If you want to move to the Cayman Islands and are not Caymanian or married to a Caymanian, there are eight ways to become a legal resident. Note that the Cayman Islands does not recognize civil partnerships. Also note that 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.
1) Full Work Permit (A Gainful Occupation License/FWP)
Allows one person to work and remain in the Cayman Islands for a specified period of time (except persons married to Caymanians). The does not apply to self-employed individuals except under rare circumstances.
2) A Special Economic Zone Certificate (SEZ)
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.
3) Temporary Work Permit (TWP)
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.
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 (PR) 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 dependents 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 dependents. 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.
7) Residency Certificate (Substantial Business Presence)
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, 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).
8) Student Visas
A non-Caymanian who is 18 years of age or older, seeking to enter the Cayman Islands to attend a recognized 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 program. 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)
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 naturalization as a British Overseas Territories Citizen. Persons applying on the basis of marriage generally only require three years of total residence.
Any person who has been naturalized 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.