By Charles Duncan
For the almost 1,000 people awaiting decisions on permanent residency applications and their families, the delays show no sign of coming to an end even now that the elections have passed and a new government formed, according to one of Cayman’s leading immigration attorneys.
With a candor not typically aired in public, Nicolas Joseph of HSM Office laid out the current status of PR applications for his clients. His message, in short, was that he saw no new progress despite assurances from government. For those with the means and the wherewithal, it is time to take the matter to the courts, he wrote last week.
“Although clear utterances have been made that applications are being progressed, and even that requests for updates are being sent out, we have seen no actual evidence of this. Indeed, for reasons that we do not know, it appears clear that no actual progress is being made in relation to anyone’s applications,” Mr. Joseph wrote.
The letter, which has already been reported elsewhere in Cayman’s media, was provided to The Cayman Reporter by a source who asked not to be named.
It has now been more than a month since the last two PR grants went to Mr. Joseph’s clients who filed legal actions. But, he said: “Despite our best hopes and aspirations, the position has again stagnated.”
Mr. Joseph did not mince words in the message to PR applicants. “We have repeatedly impressed on the authorities (and for some time) that for many of you the delays have long crossed the line as to what we consider to be lawful. Absent a sense of compulsion there is a concern (and now every indication) that delays (and their consequences to you) will continue.”
“You (and where relevant your employers and/or your families) are suffering the impact of the ongoing delays to varying degrees,” he said.
He argues that the delays are not just hurting families, but damaging Cayman’s broader economy. “Some have children crossing important threshold ages, while others cannot progress in your careers.
“Others of you are managing or are employed in businesses who now sadly are placing personnel in other jurisdictions in direct response to the circumstances, and expansion opportunities in Cayman are being lost.”
“We simply do not know what the basis for any ongoing (or even – for strong candidates, past) delays is,” Mr. Joseph said. “Of course, a number of you applied as long ago as the latter part of 2013. We have no clear indication of timing and after now years of assurances that the wait would soon be over have unfortunately not come to fruition.”
Beyond that, he explained, there’s no guarantee that government and Cayman’s elected leaders will not try to change the system again, creating further delays.
Mr. Joseph countered a regularly repeated accusation from Caymanians about expats taking their jobs. “So long as an applicant for permanent residence is awaiting a determination of their application, no Caymanian has any opportunity to compete with them for employment. Expatriates are far from the only ones being harmed by the status quo,” he said.
In the letter, Mr. Joseph wrote that each time one of the few PR applications has been considered, it has “been on the eve of a court hearing.” He said he has encouraged clients to be patient as government fixes the system, but now, for those who can afford it, his advice has changed.
“Unfortunately it can be said that justice is available to those who can afford it. Litigation is expensive. It can also be necessary,” he said.
The Cayman Reporter sent a detailed list of questions to Premier Alden McLaughlin for a response to Mr. Joseph’s letter, but did not receive any comments by press time. The paper will publish the premier’s response if and when we receive it.