Bill paves way for workforce development agency

Agency to combine immigration and NWDA responsibilities

Government has released an Immigration (Transition) Bill, 2018, which would effectively repeal the current Immigration Law (2015 Revision) and create a new Workforce Opportunities Residency Cayman agency.

The agency will combine the work permit and residency responsibilities of the Immigration Department with the mandate of the National Workforce Development Agency to ensure fair opportunity for Caymanians in the workplace.

The bill at the same time creates a Customs and Border Control Service, which combines customs duties and border control and immigration enforcement in one agency.

Under the new rules, the workforce development agency would fulfill the current functions and duties of the Immigration Department, except for the landing of individuals, asylum and deportation, which will be transferred to the Customs and Border Control Service.

The new agency would be responsible for the training and development of Caymanians in the labor force, as well as helping Caymanians find jobs.

If approved during the next session of the Legislative Assembly, the proposed legislation will provide the statutory framework needed to allow WORC to function lawfully as a new entity from Jan. 1, 2019.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Immigration said in a press release that the workforce development agency would improve the administration and service delivery related to migration management matters.

Objectives

Government had previously said the driving objectives of the new agency were to make sure that Caymanians are given priority in the workforce and to achieve full employment of Caymanians, while at the same time ensuring that businesses have the workforce needed to meet their business goals.

Premier Alden McLaughlin said the legislation “is an important early step as we move towards changes that we believe will benefit Caymanians and residents of the Islands alike.”

WORC was established to restructure how employment and workforce development is managed, and to support a globally competitive business market that delivers long-term employment opportunities for Caymanians, according to Austin Harris, councilor for the Ministry of Human Resources, Immigration and Community Affairs.

The bill specifically aims to complete the transfer of powers and authorities from the chief immigration officer to the director of WORC in relation to processes for work permits, residency, and the right to be Caymanian.

The proposed legislation also seeks to improve the efficiency and processes in the administration of all work permits and permanent residence applications, as well as the grant of the right to be Caymanian.

Streamlined permanent residence regime

This includes, for example, streamlining the permanent residence regime by removing a restriction in the legislation that currently prevents anyone who has resided in the islands for longer than nine years from applying for permanent residence. The bill also removes the “Key Employee” designation and any related provisions that are no longer applicable.

In addition, the proposed legislation creates the ability for a permanent resident, who is a British Overseas Territories citizen of another overseas territory, to apply for the right to be Caymanian on the grounds of residence. This change is introduced because the current principal pathway to becoming Caymanian for long-term residents through naturalization is not available to persons who are British Overseas Territory citizens already.

The bill further makes provisions for investigative powers of WORC compliance officers in relation to investigations, work permit, right to be Caymanian and permanent residency matters.

Sharon Roulstone, interim director of WORC, said several agency processes, particularly those related to technology and online services, would not be operational until later in the first quarter of 2019.

“As such the bill will require further amendments early next year,” she said. “These developments will prepare WORC to better deliver on the mission of full Caymanian Employment and the timely provision of labor necessary for businesses in the Cayman Islands to be globally competitive,” Ms. Roulstone added.