Cayman Islands: Residence and Employment

Last Updated: 17 January 2006

The Cayman Islands, being a British Dependent Territory and not an independent country, cannot grant citizenship, which is governed by the British Nationality Act, but it determines its own immigration policies, which are contained in the Immigration Law, and the conditions on which any individual, partnership or company may carry on business. Except for the businesses of banking (see Chapter II), insurance (see Chapter III), company management, hotel operations and legal and medical professions, the carrying on of business is regulated by the Trade and Business Licensing Law and the Local Companies (Control) Law, laws closely related to the Immigration Law.

Persons granted permission to enter, even if they have permission to reside in the Islands, are not permitted to engage in any form of employment, or carry on or offer to carry on any financial, professional, trade or business activity unless licensed to do so. Applications are dealt with by the Immigration Board ("the Board"), which is appointed by Government to control the entry to, residence and employment in the Islands of individuals who do not possess "Caymanian status" (a blanket right to live and work), as well as the carrying on of businesses which are subject to the abovementioned licensing Laws.

Anyone coming to the Cayman Islands to live may do so either to take up temporary or permanent residence, or for the purpose of accepting a specific offer of employment.


It is Government policy to welcome as residents foreign nationals of good character and financial standing who are in a position to make a substantial investment in a home or local enterprise in the Islands, and to support themselves and any dependents without engaging in employment. Any details of assets owned and income from any source supplied to Immigration are treated in confidence. For the past several years, the minimum required
investment has been the equivalent of US$180,000.00, but this figure could well be increased at any time.

Residence status does not confer any right to work in the Islands, but a resident may without specific permission hold shares in a local company or accept appointment as a director provided that the directorship does not entail day-to-day management of the company's affairs.

Temporary Residence

Qualified persons may be granted permission to land in the Islands as visitors for a period up to six months on application made to the Chief Immigration Officer. Applicants must also submit photographs, evidence of good health, police clearance certificates and character and financial references. Spouses and young children may be included in the application as dependents, but accompanying children eighteen and over must make their own applications.

(For applicants from the United Kingdom or other countries where police do not issue clearance
certificates, an affidavit of no convictions, sworn before a notary public, may be submitted.)

There is presently no application fee, but on the grant of this temporary "residence", the grantee will be required to deposit for himself and any dependents a sum of money sufficient to cover any possibility of repatriation. The actual sum required is based on nationality and size of family and is refundable on request following the grant of permanent residence or the election of the grantee to depart permanently from the Islands.When the required sum has been deposited, an entry permit, normally valid for six months, is issued permitting the grantee and any accompanying dependents to enter the Islands to take up temporary residence. On arrival, the applicant and any accompanying adult dependents must produce, along with the entry permit, a valid passport or some other valid travel document and a return ticket. The entry permit is then withdrawn and a six-month residency endorsement is made in or on the travel document. This six-month period may be extended from time to time for further periods
not exceeding six months on each occasion, but will normally be restricted to one such extension (see Permanent Residence below).

There is no requirement to own a residence or to have made any other investment in the Islands prior to making an application; the initial six-month residence period would provide the individual with an opportunity to determine whether he would like to apply for permanent residence and, if so, to seek out the property or local enterprise of his choice. The Government's interest at this stage is in learning whether the applicant has sufficient financial
resources to make the required investment in the Cayman Islands in due course.

Permanent Residence

The Immigration Law provides that only after a person has been living in the Cayman Islands for more than six months is he or she eligible to apply for permanent residence, but Government policy dictates that if the application for permanent residence is not made within twelve months of taking up temporary residence, temporary residence will come to an end.

At any time after his temporary residence grant has been extended, i.e. during the second six month period, a temporary resident may make an application to the Board (accompanied by a small fee) for the grant of permanent residence to himself and his spouse and any accompanying children under eighteen. All adults must be in possession of valid passports at the time of making this application.

It is at this stage that the applicant must satisfy the Board that he has made his required investment in the Islands, by submitting evidence that he has done so. A non-refundable fee is payable to the Government on the grant of permanent residence.

A permanent resident may, after two years' continuous residence, apply to the Board for permission to engage in gainful occupation, though only in exceptional circumstances will the Board grant this permission to an applicant with less than five years' residence. Such permission will normally be restricted to a particular employer only (which may be his own company) or, in the case of a self-employed person, to a particular field of employment. If granted permission to work, a fee equal to that required for a work permit (see below) for the type of work concerned will be payable annually to the Government.

Under Cayman Islands law, the grant of permission to reside permanently in the Islands has no effect on the grantee's citizenship. It only establishes his right to land in, or having landed, to remain or reside in the Islands without in each case requiring the specific permission of an immigration officer. Permanent residence is not, however, in the true sense "permanent". It may be withdrawn or lost, not only for serious criminal and subversive activity, but for ordinary residence outside the Islands continuously for a period of one year.

A resident of the Islands may acquire a domicile of choice if the requirements of physical presence and the intention to remain permanently are met, always a question of fact. Acquisition of a Cayman Islands domicile may in certain instances result in tax savings.


It is Government policy to encourage preference in employment to persons who possess Caymanian status while recognizing that the small local population base, coupled with the continuing expansion of the economy, often entails the recruitment of skills from overseas. With a few exceptions, eg, persons employed by the Cayman Islands Government or permanent residents to whom permission to work has been granted (see above), every person coming to the Islands to take up employment requires a work permit. Work permits are normally restricted to a particular employer only, for a specific position. Although the Board has power to grant permits for a period not exceeding three years and occasionally does so, it usually issues them for not more than a two-year period.

Under this heading, the permission for an employee to enter and reside in the Islands includes any dependents named by him in his application and permitted to accompany him to the Islands. Their residence status does not confer any right to work, and expires automatically on the expiry or earlier termination of the employee's work permit.

Persons in the Service of Any Other Person

Both the employer and the employee must join in making an application for a work permit, but the onus is on the employer to provide the Board with details of the position available and the qualifications and/or experience required to fill it, show that he has properly advertised the position and that no person of Caymanian status applied
for or was qualified to fill it. He must also submit a small application fee, photographs and a police clearance certificate (or affidavit in lieu: see Temporary Residence above), and evidence of the qualifications or experience, good health and character of the employee, as well as accommodation for the use of the employee and his family. (As a general rule, an employee will not be permitted to bring more than three dependents to the Islands, all of whom must be named in the permit application, and an unskilled worker may not bring any).

On the grant of a work permit, the Government requires payment of a permit fee and a repatriation deposit, but this is the responsibility of the employer, and it is an offence for him to seek any reimbursement from the employee or make any deduction from his remuneration in respect of either.

After the permit has been issued and received by the employee, he will be permitted to enter the Islands. On arrival he must also produce a valid passport. His permission to remain is valid as long as his work permit is valid. A work permit ceases to be valid on its expiry date, unless prior application for renewal is made, or on any earlier termination of his employment.

Self-Employed Persons

Exceptionally, the Board may grant a work permit to an individual to engage in a particular business or profession on his own account. Anyone wishing to be self-employed in the Islands must follow the procedure set out above, with the exception of the requirement to advertise in the local press. The applicant must also submit evidence that he is in a financial position to carry on the proposed business or profession, and provide the Board
with information as to whether a local office will be opened and any employment opportunities which may be offered to any person of Caymanian status. Unless he wishes to practice in the legal or medical profession (see exceptions in introduction), he is further required to have his own trade and business license (see below), normally a formality and which may be applied for and considered by the Board together with his application for
the work permit.

Only in exceptional circumstances may the Board permit foreign professionals, including accountants, architects, surveyors, et al, as well as lawyers and health practitioners, to practice alone. The general rule is that a work permit for a professional may only be applied for by and granted to another professional in the same category as the person requiring the work permit.

Temporary Employment

The Government recognizes that there may be circumstances where, for brief periods of time, employers or others require specialized skills or services not available locally, and relieves the applicants from the more onerous requirements for the grant of a longer-term work permit. A person entering the Islands on this basis may do so on the grant of a temporary work permit, which may be issued by the Chief Immigration Officer and the Chairman of
the Board jointly for a period not exceeding thirty days.

As with a longer-term work permit, the employer and temporary employee must join in making the application, but the employer must satisfy the Chief Immigration Officer that the position is genuinely temporary and that suitable living accommodation will be available for the employee, and pay all fees and other money to the Government. The only other documents required are photographs of the employee and a police clearance for him (or affidavit in lieu: see Temporary Residence above).

Usually, this type of permit is not extended or re-issued, and the employee must depart from the Islands after completing his special task. However, in exceptional cases involving circumstances which could not have been foreseen at the time of the original application, the Chief Immigration Officer and the Chairman of the Board may extend it for a further period up to thirty days.

Carrying on Business

Subject to the exceptions mentioned earlier, every individual, partnership and company carrying on any trade, business or profession in the Islands requires a license under the Trade and Business Licensing Law, and if any individual (whether or not in partnership with another) does not possess Caymanian status or any company is not at least sixty percent Caymanian owned and controlled, he or it requires an additional license - in the case of an individual a work permit, and in the case of a company a license under the Local Companies (Control) Law. Only ordinary and foreign companies (see Chapter IV) are permitted to carry on business in the Islands.

The expression "carrying on business in the Islands" is defined in Section 2 of the Local Companies (Control) Law in relation to any company and includes carrying on business of any kind or type whatever EXCEPT:-

(a) carrying on, from a principal place of business in the Islands, business exterior to the Islands;

(b) doing business in the Islands with any person, firm or corporation in furtherance only of the business of the company carried on exterior to the Islands;

(c) buying or selling or otherwise dealing in shares, bonds, debenture stock, obligations, mortgages or other securities, issued or created by any exempted company, foreign partnership or resident corporation incorporated abroad;

(d) transacting banking business in the Islands with and through a licensed bank;

(e) effecting or concluding contracts in the Islands with and exercising in the Islands all other powers, so far as may be necessary for the carrying on of the business of that company exterior to the Islands;

(f) the business of an exempted company with another exempted company, a foreign partnership or a resident corporation incorporated abroad.

Trade and Business License ("T&BL")

In the case of a person of Caymanian status or a company which is at least sixty percent Caymanian owned and controlled (i.e., shareholders and directors), obtaining a T&BL is, with a few exceptions, more or less a formality. It is also a formality in the case of any other individual as long as he holds a valid work permit, and in the case of any other company which possesses a Local Companies (Control) License as long as the annual license fees are paid in January of each year. The Trade & Business Licensing Law is a revenue- raising measure, and provides for all T&BLs to expire on December 31st annually.

The simple application procedure involves, in the case of an individual, submitting a completed form and paying the required fee. A company must in addition submit evidence of incorporation or registration, including its memorandum and articles or by-laws, and ownership and control. Suppressing from the Board the company's beneficial ownership and control, known locally as "fronting", is an offence which carries severe penalties.

Local Companies (Control) License ("LCCL")

Coupled with the Government's policy to permit persons of Caymanian status personally or through their companies freely to carry on business and protect them from foreign competition, it recognizes that a certain amount of foreign investment and expertise not locally available could be beneficial to the economy.

When considering applications from foreign-controlled companies for permission to carry on business, the Board is required to have regard to a number of specified conditions and consequences, generally balancing the advantages and disadvantages to the community as a whole.

Applications are made in the same manner as those for T&BL's, and both are usually submitted and considered together.LCCLs are granted for periods of not less than twelve years, but are in practice restricted to this period. Once granted, the only formality is for the licensee to pay the annual fee in January of each year.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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