Changes to work-permit process approved

In this screengrab from video, temporary Speaker of the House Anthony Eden presides of Thursday's meeting of the Legislative Assembly
In this screengrab from video, temporary Speaker of the House Anthony Eden presides of Thursday's meeting of the Legislative Assembly, which was attended in person by some legislators and by others over Zoom video-link.

Changes to Cayman’s immigration laws will allow employers to file work-permit renewal applications online, without the need for new police clearance and medical certificates

The amendments to the Immigration (Transition) (Amendment) Bill, approved by legislators Thursday, also include similar provisions for permanent residency applications.

Premier Alden McLaughlin said the measures would allow businesses and employees to renew their right to work despite the closure of government offices and restrictions on unnecessary movement in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know a big part of Cayman’s workforce is made up of persons on work permits – many thousands of them,” he said.

“There are always applications for work permits, renewals and various immigration-related procedures going on at any given time.”

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He said this law would allow all those applications to be processed. There will be a 30-day grace period for people whose permits expired in the last month while the new process was being established.

The changes were introduced alongside previously planned tweaks to the immigration rules, which the premier said would help protect Caymanians in the workforce.

Government has created a new online jobs portal where employers will be legally required to advertise any vacant positions and work-permit renewals.

He said businesses would have to give reasons if a Caymanian applicant was rejected and a work permit application was later filed.

The premier said this was “especially important” now that so many Caymanians were unemployed as a result of the economic collapse caused by the shutdown of businesses and travel to contain the virus.

The portal replaces an existing requirement to advertise vacancies in the local newspaper and will facilitate closer government monitoring of the process. Advertising in the paper is still optional.

The premier added, “I am hoping we will be able to use this experience to improve the overall service to Caymanians who are seeking job opportunities and who are hoping and praying that their applications with various employers will be treated fairly, as well as to expedite the processes for work-permit applications, Caymanian status and permanent residency applications.”

Opposition leader Arden McLean lent his support to the changes.

He said government should double its efforts to ensure employers complied with the mandate to put Caymanians first in the workplace.

“It is now more important than ever in all our history that, because this economy has had to be shut down, that there will be no excuses. None. Caymanians must be hired first and excuses must stop,” McLean said.

He acknowledged that immigration and integration were needed in some sectors and had been part of Cayman’s history, but said work-permit holders should be displaced if necessary to help get Caymanians back to work.

“I agree with this [legislation], with the proviso that Caymanians come first and we make provisions in a humane manner to get the people out of here that no longer [have jobs] or have been displaced by Caymanians,” he said.

The bill was unanimously approved to go to the next stage of the process, with several legislators vocally expressing support, some dialling in to the session via Zoom video-link.

On Wednesday, legislators had voted to changed the Legislative Assembly’s standing orders to allow for lawmakers to attend LA sessions via video-link in the event of emergencies.

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