The definitive guide to living and working in the Cayman Islands
Sep 26, 2016
Cayman Immigration & Entry Requirements
Last updated: 20th July 2015
In this chapter we detail how to move to the Cayman Islands and become legally resident. We list the legal requirements for living here whether it is through getting a work permit, being a dependant or being a student, becoming a permanent resident or retiring here or for those married to a Caymanian, how to legally work here. Please also note that this chapter has been completely updated according to recent immigration changes. We believe you cannot find more accurate and up to date information on Cayman's immigration laws on the internet right now. However, if we have not specifically answered your immigration situation please don't hesitate to email Acorn's owner, Joanna Boxall on firstname.lastname@example.org and she will either try and find the answer for you or direct you to someone that can explain your options.
NEW ARRIVALS WITH CAYMAN CONNECTIONSIf you are married to a Caymanian you can become legally resident (and obtain the right to work) through the successful application of a Residency and Employment Rights Certificate for the spouse of a Caymanian. You cannot apply for a Temporary or Full Work Permit. Similarly, if you are married to a person who possesses Permanent Residence with the Right to Work in the Cayman Islands, the work permit regime is generally inappropriate and instead, such a person should apply for a Residency and Employment Rights Certificate as the Spouse of a Permanent Resident.
RESIDENCY & EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS CERTIFICATE FOR THE SPOUSE OF A CAYMANIANThe spouse of a Caymanian should apply to the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board for a Residency and Employment Rights Certificate, which allows them to remain and work in the Cayman Islands without the need to possess a work permit for seven years. If that is approved then after seven years they can either apply for this certificate to be renewed or apply for the Right to be Caymanian. There is a non-refundable application filing fee of CI$300 and, when approved, there is an additional government fee of CI$400.
Please note that the application process is significantly burdensome and will take some time to complete. Among other things needed for the application, you will need proof that your spouse is Caymanian, a copy of your marriage certificate, a completed medical questionnaire, police clearance certificate, affidavits that your marriage is not one of convenience, birth certificates, evidence of financial resources and references.
ENTRY FOR VISITORS/TOURISTSWe are often asked how many days, as a visitor, one can stay in the Cayman Islands. Under the law a person that has no other basis to enter the Cayman Islands (i.e. a Work Permit) and with no right to residence may be admitted as visitors for up to a total of six months, with extensions permissible thereafter. However, the reality (except for residential property owners) is very different! The norm is that someone arrives in Cayman and is given 30 days to stay. If they want to stay longer then they have to go to the Department of Immigration (before their time runs out), fill out an extension form and pay CI$50 for the first extension and CI$100 for all further extensions. Whether or not an extension is granted will depend on a multitude of factors including importantly whether or not the visitor is able to demonstrate an ability to support themselves without working.
However, if they are coming in for six months over the winter, like many
of our returning ‘snow birds’ do, then they can and will generally be
admitted for extended periods of up to six months. For this they must
show the entry officer their return ticket, a very recent bank or
investment statement showing that they have sufficient funds to support
themselves without seeking work and a hotel/condo reservation or a
lease. This paperwork is looked at very discreetly and returned to the
visitor. If the visitor is able to demonstrate that they satisfy these
requirements (as relevant) and that they own a home in the Cayman
Islands, and produce the Land Register to an immigration officer or
counsel, then a six month permission will be provided to them and other
visitors travelling with and visiting with them. It is not kept and
none of the information is recorded..
The following page on the Cayman Island's Government Immigration website will let you know whether you require a visa to visit the Cayman Islands. See here. The CI Govt does require citizens of some countries, such as China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Jamaica and Turkey to get an entry visa before they travel. The official website to apply for a Cayman Islands visa is https://www.visa4uk.fco.gov.uk and applicants should make the following selections to apply: a) Reason for Visit: Other b) Visa Type: Overseas Territory and Commonwealth c) Visa Sub-type: Overseas Territory Application.
The applicant will then submit their documents to the nearest Visa Application Centre, the location of which they will be advised during the application process on the FCO website. There are no other official online channels to apply for a Cayman Islands Visa other than the FCO website. The cost for using the FCO website is USD$175.00 (or local currency equivalent).
NEW ARRIVALS WITHOUT CAYMAN CONNECTIONS If you are looking to move to the Cayman Islands and are not Caymanian, or married to a Caymanian, there are eight ways to be legally resident:
1) Full Work Permit (A Gainful Occupation Licence/FWP)
2) A Special Economic Zone Certificate (SEZ)
3) Temporary Work Permit (TWP)
4) Residency for Persons of Independent Means
5) Certificate of Permanent Residence (PR) for Persons of Independent Means
6) Certificate of Direct Investment
7) Residency Certificate (Substantial Business Presence)
8) Student Visas
It is worth noting that an overriding principle of Cayman Islands
immigration legislation is that employment and career opportunities are
offered to Caymanians before any other nationality. Caymanians are given
preference over similarly qualified expatriates and employers must
generally take steps to provide training opportunities and experience to
Caymanians who have the potential to fill a particular position. With
the threat that Caymanians may become (or indeed, have already become) a
minority in their own Islands, efforts are made to ensure that a
balance of other nationalities exists so that no one other nationality
is culturally or numerically dominant. In this regard, employers will be
frequently encouraged, in appropriate circumstances, to seek employees
of different nationalities.
The system does not, however, only seek to protect Caymanians. Other
categories of persons also have advantage, and preference in employment
opportunities is required to be given, if no qualified Caymanian is
available, first to the holders of Residency and Employment Rights
Certificates who are married to Caymanians, next to Permanent Residents
with the Right to Work and finally, to other persons who are already
legally and ordinarily resident in these Islands (including existing
work permit holders and their approved dependants). Only if these
categories of persons are unavailable for a position will a permit
generally be granted to a person who is overseas.
1. FULL WORK PERMIT
Allows a person to work and remain in the Cayman Islands for a specified period of time (except persons married to Caymanians unless they are in possession of a work permit before they are married in which case the work permit remains valid for its duration). Spouses of Caymanians are generally otherwise expected to apply for and obtain a Residency and Employment Rights Certificate as the Spouse of a Caymanian before living or working in the Cayman Islands. All work permit fees are the responsibility of the employer. The Immigration Law prohibits employers from requiring employees to pay any part of such fees. Annual fees range from nil (for positions in education) to up to CI$32,400 for the most senior executive positions in the legal industry. Those who don't need a work permit, please see further in this section.
Prior to granting (or renewing) a permit, the relevant Board will need
to be satisfied of a number of matters including: the need to engage the
services of the prospective worker, attempts to find a Caymanian, the
spouse of a Caymanian, a Permanent Resident with the Right to Work or
person already lawfully resident to fill the role; the character of the
worker and the protection of local interests. The person is also
required to take and pass an English proficiency test upon arrival if
from a non-English speaking country. Work permits can be, in certain
circumstances, granted for up to five years duration, subject to
conditions, with a renewal fee payable each year. Many skilled workers
are granted work permits of between two and five years duration. Please
note that work permits for self-employed people are only issued in
exceptional circumstances, as determined by the Chief Immigration
Officer or Work Permit Board.
All work permit forms and instructions can be downloaded from the Immigration Department's website: www.immigration.gov.ky. Other than the Work Permit fees, the costs associated with gathering the supporting information and documents required for an application include CI$25 for a police clearance, CI$40 for a lab report of blood work, CI$80 to see a doctor for a full medical and CI$15 for photos. Please note that an original Police Clearance Certificate (and its certified translation if not in English) is required and at present there is a general expectation of there being a raised seal on such documents. Translations are generally required to be provided through an approved translator.
A series of documents and other supporting materials are generally required before an application can be filed for consideration. These include:
a) Application form;
b) An original Police Clearance Certificate (and its certified translation if foreign);
c) Copies of advertisements published in a local newspaper for two consecutive weeks along with any responses and CVs of Caymanian applicants;
d) Prescribed fees;
e) Photographs (passport sized), one full face and one profile;
f) A full description of the job to be filled;
g) Cover letter detailing the qualifications necessary for carrying out the job, why the applicant is seeking a work permit and reasons why a Caymanian was not employed for the position;
h) Medical questionnaire form (and its certified translation if foreign);
i) Accommodation form; and
j) Pension and health insurance form.
Medicals for Work Permits
All work permits over three months in duration, including work permit renewals, and Permanent Residency and Caymanian Status applications must be accompanied by a completed medical questionnaire which can be downloaded from the government's immigration website. Spouses and children over the age of 18 must also submit a completed medical questionnaire. Among other things, the medical report will require you to take a blood test and furnish lab reports with HIV and VDRL tests included. You will also need a chest x-ray. Medical examinations are required on first application and once every three years thereafter. Lab tests have to be repeated with each medical exam but chest x-rays are only required once every five years. Getting a medical done is a very simple process and can be completed in 30 minutes in Cayman. Many doctors' surgeries and independent labs are set up to handle them. See the Health & Wellness chapter for businesses who specifically cater for immigration medicals. If the medical is done overseas it may need to be translated into English and the translation certified as a true copy of the original. Persons providing blood test results from overseas may be required to repeat the tests in the Islands.
All documents (i.e. the medical and police clearance forms) that are being submitted to the CI Government Immigration Department from a non-English speaking country must first be translated into English and the translated copy notarised. Two places locally that can help include: Baraud (Tel: (345) 945 1781 or email email@example.com) and Modern Language Institute (Tel: (345) 943 8254 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org). Languages they can translate from including, but not limited to, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French, German, Romanian and Chinese.
Change of Employer
Subject to some exceptions, the holder of a work permit may not change his employer for the duration of a permit. Changing employers upon the expiry of a work permit is permitted, although the consent of the previous employer is usually requested before the relevant board or immigration official will grant a permit in favour of a new employer. Protections are in place however to prevent expatriate workers from falling victim to unscrupulous employers and the Immigration Department will assist workers in any way appropriate in the relevant circumstances.
Promotion or Redesignation
During the currency of a work permit, the holder may not be promoted or re-designated without their employer notifying the Immigration Board and consent being received. This restriction is intended to protect opportunities for Caymanians, and ensure that due revenue is collected. The relevant boards will be very accommodating in appropriate circumstances.
Rules on Residing on-Island Whilst a Work Permit is Processing
Immigration regulations dictate that you may not be in Cayman while a Full Work Permit (FWP) or Temporary Work Permit (TWP) application is in process. Therefore do not book your flight until your permit has been approved or you will risk being put on the next flight back out of Cayman. If you arrive on the Island as a tourist, and during your stay in Cayman you find employment, then your future employer can submit a FWP or a TWP (if submitted on express it will only take 2-3 days to be approved) but you MUST leave the Island while it is processing. Once your TWP has been approved and before it expires, then your FWP can submitted. While your FWP is processing you do not have to leave the Island. Please note that if a dependant finds a job, and a work permit is submitted for them, then that person does not have to leave the Island while the work permit is processing.
Work Permit Dependants
The relevant Immigration Board has to be satisfied that the worker has sufficient income available to adequately support any dependants. Currently, the Board would expect to see a minimum monthly salary in the region of CI$3,500 for a family of three, and this increases by CI$500-$1,000 for each additional dependant. This is a guideline only. In every case, the character, reputation and health of your dependants is taken into consideration as well as whether you can comfortably afford to feed, house, educate and maintain them in the Islands. The possibility is that you will be granted a work permit but your children will not be allowed to accompany you if your income is considered insufficient. If you are considering starting a family once you have settled in Cayman please see the Having a Baby chapter for guidelines.
Also, each year a fee of CI$250 will be collected for each dependant of a worker in the unskilled category and CI$500 for each dependant of a worker in the skilled category. It appears to be open to the employer and the employee to agree between them which will pay for this. A non-refundable fee of CI$200 per person is also collected for repatriation. Either you or your employer can submit the letter applying for your spouse or children to be a dependant on your work permit but your employer must submit a letter indicating the number of hours per week you work, your monthly income and any other benefits you receive. If each parent is working, then both employers must write a letter. If your family are not added as dependants then they can only stay here as temporary visitors. Please also note that only the following can be dependants of a work permit holder: spouses, children (including step and adopted child), grandchildren, parents, step-parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters (including half-brothers and half-sisters). This means that girlfriends, boyfriends and fiances cannot be listed as dependants on a person's work permit. If you would like them to accompany you to Cayman they will only be allowed to come in as visitor, which has its own complications, until such a time as they get a job themselves and have their own work permit. It should also be noted that persons in the Islands as tourist visitors, are generally discouraged from seeking employment while on the Island.
Dependant's Girlfriend/Boyfriend and "Civil Partners"
As the situation stands right now, if a girlfriend or boyfriend comes to the Island without their own work permit they will be allowed in as a visitor and in all likelihood will be given only 30 days to stay. Identical treatment is afforded to Civil Partnerships, which are not recognised in Cayman Islands Law. It would help their case if they arrived at the airport with a letter from their 'sponsor' (the permit holder) or from their bank which says that they will be supported or have enough money to support themselves while they are here without seeking work. If they come in with this letter, or send a letter to the Chief Immigration Officer in advance explaining the situation, they might be given a total of three to six months to stay. Stays of longer than six months in any calendar year are unlikely to be permitted without the individual seeking and obtaining formal residency permissions. If, having been granted a period to remain, an individual seeks to remain for longer, the process is as follows: they must go to the Immigration Department on Elgin Avenue (before their permission expires), fill out a form, pay CI$50 and explain why they want an extension. The Immigration Officer will decide whether or not to grant an extension and (if so) how much time to give them based on their individual case. Initial extensions are usually readily forthcoming, however; it is unlikely they would be granted more than 30 days as an extension. Every subsequent extension is then charged at CI$100 until they leave the jurisdiction and upon their return they will be given another 30 days. The whole process can be time consuming and expensive and will only stop once they get a job (and a work permit) or become your legal spouse and are added as a dependent.
Please note that should an expat couple living in the Cayman Islands decide to divorce, the non-working (previously) dependent spouse will have no particular right to stay in the Cayman Islands. Residence based purely on the presence of children is not contemplated by the Immigration law. Children in such circumstances can remain in the Islands as approved dependents of the parent who is on a work permit or government contract, and continue to attend full-time education until adulthood (as late as 24 if attending University or other exceptional circumstances apply). However, the formerly dependent parent will likely only be able to remain if they obtain their own work permit (including through the Special Economic Zone regime) or government contract; or alternatively secure some form of residency as a person of independent means. They may be permitted to remain as a tourist, but remaining in such a capacity for more than 90 days can present difficulties, and no permission ought to be expected after six months in any year.
On the other hand, the former spouse of a Caymanian, who is the mother of Caymanian children, will usually be allowed to remain (subject to various approvals) and be permitted to work until the children complete their education or their 24th birthday, whichever happens sooner.
2. SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONE CERTIFICATEThese certificates are in effect a special category of work permit. They are only available to employees of entities ("Special Economic Zone Enterprises") established within Cayman's first Special Economic Zone, Cayman Enterprise City. Zone Certificates enjoy certain advantages over traditional work permits, including a lower cost to employers, and an exemption from any requirement to prefer Caymanians or other legal residents for any employment. Accordingly, no advertising is required as part of the application process and the permissions are capable of being granted in only a few days. Bespoke forms for appropriate applications are available from Cayman Enterprise City and from a number of local law firms assisting enterprises establishing within the Zone. See the page on Cayman's Special Economic Zone for more information.
3. TEMPORARY WORK PERMIT In appropriate circumstances and upon suitable application, the Chief Immigration Officer or her designate, may grant a Temporary Work Permit to an individual permitting them to engage in gainful employment in the Cayman Islands. Such permits, if granted, range from terms of three months up to a maximum of six months and cannot be extended or renewed. An eight month Tourism Permit, which spans the high season, is available. Please note an additional six month work permit can be submitted for the same employee but must be from a completely different employer.
While Temporary Permits can be and are often used as a bridge between the arrival of an expatriate worker and the issuance of their Full Work Permit, their use (save in exceptional circumstances) for persons who are not genuinely intended to be temporary employees is discouraged.
Each application is dealt with on a case by case basis. TWP applications can now be expedited on payment of an 'express fee' which can guarantee processing within 48 hours. Same day service is even possible in appropriate circumstances.
Documents Required When Applying for a Temporary Work Permit
A. Application form
B. An original Police Clearance Certificate
C. Prescribed fees
D. Photographs (passport size), one full face and one profile
E. Cover letter stating why the applicant is seeking a Temporary Work Permit and reasons why a Caymanian (or other person resident in Cayman) was not employed for the position
F. Medical questionnaire form (if permit is to be sought for more than three months).
There is no prohibition on applicants for Temporary Work Permits having dependants. Each application is dealt with on a case by case basis. Residents of the United Kingdom can provide an affidavit in lieu of a Police Clearance Certificate in appropriate circumstances. Temporary Work Permit applications can now be expedited on payment of an 'express fee' which can guarantee processing within 48 hours. Same day service is even possible in appropriate circumstances.
Those Not Requiring a Work Permit
Despite being a British Overseas Territory, the Cayman Islands are not a part of the United Kingdom, nor indeed (unlike the French 'Departments' in the Caribbean) of the European Union. Therefore, no advantage is given to British or European nationals over any other nationality.
However, not every foreign national working in the Cayman Islands needs a work permit. There are specific categories of person who are exempt from the requirements, subject to strict conditions. For example: Cayman Islands Government employees, journalists representing a recognised news organisation and non-executive directors of companies carrying on business in the Cayman Islands are allowed as working visitors, provided they remain in the Cayman Islands for no longer than seven days. A few other examples of people and activities which are exempted include visitors who are coming to Cayman to organise, attend or speak at a conference or seminar; those representing an overseas educational institution who have come to promote or interview applicants for places and those visiting for the purpose of servicing or repairing products under warranty.
Other people and activities which are exempted include those:
- Attending at trade fairs and making purchases from Cayman Islands businesses
- Attending conferences and seminars as an ordinary participant
- Receiving training, techniques on work practices employed in the Islands, where that training is confined to observation, familiarisation and classroom instruction and if the person is employed by a company or organisation carrying on business outside the Islands.
- Representing an overseas educational institution, to promote or to interview applicants for places at such institution
- Being a guest speaker at a conference or seminar where the event is a single or occasional event and not part of a commercial venture
- Organising or supervising a conference or seminar for up to ten days duration where it is a single or occasional event
- Participating in sporting events or trials or auditions, in connection with such events
- Covering a specific news assignment as a newspaper, magazine, radio or television journalist representing a recognised news organization
- Working for short periods for a non-profit or cultural organisation based in the Islands
- Giving professional or expert testimony in court or arbitration proceedings
- A non-executive director of a business being carried on in the Cayman Islands where the person is not involved in the day-to-day operations may visit in his capacity as a director only
- Being a representative of a foreign manufacturer coming to service or repair products under warranty.
It should be noted that the stand alone "attending meetings" exemption previously provided for in the legislation no longer applies, save with the consent of a Senior Immigration Officer.
Business Visitor's Permit & Visitor's Work Visa
Any business in the Cayman Islands which regularly employs persons for no more than 14 days on any particular visit, may seek to apply for a Business Visitor's Permit allowing such individual(s) permission to work for a specified number of visits per year, subject to strict limitations. These Business Visitors permits are not generally available for persons attending for one visit only.
There is also now a category of Visitor's Work Visa. This Work Visa permits persons who are employed outside of the Islands, and who wish to visit for up to five calendar days at a time in order to engage in commercial activity with a locally licensed entity or person (a 'sponsor'), to apply for the grant of a Visitor's Work Visa. To obtain a grant on arrival the requirements are as follows: the local business or visiting worker must download a 'Letter of Invitation' form from the Immigration website and email it to email@example.com at least 24 hours before they are due to arrive. It should be noted that once approved, the person will be required to pay CI$100 at the airport. The Visitor's Work Visa is not available to persons who are employed in a professional capacity (lawyers, accountants, medical professionals, architects, surveyors, teachers and other occupations) or who are otherwise not entitled to a work permit by virtue of having reached their term limit.
The Visitor's Work Visa also does not exempt persons from the requirement to obtain an entry visa if they possess a passport from a country which would otherwise require a Visitor's Visa to enter the Cayman Islands. In addition, a business visitor may not hold more than one Visitors Work Visa in relation to the same sponsor or sponsors within the same calendar month, but, unlike a Business Visitor's Permit, a Visitor's Visa may be used for a single visit.
Breaches of the Immigration Law are treated as quasi-criminal by the Immigration department and can have very serious consequences for all concerned. Overstaying, working without or outside of the terms of any permission granted and many other breaches of the law may result in arrest and prosecution, not only of the individual concerned but anyone who facilitated such a breach, including the directors of a business which employs an expatriate without a work permit, or otherwise outside the terms of their Immigration permission.
4. RESIDENCY FOR PERSONS OF INDEPENDENT MEANSFor foreign nationals not wishing to work in the Cayman Islands but simply wishing to have the right to reside, there are alternative options. In particular, one can apply to the Chief Immigration Officer for a Residency Certificate which is valid for 25 years and is renewable.
In Grand Cayman, proof of an annual income of at least CI$120,000 without the need to be engaged in employment in the Cayman Islands is required and an investment of CI$500,000 (of which CI$250,000 must be in developed real estate). The "remaining" CI$250,000 must be invested in a company or property - and simply holding assets with a broker or monies in a local bank account (whilst encouraged) do not count for these purposes. Investing in a local business, or even one which has shares publicly traded such as Caribbean Utilities or Cayman National Bank, can count. Most often, applicants will simply buy a substantial home and immediately meet the requirement. However, it is entirely permissible for an applicant to buy two CI$250,000 investment properties and live in one and rent the other, or alternatively live in rental accommodation and rent out both. Being a landlord of up to two rental units requires no licensing and the income counts towards the required financial standing. There is presently no need to actually invest the full amount - acquiring CI$500,000 of property with a mortgage on (say) 80% is presently permissible. As long as at least CI$250,000 is in developed real estate, the balance can be in any local business and/or any developed or undeveloped real estate.
The process of applying for a Residency Certificate is relatively straightforward and permission can usually be granted within six weeks of application. Legal fees for this process are unlikely to exceed US$2,500.
There are alternatives that do not require an actual investment in a property. For example, starting a company engaged in exempted business (i.e. as an agent for overseas operations) and then hiring yourself as a principal on a work permit can make you resident without having to buy property and has the advantage of permitting you to work. Again, such a solution generally takes about six weeks for qualified applicants and the legal fees for that (including incorporation, trade and business licensing and work permits) would likely be closer to US$15,000.
To become resident in Little Cayman or Cayman Brac, proof of an annual income of CI$75,000 without the need to be employed in the Cayman Islands is required as well as an investment of CI$250,000 locally, of which at least CI$125,000 must be in developed residential real estate.
Whichever island is to become your home, there is a one-time fee payable on grant of CI$20,000.
5. CERTIFICATE OF PERMANENT RESIDENCE FOR PERSONS OF INDEPENDENT MEANSThis is the ultimate permission which can grant Permanent Residence with the Right To Work based on investment, rather than having to wait for the usual eight years before becoming eligible to apply, subject to a stringent points system, for Permanent Residency. And unlike Residency for Persons of Independent Means, this option has no expiry date and qualifies the holder (upon certain criteria being met) to become eligible for naturalisation as a British Overseas Territories Citizen (BOTC) once they have been resident in Cayman for five years. Once naturalised they are entitled to a BOTC passport, which upon successful application, they can become a full British Citizen without the need to surrender any existing citizenship. Finally, once a person has been a BOTC citizen for 5 years they can apply to become Caymanian.
In order to qualify for the certificate of Permanent Residence for Persons of Independent Means, applicants will be required to have invested a minimum of CI$1,600,000 in developed real estate and possess sufficient financial resources to maintain themselves and their dependants. An applicant will also need to demonstrate that he/she and their dependants are in good physical health and of good character. The number of these types of certificates is restricted to an annual quota of 250 set by the Governor. The application fee is CI$500 with a further CI$100,000 due upon grant and an additional CI$1,000 payable per dependant.
The right to work in an approved occupation can be gained subsequently, upon application to the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board, with an annual fee thereafter payable, equivalent to a Work Permit fee, for as long as employment is maintained, or the individual becomes a Caymanian.
6. CERTIFICATE OF DIRECT INVESTMENTWealthy individuals who are in a position to invest a substantial sum in an employment generating business or businesses in the Cayman Islands may wish to participate in an incentive scheme intended to attract investors and their dependants.
Such persons may, provided they can demonstrate a personal net worth of in excess of CI$6,000,000 and an investment (or in some cases, imminent investment) of a minimum of CI$1,000,000 in an employment generating business (or businesses) on the Island, apply to the Chief Immigration Officer for a Certificate of Direct Investment.
Approval-in-Principle Certificates which are valid for six months are available prior to applying for a full certificate. Full certificates are valid for 25 years and are renewable on application, at the discretion of the Chief Immigration Officer. Such a certificate entitles the holder to reside in the Cayman Islands and to work in the business or businesses in which the holder has invested.
The spouse and dependent children (where applicable) of the holder of a Certificate of Direct Investment will, on successful application, be granted a Direct Investment Holder's (Dependant's) Certificate, generally permitting them to reside in the Islands for the duration of that certificate. The application fee is CI$1,000 with a further CI$20,000 payable on issue of the certificate.
7. RESIDENCY CERTIFICATE (SUBSTANTIAL BUSINESS PRESENCE)A Residency Certificate (Substantial Business Presence) is now available to persons who either own (at least) a 10% share in an approved category of business or will be employed in a senior management capacity within such a business. In each case, the business must have a substantial presence in the Cayman Islands. It is designed and intended to be less onerous than the more established option of a Certificate of Direct Investment and is not limited to owners of the business.
An Approval-in-Principle Certificate, valid for six months and renewable at the discretion of the Chief Immigration Officer, is available to individuals who have not yet met either of the requirements but who nevertheless propose to meet them within the six-month validity period. Holders of either the Approval-in-Principle Certificate or the Residency Certificate (Substantial Business Presence) are entitled to reside in the Cayman Islands and work in the business in which they are an owner or are employed in a senior management capacity.
Approved categories of business are: fund administration, brokerage services, investment and fund management services, investment banking, financial trading (including foreign exchange, securities and derivatives), captive insurance or reinsurance management services, reinsurance underwriting, actuarial services, insurance claims management, family office, hedge fund administration, and any company registered as an exempted company under section 164 of the Companies Law (2011 Revision). It is expected that people in these positions would fill a senior management capacity and therefore ordinarily attract an annual work permit fee of CI$20,925 or above.
Provided the Chief Immigration Officer is satisfied that the applicant and any spouse have clean criminal records and that they and any dependants are in good health and possess adequate health insurance, as well as fulfilling the other requirements, then the applicant will be issued a 25 year Residency Certificate. A grant fee of CI$5,000 is due on issuance, with a further CI$1,000 payable in respect to each approved dependant. In addition, Certificate holders are required to pay an annual fee equivalent to that payable by a work permit holder in the same occupation
8. STUDENT VISASA non-Caymanian who is 18 years of age or older, seeking to enter the Cayman Islands to attend a recognised educational institution on a full-time basis may be granted a student visa. The student should be self-sufficient or provide proof of support from other means. The student visa does not allow the student to work. It is understood that the student is expected to leave the Cayman Islands on completion of the programme. Student visas can be granted for a period of up to four years but may be extended for a further 12 months and require a CI$92 application fee and CI$200 non-refundable bond.
EXTENDING YOUR STAYIf you decide that you like Cayman so much that you want to apply to stay here and do not (yet) qualify for (or are otherwise not suited to) any type of residency certificate, then you generally have two options:
1. Standard Term Limit (nine years); or
2. Apply for Permanent Residence with the Right to Work (after eight years but before 9 years)
1. STANDARD TERM LIMIT (9 YEARS) All foreign nationals gainfully employed in the Cayman Islands are currently entitled to be consideration for the grant of a work permit for up to nine years. After eight years, residents are assured of the right to apply for Permanent Residence. There is no assurance that permits will be renewed, although generally they are. After nine years, foreign nationals who are subject to a nine year term limit and have not applied for Permanent Residence will not be granted any form of work permit until they have ceased to be resident in the Cayman Islands for at least one year. In most instances this means they will have to leave the Cayman Islands for a minimum of 12 months before they can be granted a new work permit. Visits in the intervening period for vacation and the like as a genuine tourist visitor are however permitted.
In order to understand the reasoning behind the government's creation of limits on work permit terms, it is helpful to know the history of the population increase in this diverse community. The Cayman Islands have undergone a dramatic change since the early 1970s. At the start of that decade, the population was approximately 10,000 people. Just over forty years later that number now approaches 60,000.
Much of this dramatic increase has come about as a result of foreign nationals settling on the Islands and obtaining permanent rights of tenure. With that change has come not only strains on the infrastructure but a recognition amongst indigenous Caymanians that their culture might be overwhelmed and their sense of community diminished, if the process is not managed correctly. There is also a perception by Caymanians that their participation in the success of Cayman is diminishing. Whilst the people of the Cayman Islands are welcoming of foreign nationals (and indeed Forbes has recently declared the Cayman Islands to be the friendliest country on Earth), there has been a realisation that continuing to invite increasing numbers of individuals to acquire security of tenure and become permanent inhabitants of the Cayman Islands is unsustainable.
The Cayman Islands implemented a 'term limits' policy on the 31st December 2003. This was done to ensure that only those expatriates most committed to the Cayman Islands were given tenure, and also to provide opportunity for Caymanians to advance their careers where previously there was little or none. The policy continues to be refined and is expected to be extended to government employees, although if it is, various protections are likely for the many persons already here.
2. PERMANENT RESIDENCE WITH THE RIGHT TO WORKAll persons who reach eight years of legal ordinary residence in the Cayman Islands are eligible to apply for Permanent Residence. Applicants are assessed under a points system which seeks to be as objective and transparent as possible, and those achieving 110 points or more are assured of a grant. If you are successful in gaining a Certificate then annually you must submit a declaration in respect to your job, investments and other factors including the status of your dependants. There is a condition whereby if the Certificate holder sells the property that was listed in his/her application for PR, then they must purchase alternative property within 180 days and inform the Board with the details of the property within 30 days of the transaction. An unsuccessful applicant will be given 90 days to leave the Islands.
An application for Permanent Residence with the Right to Work is not unduly onerous but requires attention to detail and those individuals who prepare for such an application over the years leading up to it are more likely to find their application successful. Examples of how points can be gained include investing in a property that reflects the income category that you are in, getting truly involved in the community and participating in the training and employment of Caymanians.
Under most conditions, if an applicant is successful then they can remain in the Cayman Islands indefinitely, provided an annual fee is paid by them or their employer which is the equivalent to the fee paid for a full work permit. They can work for any employer, although some limitations may be placed on the specific role which they are entitled to fill. Variations may be granted with the prior approval of the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board.
Factors considered in a Permanent Residence application include:
1) Your Occupation; including whether it is “Priority” in nature: Points are awarded by reference to the current demand for the occupation based on the ratio of Caymanians to non-Caymanians in the labour market. 15 Bonus points are available in relation to occupations which have been determined by the Cayman Islands Government to be “Priority” in nature. These occupations, which are currently being determined, are those which the Government seeks to incentivise.
2) Education, Training and Experience: A point is available for each year of experience that an applicant has in their role (after a minimum threshold of two years with a maximum of 10 years). Points are also available based on levels of academic or other qualification. For example, persons with professional qualifications are eligible for 15 points, whilst possessing an Associate’s degree will garner 8 points.
3) Local Investments: Investment in Cayman Islands Real Estate and/or in a locally licensed company has the potential to generate up to 30 points. The total amount paid towards such an investment(s) (including the prior five years of mortgage payments where applicable) is assessed relative to an applicant’s income over the prior five years. This is subject to a minimum threshold of CI$50,000. Investments of in excess of CI$500,000 are guaranteed maximum points.
4) Financial Stability: Evidence of savings held in local bank accounts (again relative to income) generates points. The maximum 15 points available will be awarded to any applicant who can demonstrate that they have (and have maintained) in excess of 5% of their last 12 months income in a local bank account. Further, additional points are based on annual salary and income. By way of example, a person earning CI$55,000 each year will (generally) be awarded seven points. Of vital importance is your ability to provide for the healthcare and educational needs of your family.
5) Community Involvement/Integration into the Caymanian Community: Up to 20 points are available. By way of example (provided more than 35 hours are spent over a year in relation to relevant participation) two points will be awarded for each year an applicant has been engaged in relation to the rehabilitation of offenders, whilst participation in a local service club will generate 1.5 points for each year. Other points can be gained through charitable donations. It is the opinion of the Editor that working with children and vulnerable adults may grant more points to your contribution to the community. If you have 30 minutes once a week and want to make a difference, then LIFE (a literacy programme) will match individuals with a child for reading support in a government school near their work once a week. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for an application form or further information. Another alternative is the Aim Higher Initiative (Tel: (345) 328 0300) or the Community Outreach Programme (Tel: (345) 925 2012) both of which aim to help underachieving students in need of mentorship.
6) History and Culture Test: You will be asked 40 multiple choice questions and will receive half a point for each correct answer. At the time of writing (July 2015) the University College of the Cayman Islands is offering courses to assist prospective applicants in their preparations for the test.
7) Close Caymanian Connections: Having close relative who are Caymanian will result in an automatic award of points. The amount of points vary depending on the nature of the relationship.
8) Demographics and Cultural Diversity: Points are awarded based on an applicant’s country of origin, provided their nationality is below 10% of the number of work permits in force. At present Jamaicans and Filipinos are ineligible for points as citizens of those countries respectively comprise 41% and 13% of work permits in force. UK nationals presently comprise 9% and, together with Americans and Canadians, can expect 5 points. Citizens of all other countries can presently expect 10 points in this category.
9) Age: Applicants are eligible for varying points depending on their age. The most “desirable” bracket is in respect of applicants aged between 25 and 35. Such persons will be awarded 10 points.
10) Deductible components: Points can be lost in defined circumstances including where an applicant suffers from a contagious disease such that makes them a danger to the community, are proved to have mistreated fellow workers, or where they do not have an adequately funded pension
The Board has the absolute power to revoke the permanent residence of any holder who “fails to maintain the level of financial investment stated in the application”. The law also states that if false information is provided, or a material fact is concealed in the application, the Board may revoke any permanent residence granted. Permanent Residents are required to report details of their circumstances annually. Finally, if persons become destitute subsequent to the grant of permanent residence it may be revoked. Harsh as this might all sound, without a large tax base available to provide an extensive social safety net, the Cayman Immigration law seeks to ensure that only ‘net contributors’ are awarded PR.
Please note that as the current system stands, unless you own a property in Cayman it can be difficult to make enough points to qualify for Permanent Residency. Applicants are likely to gain the most points should they purchase a property well before being eligible to apply, as (at least) five years of mortgage payments will count in the assessment.
PERMISSION TO CONTINUE TO WORK (PCW) When a person applies for permanent residency they must apply for and be granted Permission to Continue Working before any existing work permit expires, otherwise they will have to cease work when their last permit expires. If the applicant's final work permit has already expired they are not entitled to work whilst awaiting the outcome of their application for permanent residence, until they have a 'PCW' stamp in their passport. A 'PCW' stamp attracts the same fee as a work permit and must be renewed every six months while the application is pending. Please note that the entire application, along with all relevant documents must be re-submitted each time.
There are exemptions to the term limit provisions. For example, a person married to a government worker, or a person whose term limit is set to expire after their spouse can arrange for their permit to be renewed until their spouse's term limit arrives.
BECOMING A CAYMANIAN
NATURALISATIONPeople who have been lawfully resident in the Cayman Islands for a total of five years (at least one of which must be without Immigration restriction as to the period they are permitted to remain) may apply under the British Nationality Act for naturalisation as a British Overseas Territories Citizen ('BOTC') by virtue of a connection with the Cayman Islands. Persons applying on the basis of marriage generally only require three years of total residence. (In other words, with the new changes someone can be here on a work permit for four years, buy Permanent Residency (by purchasing a US$2 million dollar house) and one year later apply to be naturalised - effectively reducing the time required to get a Cayman Passport from nine years to five, and the path to become a Caymanian from 14 to 10 years. The three year option for Naturalisation is only available to persons who are married to a BOTC - but they would generally become Caymanian through seven years of marriage to a Caymanian and do not (generally) need to first be a BOTC themselves.)
Application is made to the Chief Secretary's Office and, upon grant, the applicant becomes a BOTC by virtue of a connection to the Cayman Islands. This entitles the applicant to a Cayman Islands passport but does not make the applicant a Caymanian (i.e. does not grant Status) or give them a right to work or even necessarily to reside in the Islands. It does however normally entitle the holder to ultimately apply for the right to be Caymanian provided they remain legally and ordinarily resident in Cayman.
The fact that many people who have become naturalised and possess Cayman Islands passports are not Caymanian can be potentially confusing. It is perhaps best to think of a Cayman Islands passport as a travel document, naturalisation as becoming a BOTC (but not a Caymanian) and being Caymanian (known as possessing the Right to be Caymanian) as possessing a particular type of Immigration permission (whether by right, entitlement or grant). Not all Caymanians are BOTCs or even entitled to hold Cayman Islands Passports.
ACQUISITION OF THE RIGHT TO BE CAYMANIANAny person who has been naturalised as a BOTC by virtue of his or her connection with the Islands may, upon satisfying various residency requirements, apply for the grant of the Right to be Caymanian. Persons who have been married to a Caymanian for seven years can also apply for the right to be Caymanian. The surviving spouse of a Caymanian can apply for the right to be Caymanian as long as they had been married for seven years and fulfil the other criteria. A person who is the child of a Caymanian, no matter the basis on which the parent became Caymanian, is generally considered a Caymanian if he/she is born subsequent to their parent becoming a Caymanian as of right. The Governor in Cabinet may, in exceptional circumstances, grant the right to be Caymanian to up to four persons in any year and beneficiaries of this may include persons who have not resided in the Islands previously.
Any Caymanian who acquired the right to be Caymanian can lose that right if they have not met various residency requirements or, for example, if they are convicted of an offence which was made possible by, facilitated by or connected with the grant of the Right to be Caymanian.
IMMIGRATION CONSULTANTSFor help interpreting the immigration law we recommend that you contact the Immigration Department on (345) 949 8344 or visit www.immigration.gov.ky. Alternatively, call one of the local immigration specialists that are available.
Affinity Recruitment Ltd
Tel: (345) 943 2020 Fax: (345) 943 2022
Specialises in: Corporate immigration services, work permits and immigration advice and tailored outsources services.
Anglin-Lewis & Associates Ltd.
Tel: (345) 943 2525 or (345) 623 2525
Tel: (345) 945 1781 Fax: (345) 945 1782
Bodden Corporate Services Ltd
Tel: (345) 945 0400 Fax: (345) 945 0345
Provides advice and prepares applications for Permanent Residence, Naturalisation, and the Right to be Caymanian as well as Work Permit grants, renewals and amendments.
Cayman Immigration Consultant Services
Tel: (345) 943 1186 Fax: (345) 943 1187
Specialising in: Work Permits Processing, Permanent Residency, Naturalisation, Trade and Business Licensing and other general immigration related matters.
CML Immigration Services
Tel: (345) 949 1345 ext 127 Fax: (345) 947 1775
Specialising in: Individual and company-wide work permit management, immigration advice and tailored Outsourced Services.
Dinner Martin Attorneys
Shedden Road, George Town
Tel: (345) 745 5000
Work Permit applications - grants, renewals and amendments, Residency and Employment Rights Certificates, Permanent Residency/Independent Means applications, British and Cayman passport applications, Right to be Caymanian/Spouse of a Caymanian, Naturalisation, Business Staffing Plans, Business Licensing and Appeals. Notary Public services also available.
HSM Chambers Attorneys-at-Law
Tel: (345) 949 4766 Fax: (345) 946 8825
Direct Line: (345) 815 7425
All Immigration services including Business Establishment, Appeals, Caymanian Status, Permanent Residency and Naturalisation applications.
Legal Chambers Cayman Ltd
30 Cardinall Avenue, George Town
Tel: (345) 936 5222
Ritch & Conolly Attorneys-at-Law
Tel: (345) 949 7366 Fax: (345) 949 8652
Specialising in: Permanent Residence, Work Permits, Business Visitor Permits, Business Staffing Plans, The Right to be Caymanian, Immigration appeals and Naturalisation as a British Overseas Territories Citizen. Also business establishment and Trade and Business licensing.
Samson & McGrath Attorneys-at-Law
Tel: (345) 949 2740 Fax: (345) 949 0073
Specialising in: All types of applications including Permanent Residence, Caymanian Status, Persons of Independent Means, Naturalisation, Business Visitor Permits, Work Permits and all related appeals.
SteppingStones Recruitment Ltd.
Tel: (345) 946 7837 Fax: (345) 946 7836
Specialising in: Corporate immigration services, work permits and immigration advice.
If seeking legal advice on immigration matters, there is a free service offered by the Family Resource Centre called Legal Befrienders. Qualified attorneys offer their services free of charge on a walk-in basis every Tuesday at the Compass Centre on North Sound Road 5pm-6.30pm and in their phone-in service is on Fridays from 2pm-5pm. Tel: (345) 945 8869.
IN LONDON, ENGLAND: CAYMAN ISLANDS GOVERNMENT OFFICE
6 Arlington Street
London SW1A 1RE
U.K. Tel: (44) 020 7491 7771
Fax: (44) 020 7491 7944
Under the direction of the Cayman Islands Government Representative in the UK, a semi-diplomatic post, the Cayman Islands Government Office in London is located at 6 Arlington Street, off Piccadilly. The Government Office provides an important link between the Cayman Islands and the UK and builds relations with the UK Government and Private Sector. The Office can assist the general public with a range of enquiries including living in the Cayman Islands, buying property, recruitment to and from the Cayman Islands, business enquiries as well as visa and immigration requirements. The Office is also able to provide support and consular assistance to Caymanians, particularly students, who are in the UK.
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