The Immigration (Amendment) Regulations 2017 ('Regulations') seek to provide additional clarification on the application process for Permanent Residence ('PR'). It is anticipated that the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board will finally start hearing the 900+ pending PR applications, some of which have been outstanding for 3.5 years since implementation of the new law and points system in October 2013.
Overall, the changes put into effect by the Regulations will mean that the vast majority of Applicants can expect a higher points award than if their application had been determined between October 2013 and February 2017.
Whilst the amendments are largely cosmetic, the one significant change (a direct result of the Chief Justice's ruling in the 2015 Hutchinson-Green case) is that each applicant will now be awarded the full 15 points for their 'Current Occupation' under Factor 1, regardless of their actual occupation and the ratio of Caymanians to non-Caymanians in the labour market.
However, the Regulations have failed to address the 'Priority Occupation' designation that continues to remain a mystery for applicants. Despite calls for clarity from local immigration practitioners during the information gathering exercise for the Ritch Report, no indications have been provided as to whether or when a priority occupation list may be published. As such, when these pending applications start to be determined, it is envisaged that all applicants will receive 0 points under this priority occupation designation.
Accordingly, certain types of applicant may actually find it harder to obtain PR since there remains a requirement to obtain 110 points in order to be successful but there are now only a possible 200 available points, as opposed to the previously stipulated 215 available points. Whilst a 'priority occupation' has never been defined nor a list published, it was envisaged that such a designation was put in place in order to benefit applicants on lower incomes who are performing vital roles in our society. By removing this designation and the potential 15-point award, those types of applicants are prejudiced by an inherent inability to obtain similar points awards to higher earners under the various financial categories. By way of example, under Factor 4, a lawyer earning $150,000 can expect a 15 point award, whereas a teacher earning $35,000 (the average teaching salary in the Cayman Islands) can only expect a 3 point award.
Whilst Premier Alden McLaughlin indicated that the implementation of the Regulations pave the way for the outstanding applications and appeals to be heard, it remains to be seen whether such determinations will commence prior to the elections in May or whether further delays from the existing or even a new government may occur.
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