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Decade long permit for senior execs

Cayman Immigration Office

A new 10-year work permit will be offered to senior managers and high-profile companies in the Cayman Islands as part of the reform of immigration laws, according to Premier McKeeva Bush.

Speaking to an overflowing Westin Hotel ballroom at a Chamber of Commerce-sponsored luncheon, Mr Bush on Wednesday said he would seek approval for the change in the Legislative Assembly today as part of efforts to revitalise Cayman’s

lagging economy.

“We need certainty,” he said, describing the reluctance of investors and employees to take a position in the Cayman Islands under a nebulous work-permit regime.

“We want to encourage new businesses and others who have left, to return to these shores,” Mr Bush said. “We must move now and encourage other businesses to move, but they won’t if there is uncertainty. What manager is going to move his family and put his children in school with that? We cannot ask them to do that.

“So what we need is certainty. We already have the best expertise in business, in accounting, in the legal profession. All we have to do is get rid of the uncertainty.

“So we are proposing a work permit of up to 10 years for senior managers in high-profile businesses. We will go to the LA with this on Friday, and I think it will be welcomed by all concerned,” he said, answered by spontaneous applause throughout the room.

“But,” Mr Bush said, indicating reciprocal expectations from the business community, “they will of course respond by making contributions to social programmes, building training initiatives,” creating employment opportunities for Caymanian staff and promoting Caymanian leadership.

The new permit, he said, would be implemented “by directives to the [Work Permit] board and the Immigration Department”, and would form part of Business Staff Planning Board reviews.

While he did not detail costs for the decade-long visas, he said the revenues would go toward training initiatives, possibly helping fund apprenticeship and work-experience schemes recently proposed by Minister for Education Rolston Anglin.

“We believe this is the right thing to do,” Mr Bush said, “and I look forward to input from the Chamber of Commerce and the private sector.”

Premier McKeeva Bush

More generally, Mr Bush described pending reforms to both the seven-year ”rollover”, and broader immigration laws as “critical to the well being of the country”.

Created in 2003, he said, work-permit laws had “created a system of progressive rights from permanent residence to citizenship and even to Caymanian status.

“It also ensured that our Caymanian people were being mentored and trained,” he said, neglecting, however, claims last week by Mr Anglin at a West Bay public meeting that the rollover was a “population-control policy, never designed to create jobs for Caymanians.”

The business community, Mr Bush told the audience, had complained that term limits made it difficult to retain skilled workers. “This caused redundancies amongst Caymanians. When we lost a business, we lost people and Caymanians lost jobs and lost mentoring. We need to look carefully at this.”

Cayman’s $43,000 per capita income, amongst the highest in the world, was unlikely to be sustained as skilled professionals left, Mr Bush said.

“This is a fact, and this country cannot afford to lose them. It would be irresponsible to leave in place the current policy. I cannot see our economy turned upside down and
do nothing.”


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