More than 3,700 people have received grants of Caymanian status via either the naturalization (citizenship) process or through marriage to a Caymanian since January 2009, according to records presented to the Legislative Assembly by Premier Alden McLaughlin last week.
Another 14 people received Cabinet grants of status since 2012, according to the figures presented by Mr. McLaughlin.
The three areas comprise the majority of status grants, which confer the “right to be Caymanian” upon a non-Caymanian individual. Based on the figures presented, the islands have averaged about 412 status grants per year since 2009.
Roughly 194 of those grants each year were given to people who have resided in the islands for at least 15 consecutive years and applied for permanent residence and then naturalization as a British Overseas Territories citizen. These are typically individuals with no family connections to the islands (although some may have those via parents, grandparents or children) who apply for Caymanian rights based on long tenure in the islands.
Another 217 people each year received the right to be Caymanian through marriage to a Caymanian. Those individuals typically must apply for their status after seven years of marriage.
The 14 Cabinet status grants are irrevocable by immigration officials or board members [*] and represent grants of Caymanian rights based on application to Cabinet members. Each case is considered individually based on the specific circumstances of the applicant and Cabinet is only allowed to grant up to four per year.
The figures presented to the Legislative Assembly were given as a result of a parliamentary question asked by Bodden Town West MLA Chris Saunders. Mr. Saunders said he asked for the numbers after trying unsuccessfully to obtain them via the government’s Freedom of Information process.
Mr. Saunders said he was researching grants of status and awards of permanent residence for information he would later use to update the old ‘Vision 2008’ strategic plan, which would look ahead to the next 20 years.
“One of the things I’m mindful of is that we’re looking at the public school population now, we’re looking at a large number of children of Caymanian status holders or PR-holders who will be entitled to receive public school education in the next five years,” he said.
During the same period between January 2009 and mid-November of this year, Premier McLaughlin said more than 3,100 Caymanians applied to the Immigration Department to obtain proof that they had Caymanian status, which is similar to locally acknowledged citizenship rights within the overseas territory.
This is known as “acknowledgement of the right to be Caymanian” and Mr. McLaughlin said a person would typically need it to prove they had status while applying for a job or if their non-Caymanian spouse applies for citizenship rights. None of these would be considered new grants of status, he said.
“Some entity or some individual has got to make a pronouncement as to whether or not a person is Caymanian,” he said. “That has fallen to immigration who, believe you me, would rather not have to deal with it.”
Mr. McLaughlin said obtaining this seemingly simple clarification of basic rights is often anything but that. The “proof” required apparently becomes more difficult to obtain over time for two types of individuals, multigenerational “born” Caymanians and those individuals who came here when they were young or who were born here to non-Caymanian parents and who never regularized their Caymanian status later in life.
The latter difficulty, sometimes referred to by local immigration professionals as territorial laws creating “ghost Caymanians,” came before the Legislative Assembly last week. It involves the case of a woman, Angelyn Zayas, who was granted Caymanian status by Cabinet.
“[This is] a woman … who was born in Cayman, went to school in Cayman … considered herself a Caymanian all the way through,” the premier said. “She wound up marrying a Cuban national who applied for a residence and employment rights certificate based on her Caymanian status. When immigration asked her to prove she was Caymanian, she could not.”
In addition to the Caymanian “acknowledgements,” Mr. McLaughlin said another 1,188 people had received Caymanian status acknowledged either at the time they turned 18 or after they turned 18. These are typically young people who are born in Cayman or who move to Cayman when they are young and whose parents receive Caymanian status before they turn 18.
Those children usually have to apply for status upon reaching the age of the majority. Provision was made for a few hundred who did not regularize their status upon reaching age 18 to do so later in life.
[*] Editor’s note: Some clarification surrounding the grants of Caymanian status by Cabinet was added.