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CNS reports that holders of the special Term Limit Exemption Permit have several more months of sweating before their ultimate fate is revealed.

The T-LEP was introduced two years ago as a temporary measure to avoid an exodus of some 3,000 foreign workers whose tenure was due to end in 2011 as a result of the so- called “rollover” provision of the Immigration law (which limited tenure for most employees to…. you guessed it…. seven years).

As you might expect, the current administration has opted not to tackle the thorny issue ahead of the election due in May.  And who can blame them.  Rollover has always been a controversial issue with strongly held views among those both for and against.

So what does the future hold for beleaguered T-LEP holders?  My advice is not to worry… too much.  While I can’t personally see a new administration dealing with the issue before the first T-LEP’s expire later in the year, I can see a scenario where the government of the day simply punts again, extending the T-LEP for a period of time to create some additional breathing room while they ponder a proper resolution.

The main concern for policy-makers would be the possibility of T-LEP holders passing the significant ten-year-residency mark which legal experts have pointed to as the milestone after which a person may acquire a natural right to security of tenure as a matter of international human rights law.  Hence my suspicion that any further extension may be limited to six months.

The law states that a period on a T-LEP permit does not count towards an expatriate’s eight-year “residency clock”.  In other words someone having resided in Cayman for seven years on regular work permits and two years on a T-LEP would only have acquired seven years of residency, with a further year required on a regular work permit before they would qualify to apply for permanent residence.  So another six months would be neither here nor there.

Either way, since I don’t believe it likely that a newly elected government would initiate a crisis in the private sector (by allowing the T-LEP provisions to lapse without having implemented an alternative solution that avoided the inevitable exodus) I would be inclined not to fret.

Having said that, in my experience, it is the uncertainty that is so disquieting to those affected.  Unfortunately, what has now become clear is that the only way for a T-LEP holder to resolve the uncertainty before June (earliest) is to leave of his or her own volition.  Hang tight is my advice.

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