Any person who has been naturalised as a British Overseas Territories Citizen (BOTC) by virtue of his or her connection with the Islands may, upon satisfying various residency requirements (being resident for 15 years or be naturalised for five years, whichever happens sooner), apply for the Right to be Caymanian.
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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. Persons who can prove that they are the child or grandchild of a Caymanian who was born in the Islands can also apply to become Caymanian on the grounds of descent. The Cabinet may, in exceptional circumstances, grant the Right to be Caymanian to up to four persons in any year.
Any individual who acquired the Right to be Caymanian can lose that right if they move away from the Cayman Islands for more than five years (other than if they are away for medical or education purposes) and 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.
Spouses & Children of Caymanians
When a Permanent Resident is granted Caymanian Status the spouse and children of that new Caymanian must have their immigration status ‘regularised’ within 45 days. In effect, the spouse/children can no longer be deemed the dependants of a PR holder when the person is now a Caymanian!
In those 45 days the spouse of a Caymanian has two options depending on how long they have been married: a) if married for seven years then the spouse may be automatically entitled to apply for Caymanian Status as the Spouse of Caymanian, b) if married for less than seven years then the spouse needs to apply for a Residency & Employment Rights Certificate as the Spouse of a Caymanian. Then as soon as they have celebrated seven years of marriage they can apply for Status.
Serious issues have however occurred when Permanent Residents have become Caymanians and their dependent spouses have to regularise their immigration status. One of the requirements in the Immigration Law is that you can hand-on-heart tick the box saying you have a stable marriage. If you cannot, then there is no particular rights remaining for you in the law: your certificate as the spouse of a Permanent Resident will become void in 45 days, and you cannot now swap it for Caymanian Status. Your life in Cayman is then in limbo and you may not be allowed to stay in the Cayman Islands. If you have children the consequences are devastating. This is why immigration consultants and/or lawyers worth their salt will always stress the need for spouses to apply for Permanent Residency in their own right, and then apply for Naturalisation and Cayman Status the moment they can.
As it pertains to accompanying children, as long as they are under the age of 18 and the parent acquires Cayman Status they can apply for the Acknowledgement of the Right to be Caymanian by Entitlement within those 45 days. This Status however, will expire at 17, so it is essential that you reapply before they turn 18. For children applying for Status there is now an acknowledgment form in which you have to give proof of the schools your child has attended in the Cayman Islands or boarding school overseas, proof of how the child was able to remain and reside in Cayman (whether they were dependent on a PR or Government worker’s contract), the birth certificate of the child and marriage certificate of the parents and CI$50. Children who go to boarding school will not be affected as long as their primary home has always been Cayman, and they return home with some frequency (ideally every holiday).
If there are some accompanying children who are over the age of 18 they must apply, within 45 days, for a continuation of their Residency under Section 39, but only if that child has been legally and ordinarily resident in the Islands for a minimum of seven years. Being away for full-time secondary schooling or tertiary studies (again provided Cayman remains their home and they return for holidays) does not affect their ability to apply. It is very important that this rule is understood, as applying for Permanent Residency under Section 39 of the Immigration Law grants the child PR independently of their parents.
Marrying a Caymanian
A person who is newly married to a Caymanian needs to apply to the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board for a Residency and Employment Rights Certificate as the Spouse of a Caymanian (RERC), which allows them to remain and work in any occupation and the certificate remains valid for as long as the marriage remains stable.
It no longer expires at the seven year mark. If they are in possession of a work permit before they are married, then the work permit remains valid for its duration. Provided an application for a RERC is made before the expiry of the work permit, the right to live and work in the Cayman Islands continues whilst the application for a RERC is pending. If the RERC is approved then after the 7th anniversary of the wedding, and as long as the marriage is still stable, the holder may 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.
Proposed changes to the Immigration Law were discussed in July 2018, and it was agreed that a person who has been resident in the Cayman Islands for many years, and then goes on to marry a Caymanian, may apply for Permanent Residency in their own right as long as they apply before they have been resident for 9 years. They may also apply for an Employment Rights Certificate as the Spouse of a Caymanian (RERC). The difference is, that if the marriage does not last then they will not lose their residency status.
Please note that the RERC application process can take several months and many documents are required to be submitted, including an affidavit to the effect that your marriage is not one of convenience.
Marriages of Convenience
The Cayman Islands Government is very aware that marriages of convenience have been arranged in order for foreigners to move to Cayman, remain, live and work without paying work permit fees. If caught these offenders are severely punished to the full extent of the law.
Former Spouse of a Caymanian
In the instance where the former spouse of a Caymanian is the mother/father of a Caymanian child, they will usually be allowed to remain (subject to various approvals) and be permitted to work in the Cayman Islands until the children complete their education or reach their 24th birthday, whichever happens sooner.
If their last child reaches the age of 24 and the non-Caymanian parent has not obtained an alternative immigration permission before this point, then the parent will (according to the provisions of the law as presently drafted) have to leave the Cayman Islands. Such a parent will however have an opportunity to apply for Permanent Residence pursuant to the points system, provided Cayman has been their home for more than eight years.