The Immigration Transition Bill seeks to remove a restriction that prevents residents who have been in the Cayman Islands for more than nine years from applying for permanent residence.

In introducing the bill in the Legislative Assembly, Premier Alden McLaughlin said these eligibility rules for applying for permanent residence could be construed as arbitrary and were the unintended consequence of immigration law changes made in 2013.

When the term limit for work permit holders was extended from seven to nine years in October 2013, a restriction was imposed that required anyone who wished to apply for permanent residence to do so before the end of their ninth year of residence.

“The rationale was that there should be a cut-off point that coincided with the expiry of a work permit holder’s term limit,” Premier McLaughlin said.

The legislation gave residents, who were in Cayman for more than nine years as of the Oct. 25, 2013, a period of 90 days to apply.

However, a significant number of people missed this opportunity, despite repeated public announcements and internal government circulars at the time, Mr. McLaughlin said.

These residents have since been blocked from applying for permanent residence. In addition to those who have missed the deadline, others have been impacted by changes in their personal circumstances that prevent them from becoming permanent residents under existing rules.

These cases include divorcees from a Caymanian or permanent resident spouse, who despite having lived in Cayman for more than nine years cannot apply for permanent residence and are unable to obtain a work permit because their term limit has expired.

Similarly, government workers who missed the opportunity to apply in 2013 would be forced to leave the islands should their employment end, the premier said, because they cannot get a work permit once their term limit of nine years has expired.

“While the reasons for introducing the nine-year limitation for work permit holders are understood, there is arguably no compelling justification for imposing the same limitation on persons who are not subject to those term limits,” the premier said.

“We are also confident, having done the analysis, that by removing the nine-year restriction, only a limited number of persons would benefit,” he noted.

Since work permit holders have to leave the islands at the end of their term limit, the only beneficiaries of the proposed legal change would be those who have been able to remain legally resident beyond nine years on some other basis.

They are either one of currently 145 government workers who have reached the nine-year term limit and not applied for permanent residence yet; the spouses of government workers; the spouses of Caymanians; former spouses of Caymanians whose residence and employment rights certificate has been continued, because they are the parent of a Caymanian child under the age of 18; spouses of work permit holders whose term limit has not expired; or spouses of persons who have applied for permanent residence.