Foreign spouses of Caymanians will no longer be treated unequally when it comes to requirements for British Overseas Territories citizenship.
Amendments to the Immigration Law debated Wednesday in the Legislative Assembly will allow non-Caymanian wives or husbands of Caymanian nationals to apply for, and receive, British Overseas Territories citizenship before they obtain Caymanian status.
The proposed changes were supported by lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle.
The strange anomaly that has existed within Cayman Islands Immigration Law for years was first noted by Savannah MLA Anthony Eden in 2014. The rules make it far easier for spouses of non-Caymanian permanent residents to obtain British Overseas Territories citizenship than for spouses of Caymanians to obtain the same status.
Under current Immigration Law, a non-Caymanian who receives permanent residence can have their spouse apply as a dependent on that grant of residence, essentially obtaining permanent residence themselves during the currency of the marriage. No less than one year after that residency status is granted, the spouse is eligible to apply for British Overseas Territories citizenship. That citizenship status allows the holder to carry a Cayman Islands passport and is the penultimate step to receiving Caymanian status.
The non-Caymanian spouse of a Caymanian, under current law, must wait seven years before applying for the right to be Caymanian themselves.
The Immigration Law currently does not allow those people to apply for British Overseas Territories citizenship until after they obtain Caymanian status – a seven year wait.
For the purposes of local law, British Overseas Territories citizenship is not the same as a grant of Caymanian status, which confers the right to be Caymanian. Non-Caymanians can apply for the right to be Caymanian if they have remained resident in the islands for at least 15 years or, in the case of a marriage, have remained married to a Caymanian for at least seven years.
The legal change will allow spouses of Caymanians to legally be considered “permanent” in the territory so that they may apply for British Overseas Territories citizenship in the same way as spouses of non-Caymanian permanent residents.
Premier Alden McLaughlin said Wednesday that government was glad to address an issue which had troubled many local families for some time.
Deputy Opposition Leader Alva Suckoo also supported the change, but noted it was “disheartening” the matter took four years to come before lawmakers in the form of an amendment bill.
“It’s a little bit late,” Mr. Suckoo said.