(CNS): The premier has announced some immigration changes that will impact travellers to Cayman and Caymanian travellers. Speaking at Cayman Economic Outlook Thursday, Alden McLaughlin said his government was close to finalising an agreement for immigration pre-clearance at Miami International Airport for eligible passengers coming to Cayman. He also revealed that Chinese visitors with a valid US, Canadian or British visa would no longer require a Cayman visa and the same deal will also apply to Jamaicans.
The announcement about the Miami pre-clearance brought the only mid-speech applause from the business audience, as the premier made his traditional annual address at the conference, hosed by Fidelity, in which he largely focused on the current economic improvements.
The new announcements were confined to the immigration changes being made to ease entry for tourists and encourage business visitors. He said the agreement with the US would “enhance the experience of passengers” because they would avoid “local immigration lines”, allowing them to go straight to Customs baggage claim.
“This will also have the added benefit of improving strategic border control cooperation between the Cayman Islands and the United States,” the premier added.
But it is not only visitors from the US that are getting beneficial treatment. Speaking about Cayman’s developing relationship with China, now the second biggest economy in the world, McLaughlin said his government had “good reason to believe” the relationship was set to improve, and with more Chinese looking for a Caribbean vacation or place to invest, he expected more visitors would be coming from China to Cayman.
“Cabinet has agreed to amend the Immigration Regulations to exempt nationals of the People’s Republic of China from the requirement to possess a visitors’ visa for the Cayman Islands for a stay of up to 30 days,” he said. “This will apply where the person possesses a valid unexpired visa for Canada, the United States or the United Kingdom and they arrive in the Cayman Islands directly from the country for which they hold the visa. The latter requirement is to ensure that their US, UK or Canadian visa is authentic.”
He said the exemption would also apply to Jamaican nationals. “This will facilitate not only ease of travel for our visitors from Jamaica but also assist business between our islands. Jamaica and Cayman share historic, familial and cultural ties and I am very pleased that we have been able to make this change,” he said.
To help local travellers, McLaughlin said government had pursued an agreement with the United States for Cayman to join the exclusive “Six-month Club”, which means a local passport holder travelling to the US will no longer need to have a full six months clear on the passport.
“This means that holders of Cayman Islands passports will be able to enter the USA so long as their passport is valid for the period of their stay in the USA,” he said. “This is a tremendous achievement in these uncertain days and makes travel to the US more convenient for Caymanians. This should come into force before the end of March.”
He said the initiatives were part of government’s strategy to draw new business and traffic to Cayman and to promote growth in the economy as well as jobs and opportunities for local people.
McLaughlin said Cayman needed a fair and “transparent immigration process”, but given the massive immigration over the past four decades, Cayman has had its share of challenges, from work permits to permanent residency.
“I have to confess that managing these issues is a task akin to walking the razor’s thin edge, but suffice it to say that we will manage it with the same resolve that has seen us rise to the top of the economic pyramid in the region,” he said, though there was no indication about how this would be achieved.