(CNS): Government officials have now considered over 100 permanent residency applications from the backlog of paperwork after specially trained administrators were brought in last month to assist the members of the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board. But despite the acceleration in reviewing applications, more than one-third of them have been deferred, which means the immigration staff and board members are not making enough progress to address what has become a serious legal problem for government.
As immigration administrators and board members are meeting as often as possible to deal solely with the mountain of aging applications, the fact that 39 out of the 108 already considered, or 36%, have been deferred gives an indication that reducing the pile when applications are so outdated is going to present an extra challenge.
Despite some local attorneys and other pundits pointing out that adhering to strict chronological order of applications was always going to present a problem, the immigration ministry has insisted that it will deal with the backlog according to when applications were submitted. This means that the board and admin support staff are dealing with applications that are all more than three years old and so are very likely to need updating.
So far since the work resumed in May, the board and staff have approved 26 permanent residency applications and refused 32 applicants. Another four were not considered because they were submitted after the nine-year cutoff and seven are understood to have been withdrawn by the applicants themselves.
This means that over the last three months only 69 applications have been dealt with from a backlog that is understood to have reached well over 1,000. Even with the accelerated pace due to the new hands on deck, the need to defer decisions on more than one-third of the applications that will then have to be reconsidered based on updated information means it could still be some 10 years before the backlog is cleared.
The government is stuck between a rock and a hard place on the PR problem. Many Caymanians feel there should be a moratorium on any permanent residence approvals until local unemployment, underemployment and workplace barriers to promotion are addressed. However, many employers, who are also Caymanian, are becoming increasingly frustrated by the uncertainty and disruption that the PR situation is causing to the workforce.
Both the Chamber of Commerce and the Cayman Islands Tourism Association are concerned over the issue not only because of the uncertainty surrounding long-term work-permit holders waiting to learn their fate but also due to fears of a mass exodus at the end of this year ahead of changes to the pension law.
As overseas workers will no longer be able to cash out their pensions next year if they leave the island, there are concerns that as many as 2,500 workers could leave Cayman by the end of 2017 in order to access the cash that they and their employers have paid into pension funds. Given the limited choice employees have about the compulsory pensions and the lacklustre performance of the funds, many overseas employees who have been paying in for a number of years would opt to leave the island while they can still access the cash.
While government believes any pension-fuelled exodus will leave room for unemployed Caymanians to get work, the private sector is less certain that there will be enough willing or able local workers to fill the vacancies that this combination of PR uncertainty and the closure of the pension cash window leaves.
Category: Local News