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.
In most instances this means they will be expected to leave the Cayman Islands for a minimum of 12 months before they can be granted a new work permit. Visits in the intervening period for vacation and the like as a genuine tourist visitor do however seem to be generally permitted.
Please note, there are exemptions to the term limit provisions. For example, a person married to a government worker, or a person whose term limit is set to expire after their spouse’s, can arrange for their permit to be renewed until their spouse’s term limit is reached. There are also circumstances in which the authorities will (or at least historically have) reset a worker’s term limit without them first having to leave the Islands for any period.
In order to understand the reasoning behind the Government’s creation of limits on work permit terms, it is helpful to know the history of the population increase in this diverse community. The Cayman Islands have undergone a dramatic change since the early 1970s. At the start of that decade, the population was approximately 10,000 people and now, over forty years later, there are indications that approximately 78,000 people now live in the Cayman Islands.
Much of this dramatic increase has come about as a result of foreign nationals settling on the Islands and obtaining permanent rights of tenure. With that change has come not only strains on the infrastructure, but a recognition amongst generational Caymanians that their culture might be overwhelmed if the process is not managed correctly. There is also a perception by many Caymanians that their participation in the success of Cayman is diminishing. Whilst the people of the Cayman Islands are welcoming towards foreign nationals, there has been a realisation that continuing to invite ever increasing numbers of individuals to acquire security of tenure and become permanent inhabitants of Cayman is unsustainable. Even with the hurdle of Term Limits, the population growth has continued at a steady pace.