Last updated: 10th September 2013
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 Joanna@Acorn.ky 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 CONNECTIONS
If 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 generally be the subject of an application 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 generally be the subject of a Residency and Employment Rights Certificate as the Spouse of a Permanent Resident.
RESIDENCY & EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS CERTIFICATE FOR THE SPOUSE OF A CAYMANIAN
The 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.
Alternatively, they can apply to the Chief Immigration Officer for an interim Residency and Employment Rights Certificate, which allows the spouse of a Caymanian to remain and work in the Cayman Islands without the need to possess a work permit for six months. This cannot be renewed and is intended to be an expedited means of obtaining the relevant permissions pending the grant of a full Certificate from the Board.
ENTRY FOR VISITORS/TOURISTS
We 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 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.
However, if they are coming in for six months over the winter, like many of our returning ‘snow birds’ do, then they can and do get a six month stamp. 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. It is not kept and none of the information is recorded.
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 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. 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 one person to work and remain in the Cayman Islands for a specified period of time (except persons married to Caymanians). All work permit fees are the responsibility of the employer. Immigration law prohibits employers from requiring employees to pay any part of such fees. Annual fees range from nil (for certain administrative positions in the reinsurance and fund administration industries and for a five year period) to over CI$32,400 for the most senior executive positions in the legal industry. Those who don’t need a work permit 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 ten 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.
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), two 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org) and Modern Language Institute (Tel: (345) 943 8254 or email: email@example.com). 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 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 the prior consent of the relevant Immigration board. This restriction is intended to protect opportunities for Caymanians, but the relevant boards will be very accommodating in appropriate circumstances. Care should be taken that appropriate applications are made, particularly since a failure to make them can result in revocation of a permit and even prosecution in appropriate circumstances.
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 on the Island. 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 they choose not to do so, for whatever reason, then your family can only stay here as temporary visitors. See more information below.
Please note that only the following can be dependants of a work permit holder: a child, step-child, adopted child, grandchild, parent, step-parent, grandparent, brother, sister, half-brother or half-sister. This means that girlfriends, boyfriends and fiancèes cannot be listed as dependants on a person's work permit. If however, 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 recognized in Cayman Islands Law. It would help their case if they came 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. If they want any additional time after this the process is as follows: they must go to the Immigration Department on Elgin Avenue, fill out a form, pay CI$50 and explain why they want an extension. The Immigration Officer will decide how much time to give them based on their individual case and it is unlikely they will be granted more than 30 days as an extension. Every subsequent extension on their time 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 is very expensive and will only stop once they get a job or they become your legal spouse. Each time they go to the Immigration Department it would help if they took a letter from the work permit holder explaining the situation and confirming that there are enough funds to support them.
2. SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONE CERTIFICATE
These 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 his 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 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 person 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.
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. Such working visitors are allowed, provided they remain in the Cayman Islands for no longer than seven days. 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 new 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 firstname.lastname@example.org at least 24 hours before the visiting worker is due to arrive. Once approved, the person will be required to pay CI$100 at the airport. The Visitor's Work Visa however, 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 travel to the Cayman Islands. A business visitor will not be permitted to 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, will be available 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 MEANS
For 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 (recently reduced from CI$150,000) without the need to be engaged in employment in the Cayman Islands is required and an investment of CI$500,000 (recently reduced from CI$750,000) (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 publically 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 and an investment of CI$250,000 locally, of which at least CI$125,000 must be in developed residential real estate. There is a one-time fee payable on grant of CI$20,000.
5. CERTIFICATE OF PERMANENT RESIDENCE FOR PERSONS OF INDEPENDENT MEANS
In June of 2012 a new category was created by an update to the legislation; it offers the right to permanently reside for persons of Independent Means. Unlike the traditional 25-year certificate for such persons, the new Certificate of Permanent Residence for Persons of Independent Means can be amended to allow the holder to work in the Cayman Islands and can enable the holder to eventually apply for the Right to be Caymanian.
The effect will be to allow a limited number of persons who meet the income and investment requirements to gain Permanent Residence with the Right to Work (described below) without needing to first establish eight years of prior legal and ordinary residence in the Cayman Islands.
In order to qualify for the certificate of Permanent Residence for Persons of Independent Means, applicants will be required to have invested CI$1,600,000 in developed real estate and possess sufficient financial resources to maintain themselves and their dependents. 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.
6. CERTIFICATE OF DIRECT INVESTMENT
Wealthy 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 (recently reduced from CI$2,400,000) 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)
Also introduced in June 2012, the Residency Certificate (Substantial Business Presence) is a new type of certificate. It is now available to persons who either own 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.
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, acturial 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).
8. STUDENT VISAS
A 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 STAY
If 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 four options:
1. Standard Term Limit (7 years)
2. Apply for Key Employee Status before reaching 7 years (and stay up to 9 years which will then allow you to apply for PR)
3. Extended Term Limit (10 years) which allows you to apply for PR
4. Apply for Permanent Residence with the Right to Work (after 8 years but (generally) before 9 years)
Please note that significant changes may be made to the Term Limits and Key Employee provisions of the Immigration law. A specially convened Term Limits Review Committee deliberated on the nature of the Term Limits policy and their recommendations were published in June 2012. It is yet to be determined whether (and if so when) the Government will accept their recommendations: a) abolish the Key Employee designation, b) extend the Term Limit from seven years to ten years, c) allow all Work Permit holders to apply for Permanent Residence with the Right to Work after they have lived in Cayman for eight years and before they have been here for 10 years if they wish to remain in the Islands, and finally, d)if Permanent Residence is not applied for, then all foreign workers must leave after ten years for the period of at least one year.
Therefore until such a time as these recommendations are accepted by Government and the law changed, the following Immigration laws still apply:
1. STANDARD TERM LIMIT (7 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 seven years, unless they are a ‘Key Employee’ or fall within a group of occupations in the reinsurance and fund administration industries. Key Employees can generally expect to have their permits renewed for up to nine years and can therefore apply for Permanent Residence once they have lived in Cayman for eight years. Persons engaged in various senior capacities in the reinsurance and fund administration industries are eligible for ten year work permits, and therefore are similarly assured of the right to apply for Permanent Residence after eight years in Cayman. There is no assurance that permits will be renewed, although generally they are. After seven years, foreign nationals who are subject to a seven year term limit 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 stands in excess of 55,000.
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.
Given the timing of the introduction of the seven year term limit and a sizeable influx of new workers in late 2004/early 2005 following the passage of hurricane Ivan, the Cayman Islands government found itself faced with the prospect of a significant portion of the expatriate workforce reaching a seven year term limit in a short period. In order to ameliorate the effects of this a new type of permission, a ‘Term Limit Exemption Permit’ was put into effect. This special temporary extension, to an otherwise seven year term limit, was granted to numerous employers, and their employees’ work permits are now due to expire on 28th October 2013. At the time of going to press approximately 1,500 expatriate workers who had faced the prospect of being compelled to cease work and leave the islands in late 2013, are being offered (in proposed legislation) the ability, in most cases, to apply for permanent residence.
It should be particularly noted that until the proposed changes take effect, the holder of a term limit exemption permit is ineligible to be the subject of an application for permanent residence.
2. KEY EMPLOYEE STATUS (9 YEARS)
As the law currently stands, foreign nationals can only enjoy the benefits of work permits for more than seven years if, prior to the expiry of their seven year term in the Cayman Islands, the Immigration authorities have granted Key Employee Status to the individual. It is up to the employer to make a successful application in respect of their relevant employees. Upon grant of Key Employee Status, that employee is entitled to be considered for the grant of work permits until he or she has been continuously resident in the Cayman Islands for a total period of nine years, following which they will not be entitled to consideration for the grant of a further work permit until after they have ceased to be a resident of the Cayman Islands for one year, unless they have applied for Permanent Residence with the Right to Work.
In addition to the other benefits, a Key Employee also enjoys a presumption in favour of the renewal of their work permits until they reach their nine year term limit, providing some assurance of an opportunity to apply for Permanent Residence with the Right to Work. Recent amendments have been made to legislation to seek to ensure that the path to Key Employee is particularly facilitated for persons in the financial services industry.
Imminent proposed amendments to the Immigration Law will eliminate the need for persons to be the subject of Key Employee applications, and everyone will be permitted to remain in the Islands for up to 9 years, subject to appropriate renewal of their work permits. Persons who have previously been awarded Key employee designation are however expected to be able to continue to benefit from a presumption in favour of a renewal of their work permits.
3. EXTENDED TERM LIMIT (10 YEARS)
Notwithstanding the term limit and key employee permissions, various classes of executives in the fund administration and reinsurance industries are eligible for the grant of a work permit for up to ten years. Eligible occupations within these industries are Managing Director, Chief Executive Officer, General Manager, Vice President, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Underwriting Officer, Chief Actuary, Chief Reinsurance Underwriter, Director, Fund Services, Director, Client Services, Fund Administration Manager (Fund Investment), and Manager, Fund Services.
4. PERMANENT RESIDENCE WITH THE RIGHT TO WORK
According to the Immigration (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2013, which at the time of going to press was about to be heard in the Legislative Assembly, and is expected to be approved in principle, imminent changes will be made to the existing rules on applying for, gaining and keeping Permanent Residence with the Right to Work. Those changes include having a small window in which to apply when you reach eight years of legal ordinary residence in the Cayman Islands, having to pay all fees upfront (they will be refunded if you are not successful), gaining a minimum of 110 points (instead of the current 100) and declaring all dependents whether or not it is intended for them to accompany you. 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 will also be 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. Also changed in the new law is the amount of time an unsuccessful applicant can stay in the Islands once their application has been turned down. They will now be given 90 days to leave the Island whereas before they were given a final year to settle their affairs.
An application for Permanent Residence with the Right to Work is not unduly onerous but it 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. A new, more onerous point system will be published soon which will help people estimate if they can gain the 110 points required to be granted Permanent Residence. Examples of how points could 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 under the system in place in September 2013 include:
1) Your Occupation: Professional, skilled or unskilled
2) Knowledge and Experience:
> Number of years experience in field (points based on one point for each year after minimum threshold of two years with a maximum of 15 years).
> Degree programme qualifications and/or professional/postgraduate qualifications.
> Skilled tradesman.
> Professional, skilled or unskilled (points are allocated with the level of skills required in your particular field of expertise, based on the Employment Relations Department's report).
4) Financial Assessment: Investment either in property or a local company (the Board will take into account the applicant's investment relative to his actual means).
5) Funds and Salary: Evidence of cash or investments and evidence of salary, income and ability to support the applicant and any dependants. Also of vital importance is your ability to provide for the healthcare and educational needs of your family.
6) Contribution to the Community: For example only: training and employment of Caymanians, the participation in a youth programme, participation in a church or local society, participation in a service or social club and personal references. (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 to an hour once a week and are interested in helping out then call Michael Myles on (345) 925 2012 or email: Michael.Myles@gov.ky. He is part of the CI Government Youth Programmes and he will arrange for you to help children practice reading or do arts and crafts with you in their after school programme.)
7) Passing a History/Culture Test of the Island: You will receive one point for every question you answer right, out of 20 questions.
8) Close Caymanian Connections: i.e. being a parent, child or spouse of a Caymanian; having relatives who are Caymanian.
9) General: For example, the geographical area you are from is taken into consideration in an effort to maintain a suitable balance of nationalities in the Islands.
10) Deductible components: Character, health and other mitigating factors.
The maximum number of points possible is 205 with 100 being the minimum number of points needed to achieve the grant of Permanent Residence.
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. 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 permanent residence.
Please note that as the current system stands, unless you own a property in Cayman it is considered very unlikely that you will make enough points to qualify for Permanent Residency. There are many that feel that this raises the bar too high and that only professionals or those in a managerial position will ever achieve it. The Term Limit Review Committee has recommended some changes be made to the points system to make it fairer. However, these have not been approved at the time of going to print.
Working by Operation of Law (WOL)
When a person applies for permanent residency they must apply for and be granted a right to work by 'Operation of Law' permit, otherwise they will be unable to continue working. If the applicant's final work permit has expired they are not entitled to work whilst awaiting the outcome of their application for permanent residence, until they have a 'WOL' stamp in their passport. A 'WOL' stamp attracts the same fee as a work permit and must be renewed annually. Please note that the entire application, along with all relevant documents must be re-submitted each time.
There are numerous 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
People 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. 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 4 years, buy PR (by getting a 2 million dollar house) and one year later apply to be naturalised - effectively reducing the time required to get a Cayman Passport from 9 years to 5, and the path to becoming a Caymanian from 14 to 10. The 3 year option for Naturalisation is only available to persons who are married to a BOTC citizen - but they would generally become Caymanian through 7 years of marriage and do not need (generally) to first be a BOTC themselves.)
Application is made to the Chief Secretary's Office and, upon grant, the applicant becomes a British Overseas Territory Citizen 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 British Overseas Territories Citizen (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).
ACQUISITION OF THE RIGHT TO BE CAYMANIAN
Any person who has been naturalised as a British Overseas Territories Citizen 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.
For 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: Work Permits, Permanent Residence and other immigration matters.
Anglin-Lewis & Associates Ltd.
Tel: (345) 943 2525 or (345) 623 2525
Specialising in: Immigration advice, Business Staffing Plans, Work Permit applications, Trade and Business Licence applications, Permanent Residency, Right to be Caymanian applications, Naturalisation as a BOTC, and UK Passports.
Tel: (345) 945 1781 Fax: (345) 945 1782
Specialising in: All immigration matters from Work Permits to Cayman Status applications including Business Staffing Plans and Key Employee Designation..
Bodden Corporate Services Ltd
Tel: (345) 945 0400 Fax: (345) 945 0345
Work Permit applications, Cayman Status applications, Permanent Residence and Naturalisation applications
Cayman Immigration Consultant Services
Tel: (345) 943 1186 Fax: (345) 943 1187
Specialising in: Work Permits, Permanent Residency and general immigration 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.
ConsulTech(Development Advisers Ltd
Tel:(345) 945 2223
Immigration services include: Visitor and student visas for all countries; UK settlement visas and visas for overseas domestic workers; Passports for Cayman, the UK,USA and Canada; Work Permits for Cayman,USA and Canada; Permanent Residency applications for Cayman, USA and Canada;applications for Caymanian Status, Naturalisation as a British Overseas Territories Citizen, and Registration as a British Citizen.
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
Direct Email: email@example.com
All Immigration services including Work Permits, Special Economic Zone certificates, Business Establishment, Appears, Permanent Residency Naturalisation and Relocation.
Tel: (345) 945 8367 Fax: (345) 945 8601
Specialising in: Immigration advice, staff salary negotiation, payroll processing and administration, legal service referrals and recommendations and short term office rentals.
Ritch & Conolly Attorneys-at-Law
Tel: (345) 949 7366 Fax: (345) 949 8652
Specialising in: Work Permits (temporary and full), Business Visitor Permits, Business Staffing Plans, Permanent Residence, The Right to be Caymanian, Immigration appeals and Naturalisation as a British Overseas Territories Citizen.
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 Windjammer Plaza (next to Burger King) on Walkers Road from 5pm. 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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