Thanks largely to marathon hearings that started on July 31, the Cayman Islands Immigration Department has finished considering the vast majority of backlogged permanent residence applications filed between October 2013 and December 2014.
Most of those applicants were waiting between two-and-a-half and three years to have their bids to remain in Cayman reviewed.
As of last week, the department, along with newly appointed members of the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board, began hearing applications that were filed in 2015. According to immigration consultants and department insiders, it is hoped the backlog of 2015 applications can be heard by the end of this year.
The government still has considerable work ahead to finish the entire backlog of more than 1,100 residency applications filed between Oct. 26, 2013 and mid-June 2017, when officials resumed hearing those cases.
A number of legal concerns raised during 2014 and 2015 regarding how the government was processing the applications served to delay hearings for about two-and-a-half years.
Decisions have been made in 235 residency cases so far. In addition, another 19 applications have either been withdrawn by the applicant or thrown out because they were filed late.
That combined number, 254, represents about one quarter of the entire permanent residency backlog.
So far, about 62 percent of all the applications heard by government have been approved, but there is a marked difference from the approvals made during the initial board hearings in June and July and the determinations later on in which Immigration Department staff was involved.
Since July 31, when the department began almost daily reviews of the residency applications, nearly 70 percent of those have been approved.
During the two months prior, the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board – holding one meeting per week – denied about 70 percent of applications it considered.
In an open letter posted on various social media sites, former board chairman Waide DaCosta stated he was “not a proponent” of the permanent residency scheme the legislature approved in late 2013. Mr. DaCosta said, notwithstanding a “cumbersome application process,” he believed it was easier for applicants to obtain residency under the new system.
The October 2013 residency system requires applicants to obtain a total of 110 points to succeed, compared to the former system that required only 100 points.
The total number of permanent residence applications filed each year also dropped sharply after the current Immigration Law came into force.
Since the Immigration Department staff began reviewing the residency bids, between 30-40 applications have been decided each week. The board was getting through five or six cases each week.
If the current hearing schedule proceeds, the entire backlog should be cleared up by next summer.