Last month The Journal spoke with Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans and Director of Boards and Work Permits Sherryl A. Miller to find out how far Cayman’s immigration system really needs to go to achieve its goals. It is anticipated that the accreditation system will go a long way to alleviating current stresses. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull investigates and reports.
When Franz Manderson was Chief Immigration Officer (he is now Chief Officer in the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs), he, along with members of the private sector developed a new system of accreditation for businesses after a long period of consultation, aiming to reward the most community responsible and “Caymanian friendly” businesses with a special top tier level of service for immigration purposes. The accreditation system was designed to apply to all sectors and has been hailed as a key component to managing migration.
In explaining the justification for the system Manderson says: “The current system requires both the Boards and administrators to spend far too much time trying to decide if a particular employer is genuine and if they are a good corporate system. Once the accreditation system is in place the Department will be able to appropriately reward those employers who do everything right, while restricting the grant of work permit to unscrupulous employers.”
The assessment of applications will be under the auspices of a new sub-committee of the Business Staffing Plan Board. The development of the criteria that will be applied to the financial sector is currently being finalised by a sub-committee of the Immigration Review Team (IRT) headed by Philip Jackson and is expected to be released by the 1 June 2010 [at the time of writing]. While this is a comprehensive system, an important aspect is that it encourages employers to offer training opportunities, scholarships and talent development programmes to afford Caymanians the tools to obtain management roles.
Businesses can be awarded points in four separate categories as well as receive extra bonuses and also deductions, where earned or necessary.
Maintaining a high standard of business ethics is split into seven separate sections, all of which are mandatory requirements for an accredited business. Such sections include proof of a relevant business licence, proof of compliance with pension and health laws, and evidence of proper business operations (via bank references and so on.) Complying with each sector earns the applicant 50 points per sector.
Demonstrating talent development programmes is another key category although in this case compliance is not mandatory for becoming an accredited business.
In-house training programmes will earn a business 20 points, as will demonstrating the business has an employee and external scholarship programme for Caymanians in a related field. Sponsorship of youth leadership programmes will earn 50 points, as will the participation in developmental programmes such as school careers programmes, mentoring and work experience offerings. The average hours of training for Caymanian employees each year will earn the business 5 points per person up to a maximum of 100 points, while providing cultural awareness training for all employees will garner 20 points.
Demonstrating that employment practices are being properly adhered to is a further category for would-be accredited businesses to comply with. Employers can earn up to 100 points if they demonstrate a high level of Caymanians in the workplace, as will the demonstration of Caymanians in management positions. Showing that they stick to health and safety practices will earn a business 20 points, as will ensuring that no more than 50 per cent of the non-Caymanian workforce is from just one nationality.
Community programmes show that a business is committed not only to its own company and employees but takes a much broader view to be a good citizen to the community as a whole. Big spenders to non-profit organisations will earn a tiered level of points, with those donating up to $9,999 earning 25 points, all the way up to donations over $100,000 earning 100 points. Investing in school literacy programmes will earn a business 30 points, as will investing in youth sports and rehabilitation of offenders programmes. Programmes aiding those with disabilities and the elderly will earn a business 20 points, while counselling, arts, cultural preservation and environmental preservation programmes will each earn the business 10 points.
Bonus points can be earned if a business participates in developing business in a particular industry that is currently under-developed and these points are currently unlimited and will be designated by Cabinet in consultation with the Business Staffing Plan Board. Evidence of Caymanian ownership will earn a business up to 100 points as a bonus as well.
Once pre-qualified as an accredited business, deductions can take place for a number of reasons, including employment, licensing, immigration, pension, health insurance and customs violations, or criminal convictions. Points can also be deducted for workplace violations or failing to live up to obligations at the tier level so designated.
Tiers are at four levels and businesses need to earn the following points to be accredited:
The accreditation system is currently being reviewed by the current Immigration Review Team with a view that it will be introduced to the financial sector.