Rollover comes as relief to tourism sector

| 21/09/2011

(CNS): The news of a proposed temporary lifting of Cayman’s seven year work permit term limit, commonly known as the rollover policy, has been welcomed by tourism and real estate sectors which have both persistently pointed the finger at the policy as one of the critical problems facing their industries. Tourism would have been particularly hard hit over the next twelve months without the reprieve as hundreds of employees were facing rollover. Very few work-permit holders at the lower end of the pay scale have been given key employee causing serious challenges for the tourism sector.  The Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) said the news of the rollover reprieve came as a relief for many local businesses.

“With the numerous challenges that both industries have faced during the economic downturn it is a relief for businesses to have the pressure of rollover removed, even if only on a temporary basis. If this had not been addressed there was tremendous concern over the economic loss that our country would continue to face,” the industry body stated in a release on Tuesday.

Trina Savage-Christian, Executive Director with CITA now hopes that the real discussion might begin. “We would now like to see a much more in depth look at how Cayman’s Immigration law affects the tourism industry, in particular how key employee and permanent residency applications are assessed,” she said. “In general the higher paid workers within the industry such as general managersmay well have made it to key employee, but there have been plenty of lower paid staff within the tourism industry who have been just as key to an organisation, but who have had their key employee application turned down.”

Savage-Christian would like to see business owners have a much greater say in who is allocated a key status within their organisations because they are best placed to decide which members of their staff truly went above and beyond the call of duty.  CITA would like to see such individuals, perhaps servers, cooks, concierge or valet car workers who do much more than what their job description entails and go ‘above and beyond’, given the opportunity to stay on island and continue to contribute positively not only to their employer, but to the economy, the community and to the guest experience of visitors.

CIREBA president Jeremy Hurst agrees that the system needs to be changed. “At CIREBA we are not proposing that all immigration controls are removed, far from it. We believe that the Islands should be selective to attract good people. It worked well before for the Islands and it should work again,” he said.

Hurst believes that the rollover policy prevented people from putting down roots as they had no real incentive to stay and blend in with Caymanian society, something that made Cayman strong and unique in the past. He also worries, as an individual heavily involved with service clubs, that some individuals are merely joining such organisations to simply tick the right boxes on their permanent residency applications, lacking a true incentive to help the community.

“The rollover policy has detrimentally affected the very people who we are trying to retain, i.e. middle management, who could and would invest in Cayman by buying propertyand giving to the community if they had the opportunity but are put off from doing so because they had no security of tenure,” he stated. 

The drop in Cayman’s population has led to all time high vacancy levels in the apartment rental market, which, said Hurst, has resulted in rents falling drastically. Both of these factors have had a negative effect on the economy as a whole. “This suspension should hopefully help reverse that trend and build investor confidence,” he added.

In agreement with Savage-Christian, Hurst also believes that the key employee aspect of current immigration policy has been misapplied and that it should not be relegated to a benefit for just skilled professionals mainly in the financial services industry.

“I think that any skilled worker who shows commitment to the Islands should be given an opportunity to receive residence,” he said. “We need to get back to looking at individuals who are good for the Islands as a whole, not just a particular business.”

CIREBA is calling for the term limit policy in its entirety to be permanently scrapped, or at least see the period of time an individual must break their residency in order to be granted another work permit reduced from a year down to three months. Individuals who have to leave for a year are unlikely to come back to Cayman because of the cost of uprooting their families. “Doing so would give an immediate and much needed boost to the economy,” the organisation as stated.

Both CITA and CIREBA have submitted a request to the Premier to have representation on the review committee in order to provide insight into the particular needs of their industries.

Just over a week ago the premier made the surprise announcement that the controversial policy would soon be suspended once he had discussed the issue with Cabinet and crafted the necessary legislative changes to bring to the Legislative Assembly. Bush said that a commission will be formed to examine the impact that rollover has had on the economy and analyze the pros and cons. It will be expected to come up with a report and recommendaitons for a new policy to help balance the conflicting issues facing the Cayman Islands community when it comes to immigration.

The challenge government faces is how to offer security of tenure to employees who are needed in order to instil confidence in the business community and economic drivers, while at the same time limiting the numbers of expatriates that can become Caymanians to prevent the local population from losing control of the political landscape.


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  1. Anonymous says:

    But why would there be any problem in the tourism sector – with all the unemployed Caymanians who just want a job?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Every person who want PR and Caymanian Status should be given it as well as everyone who wants to vote should be given the opportunity to likewise everyone who wants to run for political office in Cayman should be entitled.  It is only fair that all persons are given the same opportunity.  Make it fair Cayman, while the government has suspended the rollover policy now they should drop the visa requirements for Jamaicans and nationals of Honduras because these two countries have more Caymanian families that any other nationality in Cayman. Suspend the visas for Jamaicans and Hondurans.

    • Anonymous says:

      What a ridiculous post. Where in the world did you ever hear of such policies being adopted? How is dropping visa requirements going to help with our escalating crime  problem? 

  3. I Care says:

    I can see where CITA should have a member on the board but NOT CIREBA its just pure GREED with these big named Real Estate Companies . There is no need for them to have a member on this board. Remember the Premeir company is a member of CIREBA for thoese of you who dont know.


    Just saying