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A guide to residency options in the Cayman Islands

This guide provides some useful information for those individuals (and, where relevant, their spouses and dependents) who for some or all of their time wish to reside in the Cayman Islands.

You can download our full guide here and for detailed advice as to which options suit you best, please contact our Immigration expert, Brenda Castaneda.

Global Citizen Concierge

Born out of the global pandemic and Cayman’s response to COVID-19, the Cayman Islands Government announced a new tourism initiative in October 2020 called the “Global Citizen Concierge Program”. The program is designed for high-earning digital nomads to take advantage of the flexibility provided by remote work and permits eligible professionals and families to reside in Cayman for up to two years via a Global Citizen Certificate.

The fees are as follows:

  • For up to a party of 2 persons: $1,469 USD per annum
  • Dependent: $500 USD per dependent, per annum

*There is also a credit card processing fee of 7% of total application fee

This program has a number of important eligibility criteria, particularly in terms of income. For example, you will have to prove that if you are an individual applicant you must make a minimum household income of $100,000 USD and for any applicant with an accompanying spouse/civil partner you must make a minimum household income of $150,000 USD. Where a dependent child or children are also involved, you must make a minimum household income of $180,000 USD.

Full details can be found on the Visit Cayman Islands website https://www.visitcaymanislands.com/en-us/global-citizen-concierge/about-the-program/program-criteria

Work for a Cayman Islands company

You can obtain residency as a permit holder by working for an existing employer established in the Cayman Islands.  Any person who wishes to work in Cayman is legally required to obtain a work permit before working, unless exempt. A full list of exemptions is available on the immigration.gov.ky website, however, such exemptions include those non-Caymanian persons working for the Cayman Islands Government and holders of permanent residence with the right to work (see “Certificate of Permanent Residence for Persons of Independent Means”) below.

Strict regulations are in place to allow Caymanians, the spouses of Caymanians, Permanent Residents and existing residents are given preference for any employment opportunity. Work permits can be obtained in short order and in some cases can be obtained within 48 hours. There are two types of work permits available: 1) permits for up to 6 months, known as “Temporary Permits” and 2) those for longer than six months, known as “Annual Permits”.  Fees for permits will vary depending on the nature of the role, ranging from nil to over 30,000 KYD ($36,585 USD) and must be paid by the employer. 

Permanent Residence

The term limit for a “work permit holder” is nine years. Should a work permit holder (together with his or her spouse and, where applicable, his or her dependents) wish to reside in Cayman after this time on a permanent basis, then they would apply for “Permanent Residency”.  This Permanent Residency is available to any person (that is not excluded) who has been legally and ordinarily resident in the Cayman Islands for a period of at least eight years (but not more than nine years).

Establish a business

As well as working for an existing company in the Cayman Islands, you can also establish your own business in the Cayman Islands and seek a work permit for such a company.  There are a number of routes available:

1. Establish a local business

2. Establishing a business in Cayman Enterprise City

Establishing a Cayman Company

In addition to the option of being employed by an established local business, there is the option to incorporate your own Cayman company and to create a vacancy for employment in such a role. If you intend to operate in the local market, there are trade and business rules that will require at least 60% of the shareholders to be Caymanian and the board to be Caymanian (unless a Local Companies (Control) Licence can be obtained). Furthermore, Trade & Business Licence(s) will need to be required for the activities in which the company will be engaged locally. However, should your business be engaged in “off-island” work only, then an exempted company can be set up in which 100% foreign ownership and 100% foreign directors are permitted. Some foreign-owned companies that are exempted do not require the typical Trade & Business Licence(s) but will be able to obtain a Trade & Business Exempt Licence depending on what activities are being performed in the islands.

Irrespective of any Trade & Business Licence grant (whether for Trade & Business or Exempt Licence), residency is not gained until such time as a work permit has been issued to the applicant. In the same way as working for an already established local company, work permits can be issued on a temporary or annual basis.

The work permit issued can be granted up to 5 years with the term limit at nine years. Individuals can apply for permanent residency in the manner set out under “Permanent residency” above.

The fees for setting up a company in Cayman and for a registered office can vary but are typically around $4,000 USD. There is an annual fee payable to the registered office provider and to the Government. Trade & Business licenses will also vary depending on the nature of the business. We would be happy to provide further information on this and introduce you to the right people.

Work permit fees will depend on the type of role being sought, the industry in which that role is being performed and the island in which that job is located.

Cayman Enterprise City and a Special Economic Zone Company

An alternative route is to set up a business within Cayman Enterprise City (CEC). CEC is an award-winning special economic zone (SEZ) offering an accelerated offshore set-up for knowledge-based industries. Here companies that fall within approved business activities (including those in the fields of internet and technology, biotechnology and life sciences, media, marketing, film, broadcasting and telecommunications, commodities, derivatives, as well as maritime & aviation services) can take advantage of fast-track business licencing and a 5-day visa process. As an SEZ company, there are no restrictions on 100% foreign ownership, so you can own your own company, with a physical presence in the Cayman Islands, and can obtain a right to work for that company as part of the CEC package.

There are various “packages” available through Cayman Enterprise City and much of the burden is taken care of by the team at CEC with their “white glove” service. The team will organise permits (including the annual permit fee payments) as well as the payment of the CEC trade licence to the government on your behalf.

The permits available with CEC are for an initial term of 5 years, however, this can be extended. In the same way as other work permit holders, the term limit is nine years and individuals can apply for permanent residency in the manner set out under “Permanent residency” above.

Any company set up will typically be required to have a registered office and payment of the government fee will be processed by your registered office provider in much the same way as setting up a company locally.

Residency Certificates

There are other ways to obtain residency on islands by acquiring residency certificates. There are currently four residency options available to those with the means to make a significant investment in the Cayman Islands:

1) Residency Certificate for Persons of Independent Means

2) Certificate of Permanent Residence for Persons of Independent Means

3) Certificate of Direct Investment

4) Residency Certificate (Substantial Business Presence)

Residency Certificate for Persons of Independent Means

The Residency Certificate for Persons of Independent Means is available to any persons that are at least eighteen years of age, do not have any serious criminal convictions, are in good health and possess adequate health insurance coverage and satisfy certain financial eligibility criteria.

For those wishing to reside in Grand Cayman, the applicant will need to demonstrate that he or she has (i) either (x) a continuous source of annual income of no less than $120,000 KYD ($146,342 USD), without the need to engage in employment in the Cayman Islands; or (ii) maintains a minimum deposit of at least $400,000 KYD ($487,805 USD) in assets (including cash, cash equivalents, fixed income instruments, equities, and listed Exchange Traded Funds) in a Cayman Islands Monetary Authority-regulated and locally licensed institution, and (ii) that such person has invested the sum of $1,000,000 KYD ($1,219,513 USD), of which at least $500,000 KYD ($609,757 USD) must be in developed real estate in Grand Cayman.

The financial eligibility criteria for those applicants wishing to reside in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman is slightly lower than Grand Cayman. The annual income requirement is $75,000 KYD ($ 91,500 USD) if they are not intending to maintain a minimum deposit of at least $400,000 KYD ($487,805 USD) in assets in a Cayman Islands Monetary Authority-regulated and locally licensed institution. Further, the applicant must invest at least $500,000 KYD ($609,757 USD) of which at least $250,000 KYD ($304,900 USD) must be in developed real estate in Cayman Brac or Little Cayman.

Certificate of Permanent Residence for Persons of Independent Means

This certificate entitles the holder (and any qualifying dependents) to reside in the Cayman Islands permanently.  Anyone wishing to take advantage of this must be able to demonstrate that he or she has invested $2,000,000 KYD ($2,439,024 USD) in developed real estate in the Cayman Islands (irrespective of which island they chose to reside), he or she (and his or her spouse) has a clean criminal record, he or she (and his or her spouse and dependent children (where applicable)) are in good health $500,000 and have health insurance coverage in place.  The applicant will also need to prove that he or she has the financial resources sufficient to maintain themselves and their families.

Certificate of Direct Investment

Residency is available by acquiring a Certificate of Direct Investor for those persons who have made or propose to make an investment of at least $1,000,000 KYD ($1,220,000 USD) in a licensed employment generating business or businesses in the Cayman Islands (being a business or businesses in which at least 30% of the total number of employees are Caymanians unless permitted otherwise). The business or businesses can be already existing, or a new venture, however, the applicant must exercise or will exercise substantial management control. The applicant will also need to demonstrate that they have a substantial business track record or entrepreneurial background and possess the necessary professional, technical and other knowledge required for such a venture.

Residency Certificate (Substantial Business Presence)

For those persons that are, or intend to be, legally and ordinarily resident in the Cayman Islands for a minimum of 90 days each calendar year and can demonstrate either (i) an investment or proposed investment in an approved category of business, or (ii) who are employed or will be employed in a senior management capacity within an approved category of business, a long-term residency option is available through a Residency Certificate (Substantial Business Presence). The investment route in (i) is either directly or indirectly, the ownership or proposed ownership of at least 10% of the shares in an approved category of business.

An “approved categories of business” includes: fund administration brokerage services; investment and fund management services, financial trading (including foreign exchange, securities and derivatives); captive insurance or reinsurance management services, reinsurance underwriting; investment banking; actuarial services, insurance claims management, family office, Hedge fund incubation; and other company registered as an exempted company.

This certificate is valid for 25 years, renewable thereafter and entitles the holder to reside in the Cayman Islands, work in the business in which he is an owner or is employed in a senior management capacity and be accompanied by his or her spouse and dependent children.

How we can help

By working with Invenio Global, you will join a long list of leading firms and individuals that have benefited from Invenio’s expertise in immigration matters. With over 15 years of combined experience, our qualified, knowledgeable, and professional consultants are here to smoothly facilitate your path to residency in the Cayman Islands.

You can download our full guide here and for detailed advice as to which options suit you best, please contact our Immigration expert, Brenda Castaneda.


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