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Will changes in immigration laws help real estate?

The Cayman Islands government is considering abolishing the term limit imposed on foreign employees. With no more restrictions on their residency limits, these employees would likely feel much better about purchasing property. We are eager to see if even news of the possibility of such a suspension might spur…

…market activity.

Some background:

In 2004 the government enacted new legislation that limits the number of years a foreigner on a work visa can take up residency. The term limit of seven years allows foreign employees to fill a position with a measure of stability for both the employer and employee. After the seven years, the employee is required to leave, a method designed to protect the employment opportunities of Caymanians and regulate the process by which foreign nationals can become permanent residents.

Following Hurricane Ivan in late 2004, thousands of new employees came to the islands to fill the huge number of new jobs needed to bring the country back to recovery. This group are now at their term limit and their leaving would create a large hole in our economy. Government responded by passing a new law which exempts the employees in this window from the seven year limit.

In the process, the debate over immigration policies has started anew. From many quarters of Cayman’s business sector, complaints are being heard about the negative impact the term limit has on local business. Requiring people to leave discourages residents from buying their own homes, and causes a drop in revenue from critical business such as groceries, pharmacies, household goods and services and the like.

Cayman’s realtors have wished for a long time that residents who prove themselves over seven years with a good employment record and clean police report would be rewarded with the opportunity to stay indefinitely. While it is only talk for now, even the talk of suspending the term limit is exciting enough to raise our hopes that longer-term residency could help rebuild the real estate market.

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