The merger of customs and immigration functions will coincide with a new “intelligence-led” approach to processing arriving passengers, according to the head of Cayman’s new border force.
Charles Clifford, a former police superintendent and the current Collector of Customs, has been appointed to lead the new Customs and Border Control Agency.
The employment-related aspects of immigration, including work permits and permanent residency applications, will be devolved to another new agency, WORC, which is in the process of being established.
The rest of the Immigration Department’s functions will be absorbed into Mr. Clifford’s new unit, which will become active from the start of next year.
Once fully trained, Mr. Clifford said, staff at the air and sea ports will be able to perform the functions of both customs and immigration officers.
He said the new agency would also use different methods, including advance screening of passengers, to help target resources more effectively.
“We are moving away from the traditional gatekeepers approach to the intelligence-led management approach,” he said.
“We all know when an aircraft leaves a destination to come to Cayman, the majority of the people on board are not people we need to focus on. We need to do a better job of separating the people that we really need to focus on from those that we don’t.”
He said the aim was to make the process easier for legitimate travelers and free up resources to target higher-risk passengers.
The merger could also mean that rather than waiting in line twice, first to clear immigration and then to go through customs, passengers will pass through a single checkpoint.
“Once the organization is fully upskilled and cross-trained, you will see one checkpoint at the border,” said Mr. Clifford.
“The only second checkpoint you would encounter is if you are referred … for a more thorough investigation. Then you’re moved into a different area and your belongings and documents will be more carefully and thoroughly examined.”
Bruce Smith, the current acting head of the Immigration Department, will move over to the Customs and Border Control Agency as a key part of the management team, according to Mr. Clifford.
Premier Alden McLaughlin said the merger would improve border security. He said Colin Brown, of the United Kingdom Border Force, had been in the Cayman Islands since January assisting with the creation of the new unit, which follows the U.K. structure.
He praised Mr. Clifford as a “son of the soil,” with relevant experience as an attorney, in law enforcement, and as head of customs for the last three years.
He said, “I am confident that the team of officers and staff of the Immigration and Customs Department will support his leadership in the establishment of the new Customs and Border Control Department, taking the security of our airports and seaport to world-class.”