If you are looking to move to the Cayman Islands and are not Caymanian, or married to a Caymanian, the process is slower. The first thing to do is find a job, or be offered a job, and then your Cayman employer has to apply for a work permit for you. Read on to understand the differences between Full and Temporary Work Permits as opposed to working under the Special Economic Zone and/or being classified under a Student Visa.
If you are looking to renew a work permit please see below for the new rules. We have also added what you need to do to renew a work permit during the COVID-19 crisis and the lockdown we are under.
If you are interested in moving to Cayman under the Global Citizen Programme we talk about that here as well. Please read on.
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Strict work permit regulations exist to ensure that Caymanians, the spouses of Caymanians, Permanent Residents and existing residents are given preference (in that order) for any position. This can be something of a minefield for the uninitiated.
These allow a person to work and remain in the Cayman Islands for a specified period of time. All work permit fees are the responsibility of the employer. The law prohibits employers from requiring employees to pay any part of such fees. Annual fees range from nil (for positions in education) to up to CI$32,400 for the most senior positions in the legal industry. It is an offence for any non-Caymanian engaging in gainful occupation (and who is not expressly exempted from the work permit regime) to engage in gainful occupation in the Islands without a work permit or alternative permission. Although statements to the contrary have been expressed, it is our view that even persons working for businesses outside the Cayman Islands must, under the legislation as it stands, have a work permit (or other permission) before undertaking such work while resident in Cayman.
Prior to granting (or renewing) a permit, the relevant Board or the Director of WORC 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 if from a non-English speaking country. Many skilled workers are granted a permit for between two and five years, with a renewal fee payable each year. Please note that work permits for self-employed people are only issued in exceptional circumstances. Employers (in the Private Sector, but excluding those employing household staff) must hold a Trade & Business licence or equivalent licensing or exemption therefrom in relation to specific industry types.
Not every foreign national working in the Cayman Islands requires a work permit. There are specific categories of persons who are exempt from the requirements and others who can be exempted subject to strict requirements.Read More
Any business in Cayman which regularly needs workers to come from overseas to work 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. There is also a category of Visitor’s Work Visa, which permits individuals 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.
In appropriate circumstances and upon suitable application, the Director of WORC or her designate, may grant a Temporary Work Permit to an individual permitting them to engage in gainful employment in the Cayman Islands.
All foreign nationals gainfully employed in the Cayman Islands are currently entitled to be considered for the grant of a work permit for up to nine years. After eight years, most residents are assured of the right to apply for Permanent Residence. After nine years, foreign nationals who are subject to a nine year term limit and have not applied for Permanent Residence will generally not be granted any form of work permit until they have ceased to be resident in the Cayman Islands for at least one year.
All immigration permit forms and instructions can be downloaded from the Department of WORC’s website. Various law firms and immigration service providers are also available to assist.
For persons already resident in Cayman for six months.
Subject to some exceptions, the holder of a work permit may not change his/her employer for the duration of a permit. Changing employers upon the expiry of a work permit is permitted, although a release letter from the previous employer is usually requested before the relevant board or WORC official will grant a permit in favour of a new employer.
Immigration generally requires that you be off-Island while a Full Work Permit (FWP) or Temporary Work Permit application is in process. However, this does not apply if you are already here on the island as a dependant on your spouse’s work permit, or if you have an existing work permit in place with the same employer.
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 household income in the region of CI$3,500 for one dependant to be included, with an increase of CI$500 for each additional dependant.
Please note that should an expat couple living in Cayman decide to divorce, any non-working (previously) dependent spouse will have no particular right to stay in Cayman. Residence based purely on the presence of children is not contemplated by the Immigration Law. Children in such circumstances can remain as approved dependants of the parent who is on a work permit or government contract, and continue to attend full-time education until adulthood (as late as 24 if attending university).