More than 200 applicants for permanent residence who were denied that immigration status since 2017 have filed challenges to those decisions, according to records obtained by a Cayman Compass Freedom of Information request.
The Cayman Islands government began hearing applications for permanent residence, the right to remain in Cayman for the rest of one’s life, in mid-2017 after a lengthy delay where the processing of those requests stopped for about two-and-a-half years.
During the period between June 2017 and February 2018, a total of 591 residency applications were approved and another 374 were turned down.
According to figures released by the Cabinet office, a total of 226 applicants who were denied in their initial hearing filed appeals of those decisions in 2017 and this year. That number represents about 60 percent of the total number of denied applications from 2017 and 2018.
Only seven of those appeals have so far been heard by the Immigration Appeals Tribunal, according to the Cabinet office. Two appeals were granted, two were denied, and three were withdrawn.
Before 2017, relatively few appeals concerning permanent residence applications were filed. According to the records, 42 appeals each were filed in 2013 and 2014, just 18 were filed in 2015 and 22 in 2016.
All of those appeals were filed before government began hearing the backlog of some 1,200 permanent residency applications during 2017.
According to immigration attorneys at HSM Chambers law firm, the vast majority of the residency case backlog has now finished initial hearings, but the next stage of the appeals process for PR applicants may take some time to resolve.
“We expect this number [referring to the number of appeals cases] to continue to grow, with 12 notices of appeal in relation to the denial of permanent residence filed in February alone,” HSM partner Nick Joseph told clients in an email sent earlier this month. “Plainly … another backlog is developing in relation to appeals.
“Many of the issues we, our clients and the [Immigration] Department are now confronting have been long anticipated. Political direction and policy decisions may be required to overcome these delays.”
There have been some delays in the issuing of government’s reasons for denying residency applications, Mr. Joseph said, which are required to pursue appeals. Typically, a successful permanent residency applicant or one who was denied and who did not appeal that decision would not be given their final “score” on their application. Only when a case is taken to the appeals tribunal is the applicant’s actual score revealed.
Once a case does proceed to the tribunal, it is then up to the applicant to point out where they believe the initial decision made by immigration authorities was wrong in law. All such cases are taken first to the Immigration Appeals Tribunal, which hears them and makes a determination. Further appeals to the Grand Court can be done by way of judicial review.
The Immigration Department has a specific process for how those matters are to be dealt with, once an appeal is filed. First, a person who is denied residency must receive an official letter from the department or the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board to that effect. The person then has 28 days from the date of the letter to file notice of appeal, which is basically a short statement noting the individual’s intent.
If the person does not appeal within the timeline, they are given 90 days to settle their affairs in the islands before departing.
A permanent residence appellant is allowed to remain in the islands and work while their appeal is current, according to HSM lawyers.