It is taking the Cayman Islands Immigration Department up to six months to stamp the passport of a Caymanian status or permanent residence recipient, if that person won their permission to remain in Cayman following an appeal to the Immigration Appeals Tribunal, court papers filed last week allege.
According to a judicial review application made Thursday by the HSM Chambers law firm, the Immigration Department’s actions amount, in some cases, to an unlawful refusal to provide passport stamps to people who have legally obtained their immigration status.
“The failure to provide appropriate recognition of their immigration status can and does have adverse consequences to successful appellants and raises serious questions as to the rights of persons under Cayman Islands law,” the judicial review application states. “HSM Chambers has encountered numerous examples of the Department of Immigration refusing to give timely effect to rulings of the Immigration Appeals Tribunal.”
Problems that arise from delays in stamping passports with the person’s correct immigration status can include restriction of their ability to travel, difficulty proving their right to remain in Cayman, difficulty maintaining employment or difficulty with a spouse’s employment. The person’s dependent children could also be denied opportunities for education if the delays persist long enough, the court documents state.
The judicial review application gives details of seven cases where inexplicable delays have occurred in the act of stamping the individual’s passport following appeals tribunal decisions.
In one matter, an applicant successfully appealed against the revocation of his Caymanian status, a local immigration status similar to citizenship. The decision was made by the appeals board on Feb. 17, 2017.
The HSM law firm was told four days later that, even though the appeals tribunal re-awarded the man his legal status, the department could not stamp his passport with the “right to be Caymanian” until it received an official letter from the tribunal. That did not happen until Aug. 23, 2017.
“The client was deprived of any opportunity to confirm his Caymanian status/right to be Caymanian for six months,” the judicial review document states.
A separate case involved a rejection of an applicant’s residency and employment rights certificate, which allows the non-Caymanian spouse of Caymanian to work in the islands. On Aug. 8, 2017, the appeals tribunal overturned that decision and awarded the employment certificate to the man.
However, on Sept. 1, 2017, the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board wrote to inform the man that his application for employment rights was “deferred until further consideration,” the judicial review application states. He was then granted his approval letter from that board, received on Jan. 30, 2018 – five months later. Unfortunately, attorneys said, the letter did not contain the man’s correct name.
In a third case where a residency certificate was denied, the applicant successfully appealed on Sept. 1, 2017, but did not receive his formal grant letter until Feb. 23, 2018.
In these matters and others, HSM attorneys argue, it is not the appeals tribunal, but the Immigration Department staff that has acted improperly.
“The failure of the Immigration Department to issue the appropriate stamps, without delay, is wholly unreasonable in the circumstances,” the judicial review application states. “In the cases mentioned above, no fees were outstanding in relation to the individual appellants and … there appears to be no good reason why the Immigration Department should not issue the appropriate stamps.
“The issuing of the letter is a mere formality. As it can take up to five months for some boards to provide a letter confirming the appeal, a successful appellant can be left in limbo during that time.”
Most of the matters brought to the attention of the court in the judicial review filing have been resolved. However, HSM attorneys point out that, if there is no resolution to the current process, the situation will become much worse.
As of last month, the HSM firm alone had more than 40 appeals of various immigration matters pending before the Immigration Appeals Tribunal. If even some of those are successful, it will mean dozens more people left in an uncertain immigration situation by bureaucratic delays, the court records state. Some of those applicants have already been waiting three years or more for surety regarding their status in the Cayman Islands.
“In the circumstances, it is more appropriate to bring a peremptory challenge now, than wait for numerous additional clients to be prejudiced,” HSM attorneys argue.