Immigration Law paves way for bright future

Daniel Altneu

The new Immigration (Transition) Law, 2018 and Customs and Border Control Law 2018 came into force on Feb. 1 by Order of Cabinet. The impetus for such changes to the existing law is to restructure Cayman’s labor market and enable the government to start delivering on its policy objective of modernizing and improving the efficiency of administrative immigration processes.

In conjunction with various accompanying regulations (more of which will follow imminently), this new legislation facilitates the transfer of power and authority in relation to the processes for persons seeking work permits, residency and the right to be Caymanian from the Department of Immigration to a relatively new arm of the Cayman Islands Government, Workforce Opportunities Residency Cayman (WORC). This transition will allow for a single department to adopt a more “holistic” view when reviewing such applications. The functions and duties of WORC will revolve around the training and development of Caymanians and the provision of a job matching and placement service that:

  • Promotes and facilitates employment and re-employment in the Cayman Islands through services and facilities that help Caymanians find and keep jobs;
  • Collaborates with and supports employers, relevant representatives of commerce or industry and public sector agencies in the Cayman Islands:
  • Identifies and promotes the enhancement of industry specific skills;
  • Enhances the employability of individuals; and
  • Increases workforce productivity and improves the international competitiveness of commerce and industry;
  • Promotes and facilitates productive employment and employee career development, including thorough review and reallocation of job duties and tasks among employees (commonly known as job redesign);
  • Promotes and facilitates the adoption of best practices in the management of human capital in the Cayman Islands;
  • Advises and makes recommendations to the government on policies, measures and connected laws;
  • Encourages, promotes and facilitates the development of the human resources industry in the Cayman Islands;
  • Promotes or undertakes research into matters relating to the Cayman Islands’ workforce;
  • Undertakes, directs and supports the analysis and dissemination of labor market information and trends to the public; and
  • Represents the government internationally in respect of matters relating to workforce development and public employment services.

It is worth remembering that until 1992, the legislation was known as the Caymanian Protection Law. Subsequent immigration laws retained that protection focus but at the same time, sought to address a growing foreign workforce that reflected Cayman’s rapid evolution (particularly in the finance industry) and its increased demand for skilled and unskilled workers.

Both in the Cayman Islands and on a global scale, history tells us that a country’s success emanates from retaining a diverse population and the perpetual challenge of preserving social harmony between Caymanians and non-Caymanians remain very much at the forefront of our existing government’s agenda.

Premier Alden McLaughlin was quick to highlight the far-reaching effect of the new legislative changes as the start of a system “ … that we believe will benefit Caymanians and residents of the Islands alike.” Certainly, it should be emphasized that there have been no amendments to the existing points system for applicants seeking permanent residence nor to any investment criteria or documentary requirements for persons of independent means seeking permanent or long-term residency upon relocation.

Austin Harris, councilor for the Ministry of Human Resources, Immigration and Community Affairs, believes that the new regime will ensure that through the provision of essential labor, Cayman continues to offer “a globally competitive business market that delivers durable employment opportunities for Caymanians.” While 100 percent Caymanian employment remains the ideal, whether such “durable employment opportunities” can in fact be achieved will not only be assessed by the extent to which WORC ensures fair access to jobs for Caymanians but principally by the way in which it draws upon technological advances to intelligently utilize the information it collects.

Interim Director of WORC, Sharon Roulstone, noted: “A number of the new WORC processes, particularly those related to technology and online services, will not be operational until within the first quarter of 2019.”

What is exciting about such advances is that, at a time when policies and procedures relating to data are very much the focal point of Cayman businesses ahead of the soon-to-be implemented Data Protection Law, WORC will need to determine how much it unlocks its significant potential to continuously analyze the data it collects.

By doing so effectively, it would have an unrivaled and unprecedented ability to highlight gaps in the labor market for Caymanians, thereby ensuring placement and continued advancement for in-demand roles through tailored training and ongoing development.

Daniel Altneu is an attorney at Solomon Harris, part of Bedell Cristin. Please note that this article dated January 2019 discusses recent and anticipated legislative changes. It is not intended to be used as legal advice and cannot be relied upon.

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