George Town Central MLA Kenneth Bryan has called for swift action to resolve what he flagged as an unfair disparity in visa policy for Caymanian children travelling to Jamaica.
Bryan raised the issue in the Legislative Assembly on Friday as he questioned government on the policy.
Caymanian children are required to have a visa to travel to Jamaica, but Jamaican children under the age of 15 visiting Cayman do not need a visa.
Premier Alden McLaughlin, who is also the immigration minister, said this matter is being pursued by his administration.
“I am confident we will resolve this particular aspect of this thorny issue because it is a rather uncomfortable situation from both sides,” he told lawmakers.
He said he raised the issue last August with Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness during McLaughlin’s trip to Jamaica for the Denbigh Agricultural Show.
“These diplomatic changes often take very, very lengthy periods to achieve what, you would think, on the surface, should be a relatively straightforward matter. But we are pursuing it,” he said.
McLaughlin reminded lawmakers that visas and entry of people into the country are considered a matter of national security.
“It is not entirely in [the] hands of the Cayman Islands government as to what visa requirements are. We have to get the approval of the United Kingdom,” he added.
Even so, Bryan said, the disparity should be rectified.
“I think it is only fair that if we allow the lovely people of Jamaica to come to Cayman, and their beautiful children, because they are our distant cousins, I think that it’s very important in a timely fashion that they do the same,” Bryan said. “If not, I encourage the government to take the necessary actions to make sure that our visa policy is a reflection of theirs.”
He argued that he did not think it was fair to the children of the Cayman Islands who want to visit Jamaica that they should be treated differently on the issue of visas than a Jamaican child.
Following Bryan’s statement, the premier questioned whether the MLA was suggesting a re-imposition of visa requirements for Jamaican children.
House Speaker McKeeva Bush cautioned the George Town Central member on his response.
Bryan explained that all he was suggesting is a “timely resolution diplomatically between both jurisdictions that offers up a fair and equitable solution to the people of Cayman.”
The premier, in his response to Bryan’s original question on the policy, clarified that Caymanians who possess British Overseas Territories Citizen Cayman Islands passports are required to have a visa for Jamaica, “but if they also possess a British passport or a passport from any other country whose nationals are exempt from Jamaican visa requirements, then a visa is not required.”
Changes made to Cayman/Jamaica visa policy
2005: All Jamaican nationals subject to visa requirements for entry into the Cayman Islands.
2011: Jamaicans under the age of 15 or over the age of 70 exempted from the visa requirement.
2015: Multiple-entry visa valid for 10 years introduced.
2017: Exemption extended to Jamaican nationals with valid visa for the US, UK or Canada for visits of up to 30 days.