The recent decision by the Cayman Islands government to make changes to the ‘points system’ of its Permanent Residence program and notify the list of ‘priority occupations’ has removed the uncertainty that had stalled the processing of Permanent Residence applications in the Islands.
Applications filed more than a year ago had not been processed due to lack of clarity in the rules and regulations. Now that the legal gray area has been removed, new applicants seeking Permanent Residence may be asked to undergo all relevant tests for grant of residency in the near future.
A major obstacle was the lack of clarity on the question of priority occupations. The Government had not designated any jobs, and this had led to the entire process getting stalled. This obstacle was removed when the Home Affairs Ministry Chief Office announced that all jobs would be treated equally and no jobs will be given priority status for all applications made after 26th October, 2013. This order is applicable to all Permanent Residence applications made throughout 2014.
The Cabinet reserves the right to designate certain jobs with priority status but such a decision is expected to be prospective without any retroactive effect. Further, the mandatory requirement of publication of such a list, as and when prepared, has been done away with, and the publication of the list is now left to the discretion of the Cabinet.
While this change has made it easier for applying for permanent residence under relatively less-important occupations, there are fears that applicants under certain important mid-range occupations like nursing or teaching may end up disadvantaged by the latest change in the rules. For such applicants, the fact that all jobs and occupations will now be treated at par with each other may reduce their chances of getting permanent residence in the Cayman Islands.
Hundreds of PR applicants have been waiting for the designation of priority jobs since October 2013. As of now, it remains unclear whether the applications will be cleared according to the points system that existed upon the time of filing of application or the revised system that has just been unveiled.
According to immigration experts, an omission of some favourable provisions in the revised Points Evaluation system may cause earlier permanent residence applicants to lose out for no fault of theirs. It is being hoped that the government will give applicants an opportunity to update their applications to ensure they can claim the benefits of the recent changes. Experts opine that applicants are likely to score more points under the revised system as compared to the Points system that existed in October 2013.
Another significant amendment made by the Government relates to the process of by which non-Caymanian property owners were rated or scored on the basis of their local investments.
The amended formula determines total investment as thirty times the total investment in property or local businesses divided by 40% of the total salary earned by the applicant in the past five years. Higher the investment, higher the points awarded, with a maximum of 30 points for those with total investments in excess of $500,000.
The new scoring system is good news for couples who have joint investments in property in the Cayman Islands. In the past, the scoring system simply presumed a 50-50 split in the cost of joint investments and awarded scoring credit accordingly. So, an individual who had purchased a $300,000 house with his or her spouse would get credit for $150,000 only. Under the new system, the combined income of both partners is included in the calculation process. The old process has been retained only for joint investments made by unmarried couples.
The revised points system has relaxed the minimum savings requirements for permanent residence applicants. In the past, the system awarded the full score of 15 points to those who had saved 5% of their total salary earned over the past five years. An individual earning $60,000 per year would get 15 points by having a sum of not less than $15,000 in his or her bank.
Now, the duration has been reduced from five years to the preceding 12 months. A person making $60,000 per year would get 15 points by having a bank balance of $3000. However, the regulations continue to request applicants to submit information about savings at local financial institutions for five years prior to the filing of the permanent residence application.
The Permanent Residence points system considers various non-financial factors including participation in volunteer activities. Since the points system was introduced in October 2013, there were fears and concerns that certain volunteering activities, like those related to environment conservation and animal protection may no longer be considered for scoring.
The revised system makes it clear that all applicants are entitled to up to 1.5 points per year on basis of voluntary participation in activities of charitable or not-for-profit organizations. However, the applicants must offer at least 35 hours of service to become eligible for the additional points.
All permanent residents can score a maximum of 20 points by doing well on a test consisting of 40 questions, which is a part of the application process. In the past, applicants were allowed to take the test at their choice. Under the new points system, applicants will have to take the test within 60 days of the filing of the permanent residence application.
The immigration authorities will allot a date for the test which will be within 30 days of the filing of the application. Applicants can reschedule the test just once. If the test is not taken within 30 days of rescheduling, the system will automatically allot zero points towards the test.
The Ministry has clarified that the reduced time limit is not applicable to those who applied for permanent residence in 2013 and 2014 and are yet to receive the notification regarding their test date. Immigration authorities could not notify the test date as the hearing process had been stalled due to the confusion surrounding the rules.
Although there are some questions about the finer details of the new points system, it is clear that processing of permanent residence applications in the Cayman Islands is all set to commence again.