Report: Cayman Islands could eject 2,000 work permit holders
Appromiately 2,000 foreigners face expulsion from the Cayman Islands in October when their work visas expire, Bloomberg reports.
Cayman’s new Premier Alden McLaughlin has made it “quite clear” to his immigration department that he wants to find a way to keep the expatriates while reducing a growing unemployment situation for Caymanians, according to Eric Bush, the nation’s chief immigration officer, who Bloomberg interviewed for the story.
Mr Bush said the island wants to remain hospitable to its offshore finance industry.
But Mr McLaughlin’s ruling party has also said they will now require foreigners to work on the island for 10 years before they can apply for citizenship. Currently there is a seven-year requirement.
Bloomberg also reported that the government plans to scrap a provision that enables companies to pick “key” workers who could indefinitely extend their stay for two-year increments. To work in Cayman requires a work permit, and a two-year permit for a foreign auditor can cost $16,500 while large firms may pay more than $21,000 for a visa for financial controllers.
Bloomberg stated the situation facing the 2,000 foreigners whose visas are scheduled to expire in October arises from immigration changes in 2004 when the government adopted a seven-year term limit instead of the indefinite policy that had existed.
Foreigners would have to leave for at least a year, though companies could apply to have ‘key employees’ exempted.
Bloomberg’s story compared Cayman with Bermuda, stating: “While the Cayman Islands tightens conditions for expatriates, Bermuda has loosened them, ending a limit on how long foreigners can work there as it seeks to lure funds and reinsurance companies.
“Abolishing limits ‘will help spark economic growth and create employment opportunities for Bermudians,’ Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy said in a January 30 statement after the rule was changed.”
In Cayman “with unemployment among local citizens exceeding ten percent, the offshore financial centre is reining in the number of staff that funds, accounting firms, construction companies and hotels hire from abroad.
“Limits on expatriates, who make up half the island’s 39,000 workforce, will ensure more jobs for Caymanians,” reported Bloomberg, quoting Mr Bush.
“We’ll always need a certain level of foreign labour, but it’s about finding that right balance,” Mr Bush said.
“We’re a small nation that cannot have an influx of individuals who may turn out to be a burden.”
Bloomberg reported Bermuda’s unemployment levels are the same as in Cayman. “About 10 percent of Bermudians were unemployed last year compared with two percent of foreigners, with financial services and ‘international business activity’ accounting for the largest number of jobs, according to a 2012 labour survey by island nation’s government,” the report reads.
Cayman’s job losses have been in construction and hotel services, but companies are training more locals for financial industry jobs, Bloomberg reported Mr Bush as stating.