Immigration changes win support in House

| 09/10/2008

(CNS): As the Legislative Assembly reconvened this week, politicians debated amendments to the Immigration Law, which won approval from both side of the House. Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts brought the bill that will enable the Immigration Department to grant work permits directly and address various loopholes in the 2007 revision. He said the amendments would help create a robust and relevant immigration machine.

With 26,000 work permits in Cayman the immigration workload is hefty, and the intention of the amendment is to streamline the process. Aside from enabling the Chief Immigration Officer and his team to approve work permits rather than making every application go through the Work Permit Board and hopefully increasing efficiency and speeding up the whole process, the amendment also closes some loopholes that have appeared since the 2007 revision was enacted.

The LoGB said the amendments would address one unexpected loophole, which had seen those people who had been turned down for permanentresidency but who were not appealing the decision re-applying in their final year’s work permit for residency, enabling them to stay past the seven year rollover term.

Tibbetts also said the government was seeking to prevent people from buying property solely because of their desire to get residency. He explained that property ownership could gain a person 20 out of the required 100 points required to become eligible for residency, but some people were liquidating their property assets as soon as they received it.

“The Board should be able to revoke residency of those people who do that because 20% of the grant was based on the property investment,” he said, adding that it was fine for people to sell their property to invest in something else but the value of investment in Cayman must remain.

One amendment would address the problem of spouses of Caymanians, who are removed from the work permit system under the new law and granted Residency Employment Rights Certificates RERC for seven years, but who had separated from their Caymanian partner during that time and were still enjoying the benefit of the RERC.

“It’s not appropriate to allow none Caymanian spouses to carrying on enjoying those advantages,” he said. “It’s proposed to allow a work permit to be granted to the non-Caymanian separated spouse in exceptional circumstances for three years to allow them to either rebuild their marriage or acquire a divorce.”

He said once the non-Caymanian was divorced they are no longer eligible for RERC but are able to apply for a work permit as an individual in their own right.

He said another important change was to allow the work permit board in the Sister Islands to grant key employee status as they were more aware of the local market needs. Enthusiastically welcomed by the Second Elected Member for the Sister Islands, Moses Kirkconnell, who said it was a sensible move.

“The Cayman Brac Board has the vision, the capability and it knows what is best for the local market,” he said. “It would have been virtually impossible for the Grand Cayman board to give key employee status grants for the Sister Islands.”

Tibbetts also spoke about the introduction of a finger print requirement for work permit holders.

“Work permit applicants will be required to submit fingerprints, otherwise it will be grounds for refusal of a work permit,” he said, adding that the reasons for this was because work permit holders are transient, but no one who comes here with the desire to acquire a work permit should be afraid to have their prints taken.

He also said the introduction of a system that would enable employers to pre-qualify for work permits would stop some of the abuses of foreign workers as these employers would have to demonstrate that they have insurance and pensions in place for their staff. He said all the amendments would work towards improving the system and create a relevant immigration machine.

“I believe all amendments are not only necessary but good and will serve to improve efficiencies and protect all parties,” Tibbetts added.

Rolston Anglin, Second Elected Member for West Bay, speaking for the opposition said it was widely supportive of the bill, which he said would go a long way to rectifying a number of the complaints re immigration matters. However, Anglin also asked the LoGB to look at extending the right to be Caymanian or at least the right to come here more easily and work, to the descendents of Caymanians who are nationals of other countries.

Alfonso Wright, the Third Elected Member for George Town, said that, aside from the English Language test which had been introduced for foreign nationals from non-English speaking countries, the introduction some kind of literacy test may be useful as well.

The bill was met with enthusiasm by all members and passed unopposed on Wednesday.

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  1. Anonymous says:

     "And because it provides no extra security beyond that which can be obtained through a Police clearance certificate from a reputable country".

    I think you hit on a key phrase: "reputable country". It has been shown that police clearance certificates can be bought in certain countries.

    Further, even in "reputable countries" police clearance certificates are only good as at the date they are issued. It says nothing about the individual going forward.

    What Govt. is going to do with it is obvious. It will provide a valuable database and be used in the detection of crime. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to eliminate all work permit holders from crime scene fingerprints?  

  2. Anonymous says:

    Why not fingerprints?  Because it discriminates against the largest class of people on the island and thus turns Cayman into an aristocracy rather than a democracy.  Because the government has no idea what they’re going to do with the information and refuses to tell anyone what they’re going to do with it.  And because it provides no extra security beyond that which can be obtained through a Police clearance certificate from a reputable country.  Until we are ALL ready to be fingerprinted by the government upon turning the age of majority, NONE of us should be.

  3. Bruce says:

    What a great move by the Government and the Immigration Department. These amendments show vision and great innovation.

    in relation to the last post- I visit the Immigration Dept on a weekly basis and i’m in and out in 10 min. Great customer service.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Well they already get a police clearance, blood test, accomodation form – why not finger prints?


    If this speeds up the process and I don’t have to spent 3 hours waiting to pay for a permit then fantastic!