A Relocation Guide to the Cayman Islands
Are you interested in moving to the Cayman Islands?
Does the option of living by turquoise sea, white sand beaches and glorious sunshine 365 days a year appeal to you? Here is our guide to relocating to these paradise islands.
There are actually three Islands that make up the Cayman Islands.
Grand Cayman is the biggest of all three islands. It is 76sq miles; length: 22 miles; average width: 4 miles, but 8 miles at its widest; highest point: about 60ft above sea level
Grand Cayman is made up of 5 Districts:
Cayman Brac is the second largest of what is referred to as the Sister Islands. It is 15sq miles; length: 12 miles; average width: 1.5 miles; highest point: The Bluff – 140ft above sea
Little Cayman is by far the smallest but no less attractive. 10sq miles; length: 10 miles; average width: just over 1 mile; highest point: 40ft above sea level
Total population of all three islands is approximately 64,420 (2018). 95% of that population is based on Grand Cayman.
The population is made up of a mixture of ex-pats and locals with the majority being Caymanian. Other countries represented are Jamaica, Canada, US, Philippines, UK, India and many more. It makes for a very diverse culture. The official language is English.
The Cayman Islands has grown to international prominence as one of the world’s most well-known financial jurisdictions, with a particularly high number of offshore businesses operating on its shores.
Getting to the Cayman Islands
(Due to COVID-19 our borders are currently open to a limited number of residents with only British Airways and Cayman Airways operating flights and 14 day quarantine is in place).
The following airlines offer services to/from Owen Roberts International Airport, Grand Cayman. Some operate on a seasonal basis, discontinuing service in the slower summer months:
- Air Canada (Toronto)
- American Airlines (Miami)
- British Airways (London / Nassau)
- Cayman Airways (Chicago / Dallas / Havana, Cuba / La Ceiba, Honduras / Kingston, Jamaica / Miami / Montego Bay, Jamaica / New York / Tampa / Washington, DC / Cayman Brac, Little Cayman)
- Cayman Airways Express (Cayman Brac / Little Cayman)
- Delta Airlines (Atlanta / Detroit / Minneapolis)
- JetBlue Airways (New York / Boston)
- Southwest (Fort Lauderdale, Baltimore)
- United Airlines (Houston / Newark / Washington/Chicago)
- WestJet (Toronto)
As you can see – there are plenty of routes in and out of the Cayman Islands. The local airline is Cayman Airways (they even offer free rum punch on some flights).
Currently there is no income tax, capital gains tax, or corporation tax but there is an import duty of 22% on many goods. There is also Stamp Duty on most property purchases. If you are Caymanian and a first time buyer, you are exempt from this stamp duty which is currently 7.5%.
Work In Cayman
The main industries in Cayman are Tourism, Financial Services and Construction.
In order to work in the Cayman Islands there are a number of different options.
If you are Caymanian, have Status, Permanent Residency or a spouse of a Caymanian then you have the right to work without a work permit but you will need to apply for a passport stamp if you are not Caymanian.
If you do not match any of that criteria then you are required to get a work permit. Once a job has been secured it is up to that particular employer to submit your work permit application. This can take anything between 6 weeks to 6 months to be approved depending on the circumstances.
In order to gain Permanent Residency you have to have been a resident of the Cayman Islands for at least 8 years and no longer than 9 years. There is a points system and a number of criteria you need to meet. To find out more about Permanent Residency visit Immigration.gov
HOWEVER, there are other ways to achieve residency in the Cayman Islands, here are the following options:
Certificate of Residency by Independent Means (Lifetime Grant):
- Lifetime Grant of residency stamped in existing passport
- Option to work in local economy
- Spouse and children (under 24) can become legal dependents under the Residency Certificate and obtain work in local economy
- Ability to obtain Caymanian Status in roughly 10 years after being naturalized as British Overseas Territory Citizen (BOTC) which allows Cayman passport to be obtained.
- Requires CI$2M (roughly US$2.4M) cash investment (no mortgage) in developed real estate (commercial or residential). Note that we can include the stamp duty paid to the purchase price for the purposes of calculating the investment total.
- CI$100k (~US$120k) one time grant fee
Residency by Independent Means (25 year grant):
- 25 year grant of residency stamped in existing passport
- Does not allow you to work in local economy – generally appropriate for wealthy retirees. No restriction on person working on offshore based businesses from home however.
- Spouse and children can become legal dependents
- No ability to obtain passport or Caymanian Status as the law currently reads but subject to possible change.
- Requires unencumbered total investment of CI$1M (~US$1.2M) of which CI$500M (~US$600k) must be in developed real estate (commercial or residential) – the balance can be raw land, shares in a local business or an investment account with a local bank. Must also have CI$400k (~US$500k) cash held in local bank as a general requirement OR CI$120k in annual income
- CI$20k (US$24k) one time grant fee.
Setting up own offshore company, obtaining license to hold own work permit (Special Economic Zone or Offshore Trade & Business License)
If a person is not ready to make such a substantial investment in property, then this option makes sense. Within a month, they can set up their own licensed business and obtain their own work permit (which can include any dependents) as long as they are doing offshore only business. For example, if the person was providing administrative support to their US companies (or elsewhere) from Cayman, that would be a legitimate business purpose we could license. The person can then can obtain an annual work permit and work towards Permanent Residency at year 8, or convert to one of the options above at any time. From a Cayman perspective, there is zero taxation – no corporate tax, capital gains tax, withholding, sales and income tax, etc.
Certificate of Direct Investment
If a person invests CI$1M into a locally licensed employment generating business (new or existing) they could be eligible for a 25 year residency grant.
Residency by Substantial Business Presence
25 year grant of residency if a person is 10% or more shareholder or a senior manager of an exempted offshore business (or one of the following categories)
- 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
The Global Citizen Certificate (GCC) – recently introduced
The Global Citizen Certificate (GCC) is a new initiative from the Cayman Islands (designed by the Ministry of District Administration, Tourism, Transport and other Government departments) to support overseas-employment-seekers, as well as those wanting to work from home. The programme enables those who wish to work remotely to do just that, but with the added perk of living in a tropical island: Cayman. With our close proximity to Florida, private sector support and promising containment of COVID-19, the programme emphasises the suitability of the Cayman Islands as a work and living space for everyone, especially overseas workers. Work will virtually be done abroad, but participants can take advantage of an extended stay-visa programme in a luxurious, island paradise.
Applying for a GCC does not require that you earn Cayman citizenship. It is a way for individuals to live and enjoy the Cayman Islands, whilst supporting themselves with income earned abroad. It is therefore aimed at professionals who can support themselves fully whilst they are here, and can afford to have a longer stay.
Costs and Income Thresholds
The Certificate allows people who are employed outside of the Cayman Islands with the financial independence to work remotely, to relocate and live in the Cayman Islands for up to 24 months. For many this will be a straightforward and cost effective way to dip a toe into all that Cayman has to offer, whilst enjoying all the benefits of formal residence. Approvals are expected within days of application.
The Certificate is available to anyone who can demonstrate their existing (and anticipated ongoing) employment outside of the Cayman Islands. The criteria for eligibility include demonstrable annual income of no less than US$100,000 for a single person, US$150,000 for an applicant and spouse, and US$180,000 for an applicant and spouse and *dependents/children. The holders of these certificates are expected to reside in the Cayman Islands for a minimum of 90 days each year.
The Government fees are US$1,469 per year for an applicant and spouse, with a further US$500 payable for each dependent. For the first year, you will pay the annual fee upon submission of your application. For the second year, fees are due on or by the end of the first year of the period of the GCC.
Prior to the expiry of any Certificate it is anticipated that the holders will be provided with the opportunity to transition into alternative immigration permissions. Accordingly it is expected that it can form a part of the initial stages towards ultimate citizenship.
If you are interested in becoming a Cayman Resident through investment in real estate, here are a current list of properties available starting from the minimum investment of CI$500,000 and upwards.
If you would like to find out more about buying real estate in the Cayman Islands or relocating, please contact us at:
+1 (345) 945 6000 (Cayman)
(727) 216 7981 (US)