Likening managing the country’s immigration challenges to walking the razor’s edge, Premier Alden McLaughlin only made passing mention of immigration policy changes currently under consideration by cabinet during his remarks Thursday at the Cayman Economic Outlook conference.
Instead, he announced new visa exemptions for some foreign nationals. The new visa regulations will affect visitors from China, and also apply to Jamaican nationals.
The premier told Cayman 27 the changes came out of talks during the Chinese ambassador’s visit last month. He said the Chinese government has granted Cayman most favoured nation status for Cayman-flagged ships in its ports. And Cayman, while seeing an increase in Chinese visitors, is making it easier for those with visas to the US, the UK, or Canada to get here.
“I’m pleased to announce that cabinet has decided to amend the immigration regulations to exempt nationals of the People’s Republic of China from the requirement to posses a visitor’s visa to the Cayman Islands for a stay of up to 30 days,” said Mr. McLaughlin.
The premier said this will apply only for those Chinese nationals with US, UK, or Canadian visas, who are arriving directly from the country of which they are a visa holder. He said the visa exemptions are also extended to Jamaican nationals, but under the same conditions, which means it won’t be available for those who fly direct from Jamaica.
“The reason for the requirement that they travel from the country from which they hold the visa, is to ensure the authenticity of the visa,” explained Mr. McLaughlin. “We do not have the means in Cayman to check the authenticity of visas issued by other countries.”
Mr. McLaughlin also announced Miami-based immigration pre-clearance for passengers traveling to Grand Cayman, which he said will help ease congestion at Owen Roberts International Airport as construction continues.
“Cayman Islands immigration officers will go up on the first Cayman Airways flight in the morning and they will return on the last Cayman Airways flight at night,” said Mr. McLaughlin.
He told Cayman 27 not having to station immigration personnel permanently in Miami makes pre-clearance cost effective.