(CMR) There is no moratorium in effect on the granting of Permanent Residency, but increased scrutiny has resulted in increased application processing time, Deputy Premier and Minister for Border Control Chris Saunders has revealed.
The Minister issued a statement in response to the misperception that no PR applications have been reviewed or granted this year. He said that since January 2022, 98 PR applications have been approved, and 61 have been refused.
Mr. Saunders said increased scrutiny has become necessary due to a number of factors, including increased reports of marriages of convenience and other questionable activities. As a result, WORC has stepped up its due diligence with regard to all applications, and in particular, those which raise any red flags.
“The Government owes a responsibility to the local community to ensure that those receiving Permanent Resident status have achieved this honor through merit. To understand the gravity and importance of being granted Permanent Residence, applicants must realize and appreciate that the Caymanian community is giving you a pathway to their precious birthright,” Minister Saunders said.
“It is not only the right to reside here, but the opportunity to build your life and family here, to further your career here, and to begin your path to full citizenship of the Cayman Islands. It is the first step to becoming Caymanian,” he added.
Mr. Saunders stressed the importance of ensuring Cayman's national identity remains. He said:
“As a small population, it is important that we are mindful that our national identity remains. The massive societal change caused by the doubling of our Islands' population in just one generation should give everyone pause. The effects can be seen through some of the challenges we have today, especially with regard to housing, which is a basic human right.”
He pointed out that countless studies have been done on countries that have not thrived due to under-development, but no studies done on those that have developed so rapidly that their resources and infrastructure have been placed under great strain.
Rapid Population growth
Mr. Saunders also highlighted the rapid population growth in Cayman, with the population growing by 10.5 percent in just eight months.
“This is what we observed when comparing the population count from the Census in October 2021 and the population count at the end of June 2022 as per the Labour Force Survey. Naturally, there would be no template for this kind of rapid expansion,” he explained.
“So it is, therefore, necessary, indeed imperative, that we focus on sustainable development and thoughtful population growth to ensure we have a successful society for our children and future generations,” he added.
He further stated that the burden of care is great in granting Permanent Residence applications.
“We must seek to ensure that those we welcome among us will better our community for the advancement of all. Permanent Residence is not an automatic right. It is a privilege granted to those deserving residents who have become a part of the very fabric of our community. It is not a status to be conveyed to anyone perpetuating divisions in our society,” the Minister said.
He reiterated that new applicants must recognize that taking an entitlement approach is not the mindset of someone looking to integrate.
Permanent Residency is not automatic
“People should not expect that they will be given Permanent Resident status automatically after being here for a certain amount of time. It does not work that way,” Mr. Saunders stated.
“We also do not want to reward those taking shortcuts or making misrepresentations in the application process. So yes, we owe everyone involved – both genuine and qualified applicants as well as the local community – the necessary care and due diligence to ensure that the people we invite to live here permanently are truly deserving,” he added.
He said the Government takes this responsibility very seriously and would like to recognize and reward those long-term residents who have played by the rules and who have greatly benefited the community.
“We don't want to cheapen their contribution. We fully recognize that Cayman's success was achieved in partnership with people who came here and made our Islands their home,” he continued.
The existing “points” system of evaluating applicants' worthiness to gain Permanent Residence is currently undergoing a full review by a committee of people from diverse backgrounds. The PACT Government believes it is the members of this community who should decide who gains the right to live among them. It is not a decision that should be made by either businesses or politicians but by the Caymanian community.
He pointed out that the number of PR grants so far this year has exceeded those granted in previous years.
The Minister stated, “You will note that the 2022 numbers are not the lowest annual numbers by far. Look back to 2015 and 2016, when just 33 and 43 applications, respectively, were processed, and only 37 were approved in total over the two years. Where was the outcry at that time?”
“It is the very attitude of entitlement that has grown around the issue of Permanent Residence that shows us we need a new approach. People must understand that merely coming here as an employee and remaining for a certain number of years does not automatically make you entitled to PR. It merely gives you the opportunity to apply. It is how you live in our community and your commitment to our community that will determine whether your application is granted,” he continued.
He said the Government understands that any delays in processing could impact people's lives and plans for the future, and as a result, Workforce Opportunities & Residency Cayman (WORC) is actively reviewing the process to determine how it may be expedited without compromising the necessary levels of scrutiny.
A special project team has begun a review of pending PR applications. It is intended that applications will be reviewed in date order, with the oldest being reviewed first, Mr. Saunders explained.
The project team is made up of selected WORC personnel who possess legal standing through delegated powers by the Acting Interim Director, as defined by the Immigration (Transition) Act (2022 Revision).