crafters of the 2013 Immigration amendment that in early 2014, immigration reform would be made to address the Caymanian children that were unable to prove they are Caymanian,” he wrote. “This continues to be a major problem.”
Mr. Joseph has suggested that a “large number of status grants” may be needed to resolve the matter to ensure the younger adults can continue to live and work in the only home they’ve ever known.