Immigration spurs population growth


As published in the Cayman Compass – TUESDAY NOVEMBER 25, 2014

By Charles Duncan

Since 2008, more than 12,000 people have gained permanent residence or Caymanian status.

More than half got residency or Caymanian status by marrying or being the child of a Caymanian. About 3,500 people got residency or Caymanian status without family ties to the Cayman Islands.

By far, the most frequent paths to Caymanian status have been acknowledgement, when the government acknowledges someone was born to a Cayman parent, or by marriage or naturalization, according to information provided by the Cayman Islands Department of Immigration.

Most people get permanent residence either by marrying a Caymanian or by working here for more than eight years, and in the latter case, only after applying to the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board and having their residency status approved.

In the years since 2008, more than 5,600 people – more than 15 percent of the Caymanian population – have gained the right to be Caymanian. Of those new Caymanians, 1,136 gained that status through naturalization without documented family ties to the islands.

Premier Alden McLaughlin, after reviewing the data provided by the Cayman Compass, said “the numbers here are clear evidence the system is working and working well.”

“There’s a perception that the board makes a huge number of grants,” Mr. McLaughlin said, but he pointed out that many of those who get Caymanian status are descendents of people from the Cayman Islands.

Two categories of people included in that number, those who gained residence through independent means or as retirees, are not technically permanent. Their residency rights last 25 years.

New law

According to the Department of Immigration, 2,404 people have received permanent residency and employment rights since 2008. Most who obtained permanent residency since then are people whose applications were reviewed under the old law, which was replaced last year.

Christopher Eakin, policy director for the Department of Immigration, said there are still 33 applications pending under the old law. Any applications for permanent residency, Mr. Eakin said, are being prepared by immigration staff to go before the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board or the chief immigration officer.

“We anticipate that these applications will begin to be considered in the near future,” he said.

Under the previous law, only people deemed “key employees” and who lived and worked in Cayman for seven consecutive years could apply for permanent residency during their eighth year.

The new law pushes what’s called the “rollover” date to nine years and does away with the “key employee” provision. In the eighth year, all work permit holders have the option to apply for permanent residency.

The path to Caymanian status on the basis of residency is a “graduated, progressive system,” said Mr. Eakin.

Someone who gets a work permit and continues working and residing in the Cayman Islands for seven years can apply for permanent residency. If the application is approved and that person continues to live in Cayman for 15 years, she or he can apply for the right to be a Caymanian.

Paths to citizenship

Regarding the elimination of the “key employee” requirement in the new permanent residency rules, Mr. McLaughlin said, “This now means a significant increase in the persons able to apply.”

The new points system, which Mr. McLaughlin said will add certainty to the process for applications, uses criteria such as salary, health, occupation, savings and local investment. Applicants have to reach at least 110 points to qualify for permanent residency.

“If you come here as a domestic helper, chances are, unless you marry a Caymanian, you won’t get status,” said Mr. McLaughlin. “Every person who comes here to work cannot expect to live here permanently.”

Marriage is the most common path to residency and Caymanian status, accounting for more than 4,300 people since 2008.

Having family ties to the Cayman Island, such as being born to a Caymanian, leads to a process the government calls “acknowledgement” for someone to get the right to be a Caymanian.

Wesley Howell, a deputy chief officer in the Ministry of Home Affairs, said of the total number of new Caymanians, the “vast majority are people with a Cayman connection.”

“Lots of Caymanians are born overseas,” Mr. Howell said. It’s “very, very common.”

Mr. McLaughlin said, “Very few children now can say both parents are Cayman born.” He said his college-age sons are considered an anomaly among their friends to have both parents born in Cayman.