Red tape and red carpet for work permits

| 02/02/2009

(CNS): The entire work permit system is about to be overhauled with the introduction of a new accreditation system. Around 4,000 local employers will have to achieve certain standards before being able to renew work permits, submit new applications or apply for key employee status for their staff. Despite what appears to be a complex and bureaucratic system, the government has said it will ensure speedier decisions, prevent employer exploitation and safeguard Caymanian jobs.

Criticisms that the system is loaded with red tape have already surfaced, but the system is now under review and is not yet a done deal. Government, however, is hoping that the red carpet of benefits offered by the system will outweigh the red tape. Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said that when he first heard the task force’s proposals he too felt it sounded bureaucratic but has since seen the benefits.

Speaking at last week’s Cabinet media briefing, Tibbetts said that the tremendous increase in work permits had also led to an increase in the number of immigration offences and the new Immigration Accreditation System proposal is designed to stop work permit abuse. Tibbetts said there was increased evidence of employers acting unscrupulously, employees being treated unfairly, employers failing to comply with statutory pension and health insurance requirements, and failing to fulfil their responsibility to recruit, train and provide advancement opportunities to Caymanians.

The underlying principle of the new system places the onus back on employers to prove that they are compliant with the law and not abusing the process, rather than for the Immigration Department or other agencies, such as the Department of Employment Relations to check if employers are telling the truth.

At the same time, it was recognized that employers who comply fully with all statutory requirements and who have a proven track record of employing Caymanians should be rewarded for this commitment,” Tibbetts said. “The challenge therefore was to devise a system which minimizes the opportunityfor abuse of immigration and other statutory requirements, and at the same time creates a progressive system of benefits for employers who are compliant in varying degrees.

The challenge now will be for employers to get accreditation before presenting their business staffing plans and making any work permit applications. Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson said that every non-private employer — everyone with a Trade and Business licence, regardless of the number of employees or size of the firm — will need to get accreditation if they are employing or intend to employ even one person on a work permit. Aside from the extra paperwork, employers will also be required to pay a minimum fee of $250 plus an admin fee of $50 no matter what the size of the company.

The proposed system is now under consultation and both Tibbetts and Manderson are encouraging employers to go online, score themselves under the new system and raise their concerns and queries so problems can be ironed out before it is implemented.

“It may be, for example, that we will change the flat fee with larger companies paying more for accreditation than small businesses,” Manderson said, adding that the system will take around nine months to roll out. Employers will be given this grace period tobecome compliant with the new rules and work out the level of accreditation they need to achieve, and Manderson also noted that some new legislation would be required.

Tibbetts explained that the concept of compliance would apply in a tier system, with every employer reaching the very basic level, but after that each employer had the option to increase their accreditation level for more benefits.

The system should allow employers to obtain varying levels (‘tiers’) of accreditation based on their degree of compliance,” Tibbetts explained. While all employers would be required to meet the lowest level before any work permits may be issued, those who exceed the minimum requirements on a consistent basis will receive greater benefits. A points system would be used to assess compliance with requirements in order to ensure objectivity in the process.

Applications for accreditation will be made to three teams within the Immigration Department — one for the financial services sector, one for tourism, and one for everything else — who will add up the points.

 Representatives from the relevant industries will assist in initial training of the team members,” Tibbetts added. “After receiving accreditation, employers must apply for its renewal every one to two years. The renewal process will include a review of the company’s Business Staffing Plan if it has one, and the company may be required to undergo a site inspection.”

The LoGB said applications for accreditation will be scored against six core criteria, with points being awarded to reflect the degree of compliance. He said the first was compliance with statutory licensing requirements, such as holding a licence, paying pensions and heath insurance. The second is talent development, ie in-house training programmes, scholarships for Caymanians and promotion of Caymanians. Number three deals employment practices, such as fair pay, percentage of Caymanians in management, health and safety practices and the company’s disaster preparedness programme. The fourth criteria includes the company’s sponsorship and charitable work and would also include people serving on boards. The fifth element would be the type of businesses — those that are in need here or developing new ideas would gain points. Finally, the degree to which Caymanians are owners of the company or enjoying profit sharing will also provide a way to gain points.

Based on that there will be five levels of accreditation calculated on the total number of points awarded in the assessment. At the lowest end  ‘probationary accreditation’ employers will have to show that they are largely compliant with statutory requirements. They will be limited however to being able to apply for work permit renewals only.

At tier one level the company must show that they meet all legal requirements and that they have a viable business operation with contracts for services. They will be entitled to apply for work permit grants and renewals but not key employee applications.

At tier two, the requirements are the same as for tier one, but the company must show evidence of talent development programmes, good employment practices and community programmes. They will be entitled to apply for the grant and renewal of work permits and submit key employee applications.

“Tiers three and four are where the company is awarded additional points based on their level of participation in programmes relating to talent development and community programmes. Bonus points are also available for business sector and business ownership. Companies in tiers three and four will have work permit decisions made within three working days. They will also have a dedicated account manager in the Immigration Department. Applications other than for work permits will be dealt with on an expedited basis, though there will be a fee payable for this service,” The LoGB added.

Tier 5, the highest level of accreditation, will only go to firms who have excellent programmes in place for talent development, employment practices and community involvement. As well as having a dedicated account manager, work permit decisions will be guaranteed within three working days. Other applications will be dealt with on an expedited basis without payment of an expedited fee.

Despite the apparent complexity, both Tibbetts and Manderson denied it was over bureaucratic and that accredited companies would get their permits more quickly. However, accreditation will need to be reviewed annually and the onus will be on the employer to make their application or show they have improved to get to a higher level.

No official start date for implementation has been given and Tibbetts stated that, while the methodology was approved in principle, it would now be reviewed and input collected from the private sector before the system gets the green light.  It is possible that our private sector partners will object to one or more of the proposals, or they may have better ideas for minimizing work permit abuse. I look forward to receivingtheir feedback,” he said.

For details of the system go to www.immigration.gov.ky

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Comments (6)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Franz has revamped some things, but still ignores the qualified white collar Caymanians.  It is all well and good to appear to be on the side of the little man, but every day the law firms, 2 phone companies, and major banks just simply make their phone call to a buddy in Immigration and poof!  Another work permit for IT, Accounting, Senior Management, etc…is APPROVED for an ex-pat.  Shameful and I have been to Franz’s office in perosn to complain (with pages of proof!) and it is always swept under the carpet and NEVER followed up.  What about time limits for a position and training a Caymanian replacement?  That does not exist anynmore and the problem will continue until we cultivate local talent.

    Secondly, I think every criminal offense by an ex-pat needs to have the Caymanian employer held responsible.  Too many people are wandering the streets in the daytime looking for work? or criminal opportunity, living 10 to a house, all because a Caymanian sponsered their work permit and they are now here without jobs to do. and asking for trouble.

    Thirdly, The Immigration Enforcement Team needs to step up!  Enforcement needs to go into work places and see what type of jobs could be done by unemployed Caymanians….work with the ERC and identify the jobs that could be filled with a Caymanian!

    Stop praising this department when ten years ago we did not have unemployed Caymanians and powerful businessmen did not influence this department so much.  This has nothing to do with PPM or UDP.  I am tired of full page adverts and seeing white collar Caymanians passed over.

  2. Shaun Ebanks says:

    I have to give much credit and a big salute to Franz Manderson for his leadership at the C.I. Immigration Department. So much has improved under his leadership and while everything is not perfect, (it will never be) we can all be proud as Caymanians that we have a native Caymanian accomplishing much, with many odds stacked against him.

    I would describe Franz Manderson as a Master Captain of a ship that sails through many troubled waters and storms, but despite this, many staff from other law enforcement bodies have joined him or is eager to join him at Immigration Headquarters. This speaks volumes of Mr. Manderson as an individual, who has confidence, integrity, leadership skills and the abilities to accomplish the many challenging tasks at Immigration.

    I predict that in about 4 years time or less, you will likely see Franz Manderson as the new Chief Secretary of the Cayman Islands.

    Now, if we could only get the RCIPS under similar Leadership to that of the Immigration Department, HM Customs, C.I Fire Department, etc etc, wouldn´t that be something for the Cayman Islands to cheer about ??????  

     

    Shaun Ebanks

  3. Marek says:

    Over all,  I have found our immigration department to be effecient, friendly and fast. Anybody who complainshas never dealt with US immigration where is takes six hours just to get to the counter and then perhaps a year to get your issue dealt with.

    We’ve been to the local labour office and ‘begged’ for local employees. We call themalmost daily and we’ve posted notices in thier offices that we are hiring… 

    We did get one local employee from those efforts… but we need more…

    FYI if anybody knows of somebody… we prefer to hire locally whenever possible. We currently have openings day/evening. We pay pension/medical … good base salary. Decent tips,great staff and customers… Have them call Cafe del Sol "Marquee Location" 946-2233 make an appointment to see Gary.

    We are more than willing to train. We have ‘several’  IMMEDIATE openings

    I agree with the proposed system with a little fine tuning and I would suggest the following.

    Current Trade and Business License

    Certificate of Good Standing

    CUC bill (in company name)

    C&W bill (in company name)

    Copies of local advertising.

    Copies of yellow pages advertising.

    Proof of Pension/Medical insurance.

    Copy of business insurance

    Copy of commercial lease for premises.

    The point scoring system could be applied quite well using some of the above factors. For example a business with 5,000 sq. ft. of office space and a $3,000 CUC bill would be considered to have an established presence any application for half a dozen employees would be well within the norms and not suspect. However a home based business with no commercial lease and a ‘small footprint’ looking to hire 50 new employees would be subject to further review.

     

     

     

     

    • Anonymous says:

      Sounds like some Pre-Electioneering by PPM!

      10 Weeks to go, and "Change"!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Kudos for Mr Manderson.Good job….

  5. Bernie Ebanks says:

    Was about time that this government stand up for big companies and specials interest groups.Help is on the way unemployed caymanians!!!!!!