Residency applications plummet

06 February 2015

The Cayman Islands Immigration Department has received fewer applications for permanent residence over the last 14 months than it had been accustomed to receiving in every quarter between 2011 and 2012, prior to sweeping changes in the Immigration Law taking effect.

According to records provided by the department, 337 residency applications have been received since changes in the law made that status far more difficult to obtain. Since Oct. 26, 2013, none of the applications has been heard because of legal uncertainty surrounding how to interpret the points system that governs whether an applicant will be successful.

Those issues were recently cleared up, and government officials have said they expect to begin hearing residency applications soon.

The 337 applications do not include another 11 received prior to the change in the law which are still being considered.

Even with the earlier applications added, the number of permanent residence requests government now has to consider is a far cry from just a few years ago.

According to department figures, 1,981 permanent residence applications were received between July 2011 and June 2012. On average, the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board received nearly 500 PR requests in every quarter that year.

Some of those applications had to be re-filed if they were incomplete or if errors were made, so it is possible some of the cases listed during the year were from the same person applying twice. Immigration statistics for the period also show 262 permanent residence applications were refused.

Under the new system, applications are being received at the rate of 24 per month, or 72 per quarter.

One key factor in slowing the number of applications may be the cost of filing a permanent residence application under the new system. The application fee for PR jumped from $300 to $1,000 under the revised Immigration Law. In addition, all fees, including the annual work permit fee, a one-time approval fee and fees for any dependants supported by the successful PR applicant, must be paid up front at the time of the application. Previously, these fees were paid only if the application was successful.

If the application under the new PR system fails, all fees except the initial $1,000 application fee will be returned. However, there is no requirement under the law for the applicant’s employer to pay any of the fees on behalf of their employee. In many cases, that means the PR-seeker would be left to foot the bill for thousands of dollars in costs, which, if they were not successful, they would have to attempt to get back before leaving the island within the legally mandated 90 days.

Some easing

The PR application process was changed again recently to ease or clarify some of the earlier difficulties with the points system attached to the application, but the costs associated with it did not change.

Issues surrounding property ownership, cash savings and volunteering were all changed, largely in favor of the applicant seeking PR.

A brief review of the changes by local law firm HSM Chambers produced a mostly positive result from the point of view of permanent resident hopefuls.

“Our preliminary assessment is that points are generally more readily available under this system than they were under that in place between Oct. 26, 2013, and [Jan. 16, 2015],” HSM attorney Nicolas Joseph said.  

James Bovell

James Bovell

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