By Staff Writer
The government is facing an uphill challenge to collect more than half of the over CI$5 million still outstanding from Permanent Residence and Naturalisation applicants.
This disclosure was prompted by a question from Hon. MP Bernie Bush (West Bay North) during the first law-making sitting of the Cayman Islands Parliament, now upgraded from Legislative Assembly.
"Can the Hon. Premier say whether there are outstanding permanent residency annual fees that came due between November 1st 2019 and the 31st of October 2020? If so what is the total amount of the unpaid fees?" the West Bay North MP asked.
The response from Hon. Premier Alden McLaughlin in his capacity as Minister for Immigration and Border Control was that there were 640 persons in arrears owing a combined total of more than CI$5 million.
The ensuing debate which also saw input from Hon. MPs Kenneth Bryan (George Town Central), Hon. MP Anthony Eden (Savannah), and the Leader of the Official Opposition, Arden McLean (East End), saw the Premier being quizzed on how government intends to recoup the outstanding amount.
On the question of whether it was likely to be written off, the Premier informed the Parliament that a review has determined that around CI$2 million of the arrears is deemed collectable.
However, there was less certainty regarding the larger amount of over CI$3 million.
Premier McLaughlin informed the Parliament of circumstances which he said “present many barriers to collection including where PR facility has been revoked or rescinded, the PR holder has left the jurisdiction indefinitely, or the fees have been generated following the grant of Caymanian status.”
He also advised that legal action might be required in some cases.
Between August and October this year, 87 persons have paid around of a little over CI$500,000.
Another 50 persons considered as breaching the law in respect of their financial obligations to the government have been sent warning letters.
It was also stated that where fees were still outstanding, applications for PR or naturalisation will be put on hold.
Hon. MP for Savannah, Anthony Eden, wanted to know how long the government will wait for the arrears to be paid, to which the Premier replied that a number of measures were being looked at including warning that their status risked being revoked, civil litigation or placing applications for naturalisation or PR on hold.
The Premier also noted the challenges in pursuing these methods resulting in the current backlog and said that new systems are being devised to reduce the amounts still owed.
Of the $CI 5 million stated, most of it - around CI$ 4 million - is attributed to 413 persons who have already acquired ‘Permanent Resident (PR) status with the right to work in their own right’.
Another 125 with ‘PR with right to work as a dependent of a permanent resident’ owe a combined total of CI$723, 365.
There are 75 persons with ‘residence and employments rights granted to the spouse of a Caymanian’, whose arrears total $36,700.
In the category of ‘PR with right to work as varied based on circumstances’, 25 persons owe $291,000.
Two persons with the status of ‘PR with right to work as a surviving spouse’ have outstanding fees amounting to CI$18,850.
MP Bernie Bush who had initially raised the issue recalled evidence during a hearing of the Public Accounts Committee(PAC) where it was suggested that public funds might have been used to pay for Permanent Residence fees for some persons in the civil service.
That was denied by the Premier who stated that any such practice is not condoned nor is it government policy.
In further discussion over whether some persons had obtained their PR status despite being in arrears, it was explained that might have occurred in cases where applicants were moving from one status to another.
In those instances, the fees accumulated during the administrative process were also being queried by the persons concerned.
Premier McLaughlin said the systems and processes involved are being reviewed by the responsible agencies; Workforce Opportunities & Residency Cayman (WORC) and the Cayman Status and Permanent Residency (CSPR) board.