As the third labor secretary in six months takes on this increasingly difficult portfolio, local immigration attorneys are warning of an “immigrant storm.” The backlog of permanent residency applications continues to grow, causing legal headaches for the government even as new workers arrive daily, with the number of work permit holders reaching a record high. The new record was 36,501 last month.
More than 450 additional work permits were issued to foreign workers from mid-June to mid-September, fueling unprecedented population growth in the country. While this puts enormous additional pressure on local infrastructure and school arrangements, and exacerbates the housing crisis, it also leads to more discontent among local people and political controversy.
In his latest update to HSM Chambers immigration clients, Nick Joseph said they continue to receive a steady stream of new applications for permanent residence as well as Caymanian status. Although applications are processed by the WORC team, led by director Jeremy Scott, Joseph said that “in my experience and understanding of the practice, no application for permanent residence under the points system appears to be determined by Caymanian status and permanent residence. Board of residence since appointment in 2021.”
Joseph said HSM has yet to receive any explanation as to why the council does not process PR applications based on length of residence here. He warns that as a result, processing times are again reduced and PR applications now take around 16 months.
In an email to clients, Joseph said the processing time for applications for Cayman citizenship on the basis of naturalization is currently between 18 and 20 months, depending on the circumstances, and 16 months for applications based on marriage.
Joseph warned that things could get worse in the coming weeks. He said, according to the most recent data, 17 applications for Cayman citizenship based on naturalization were considered in August. Ten were accepted and seven were rejected. While HSM awaits September figures, they say the initial signs are not promising.
“We have heard no news as to fresh determinations since August,” he said. “It appears clear that the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board… continues to fall behind.” It is believed there is a backlog of 509 applications for Caymanian status based on naturalisation and a further 222 based on marriage.
Joseph predicts it will likely take more than three years to process this backlog of applications, and with about 50 status applications filed each month, the backlog will grow. “We have (long) stated that certain delays appear to be illegal,” Joseph warned, wondering how the authorities did not see this situation coming. “It’s probably a good thing that we haven’t seen any formal recommendations from the Public Affairs Review Subcommittee,” he said, noting that they were expected until they were published in September. before. “While reform is necessary, we need to get it right. Rushing to find solutions, especially if they are politically motivated, will not work in the long run.”
The challenges of Cayman’s immigration regime are becoming increasingly complex and demanding. The ripple effect of population growth has a profound impact on communities.
Having too many foreign workers also has an impact on the economy. Recent figures released by CIMA show that between June 2022 and June 2023, more than $300 million left the economy and more than half of the workforce was returned to the country of origin. More than 60% of that money was sent to Jamaica, with the remainder going to dozens of countries around the world.
As the busy winter approaches, the Cayman Islands will likely see its population grow again. The rate of growth in the number of work permits has decreased from a maximum of 12 per day to five per day during the summer, but the rate is likely to increase again as the tourism industry recovers and grows. as the peak holiday season approaches.
While the official population is currently estimated at 84,000, Joseph said HSM’s analysis of government statistics indicates that the more realistic figure is at least 90,000.
Even this number is much lower than the actual number of people coming to Cayman every day because it does not include temporary work permit holders, foreign owners who come and go throughout the year or every year. Thousands of tourists come here every day. All of this adds to the impact on infrastructure.