Customs form scrapped for most Cayman travelers

Passengers prepare to go through the customs checkpoint at Owen Roberts International Airport in this file photo. - Photo: Alvaro Serey

Her Majesty’s Customs in the Cayman Islands will scrap a requirement to fill out bureaucratic forms for the majority of travelers to the British Overseas Territory.

Starting June 30, customs will no longer require a goods declaration form for inbound travelers as long as those travelers do not exceed the $350 allowance for bringing goods into the country. The change applies to inbound passengers at both Owen Roberts International Airport on Grand Cayman and Charles Kirkconnell International Airport in Cayman Brac.

If arriving passengers are bringing in more than $350 of dutiable goods ($700 for families), they will still be required to fill out goods declarations and pay duty as normal.

Established allowances for alcohol and tobacco products will also be monitored as per normal, but as long as the arrivals keep it under the limit, no forms will be required. Passengers carrying $15,000 in cash or cash equivalents or who are bringing in agricultural or farming products also must make the normal declarations to customs.

Customs Collector Charles Clifford said Tuesday that removing the bureaucratic forms for a number of travelers will allow customs officers more time to focus on significant threats, rather than pestering visitors and residents for paperwork.

“It is indicative of our increased focus on the more serious national security threats at our borders,” Mr. Clifford said.

The change with the customs declaration form was lauded by recently withdrawn Cayman Islands Governor Anwar Choudhury in what he said was part of government’s effort to “burn or shred” bits of bureaucracy from public sector operations.

“It’s much better to get rid of the form. Everybody hates the paperwork. This is a tourist destination, the last thing people want to do when they get here is fill out another form,” Mr. Choudhury said during an interview with the Cayman Compass earlier this month.

Mr. Clifford said customs officers reserve the right to examine luggage for arriving passengers if they believe the passenger “is not being honest” about his or her declaration. If a customs officer suspects an individual has not been truthful, the passenger will be given a second chance to make a full declaration before they are subjected to a secondary examination.

“We want to underscore the fact that the onus is on the passenger to make an honest declaration,” said Deputy Customs Collector Jeff Jackson. “If we discover that a passenger has not made an honest declaration, then we will strictly enforce our powers under the Customs Law to impose administrative procedural fines … that can amount to three times the amount of duty that a passenger would have paid, had they been honest about their declaration.”

Burning papers

Governor Choudhury, who was temporarily withdrawn sometime around June 12 for unspecified reasons, had stated his intention to “burn or shred” bureaucratic civil service policies that seem to serve no other purpose than creating “soul-destroying” busywork for government employees and endless frustration for the people those workers are supposed to assist.

“Everywhere I look, I see unnecessary bureaucracy that ties up the civil service … and delivers nothing but frustration for the customer,” Mr. Choudhury said during an interview with the Cayman Compass just before he left. “You sometimes wonder why people are working so hard, and the outcome doesn’t match up.”

Mr. Choudhury suggested officials take a step back to look at the larger picture and if the delays in service – whether they exist in receiving swift justice or simply receiving a license plate for a car – are due to unnecessary bureaucracy, then the government should offer a direct solution.

“Shred or burn policies or bits of bureaucracy,” he said. “Literally, burn them. We’ve just selected 20 [such policies].”