Immigration boss predicts speedier applications

| 12/12/2008

(CNS): The much heralded changes to the Immigration Law are now beginning to take effect and the Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson has said the new system, once fully operational, will significantly reduce processing time for annual work permits from between four to six weeks to just over two weeks. He said the goal is to make the department more efficient not increase the number of foreign workers.

Manderson echoed the mantra of government over the last few weeks when he said the move to have immigration staff process work permit applications is aimed at keeping the Cayman Islands competitive as a global financial and tourism centre while securing Caymanian jobs.

However, in the wake of the Strategic Policy Statement this Week, UDP opposition member Cline Glidden said the new amendments would makeit easier for employers to hire cheaper foreign workers, and that might undermine the prospect of Caymanian workers. He noted there was a serious disconnect at the moment with unemployment rising to 3.8% while work permit applications were also growing.

The new amendment, which was passed in the Legislative Assembly recently, allows for what are being termed as straightforward work permits, to be decided administratively by immigration staff instead of having to go the Work Permit and Business Staffing Plan Boards. The boards, which meet twice weekly will now concentrate on the more complex work permit applications.

Manderson noted that it was increasingly difficult for the boards to keep up with the workload as Cayman’s workforce expanded. “While the board’s do a tremendous  job, it was always difficult to expect volunteers to take increasingly more  time out of their regular job routines to decide on permits, especially those permits which were non-contentious,” he said

He said that the expectation was to reduce the processing time by about a month, and once fully operational the system should clear non-controversial annual work permits in 15 days.

Manderson emphasised that the new system is not about increasing the number of permits issued or the number of non-Caymanians in the workforce. It is, he said, focused on improving the efficiency of application processing to the ultimate benefit of Cayman and its people. He said the global recession has many multi-national companies re-examining their business priorities and Cayman authorities are seeking to make immigration policies more businesses-friendly in an effort to encourage corporations to remain in the Islands.

“Ensuring that businesses can speedily get the permits they need for staffers with skills not found in Cayman is important in simplifying doing business locally.  “More importantly, this move will also help to secure the jobs of many Caymanians who are employed by these international companies,” Manderson added.

He also reiterated his commitment made earlier this year to ensure that more Caymanians benefit from the economic prosperity generated here, adding that the administrative grant system would give the boards and the department more time to dedicate to that purpose.

“The boards will focus on more complex cases, such as permits for which a Caymanian has applied, as well as those dealing with applications for key employee status,” he said, explaining these require more in-depth examination and investigation.  “Having staff focus on more clear-cut cases will create more time for the boards to help Caymanians access good opportunities in the local job market.

The Immigration Amendment Law also includes the development of a new fee schedule for work permits, defining fees chargeable for certain professions, as well as an express system for temporary work permits, whereby a decision will be communicated within forty eight hours.

In addition, the work permit requirement for representatives of foreign manufacturers coming to Cayman for a period of seven days or less to repair products under warranty has been removed.  


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