Currently, all other nationalities which require a visa prior to visit the Cayman Islands can obtain only single-entry permission, or permission to enter multiple times within a one-year, three-year or five-year fixed period.
A Cabinet directive was issued recently to Cayman’s chief immigration officer to add the 10-year visitor visa for Jamaicans only.
“Recognising the unique relationship between Jamaica and Cayman … [this] is an initiative aimed at strengthening our ability to adequately facilitate legitimate visitor travel for qualified Jamaican nationals without jeopardising operations or processes relative to border control,” Ministry of Home Affairs Chief Officer Eric Bush said.
The change in visitor visa rules does not affect the 30-day limit in place for most visitors who do not own property in Cayman. It will also not affect requirements for any non-Caymanians, Jamaican or otherwise, to obtain work permits before they can be gainfully employed in the islands.
Historical and cultural ties between Cayman and Jamaica date back centuries to when the Cayman Islands were part of the British colony of Jamaica. Though Jamaica gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1962, Cayman eventually opted to remain under the British flag. Jamaican workers have long been the most populous foreign nationality in the Cayman Islands, and many Caymanian families can trace their heritage to Jamaica.
Under the previous United Democratic Party Government, requirements for Jamaican nationals to acquire visas were softened to exclude travelers younger than 15 and older than 70.
In recent years, the number of Jamaican work permit holders had declined steadily from a high point of about 12,000 in 2007. However, in 2015 the islands seemed to buck that trend as the local economy began growing again. This year marks the first time since 2009 that the number of Jamaican work permit holders in the Cayman Islands has exceeded 9,000 at any given time.
The numbers may represent a natural progression due to an overall increase in work permit holders in Cayman within the past year. According to Immigration department records, there are now around 22,000 non-Caymanians on work permits here.
However, honorary Jamaican consul Dr Joe Marzouca believes there is more to it.
“[Cayman has] been using a lot of people from further lands,” Dr Marzouca said. “It’s always easier to hire people that are closer.”