The Cayman Islands is a British Overseas Territory that consists of three Islands, Grand Cayman the largest of the three, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. With its year-long sunshine, pristine beaches, and tax neutral system, it is not surprising that every year thousands of people consider making a move to this tropical paradise.

Although many ex-pats who reside in the Cayman Islands have a right to live and work here by virtue of the terms of their work permit (which has a term-limit of 9 years), for others this may not be a desirable route.

How can I reside in the Cayman Islands?

The Cayman Islands offers several residency options, namely:

A Residency Certificate for Persons of Independent Means which can either last 25 years and which is renewable thereafter (‘term certificate’) or it can last a lifetime with the option to obtain the Right to be Caymanian (‘lifetime certificate’).

(The difference between the term and lifetime certificate is the financial contribution you are required to make).

A Residency Certificate if you have a substantial Business Presence.

A Certificate of Direct Investment

Option 1: Certificate of Independent means (term certificate)

With regards to the Certificate of Independent Means, you must be over the age of 18 and have the financial resources to support yourself without needing to work in the Cayman Islands.  You must also meet other criteria, such as no serious criminal convictions, be in good health and possess adequate health insurance coverage.

With regards to your financial circumstances, the requirements you must satisfy relate to your capital and income position:

You must invest CI$1,000,000 (equivalent to US$1,219,512) into the Islands, of which CI$500,000 (equivalent to CI$609,757) must be in developed real estate in Grand Cayman

You must also have an ongoing source of income equivalent to CI$120,000 (US$146,342) per year (without needing to work on the Island) or hold an account with a regulated bank or institution on Island with a minimum deposit of at least CI$400,000 (US$487,805). This can be held in stocks or cash.

If you prefer to live in Cayman Brac or Little Cayman, the same requirements apply, however the financial threshold is lower. You must invest CI$500,000 (US$609,757) of which at least CI$250,000 (US$304,900) must be in developed real estate in Cayman Brac or Little Cayman.

As with an application to reside in Grand Cayman, you are required to have an ongoing source of income without needing to work in the Islands. However, the income threshold is lower, and it is currently set at CI$75,000 per annum (US$91,500) or a minimum deposit held in a regulated bank or institution on Island of at least CI$400,000 (US$487,805).

What about my spouse and/or children?

When making your application for a Certificate of Independent Means, you can add your spouse and/or any dependent children to your application. If the certificate is approved, they will be granted residence in their capacity as your dependent without the right to work.

What happens if I am a dependent and my spouse dies, or we divorce? 

Upon the occurrence of either of the above events, your right to reside in the Islands may be revoked at the discretion of the Director.

You may, within a period of 3 months of any revocation, apply for a certificate in your own right. The same eligibility requirements as set out above must be satisfied.  Once you apply, you can continue to reside in the islands on the same terms and conditions of the revoked certificate until your application has been determined.

What happens once my child (who is a dependent on my certificate) turns 18?

The right of your child to reside here will cease upon reaching the age of 18 unless the permission is varied to reflect that your child is engaging in full-time tertiary education, or the Director is satisfied that there are special circumstances to permit an extension.

Your adult child, if of proven good character and conduct, may apply for permanent residence provided he/she meets the residence and other requirements of that section.

Can my certificate be revoked?

Your certificate can by revoked if any one or more of the following situations arise:

You fail to maintain the financial standing requirements set out above;

You were not physically present in the Islands for a minimum of thirty days in aggregate in any calendar year; or

In the opinion of the Director any of the general grounds for revocation of permanent residence applies to you.

Option 2: Certificate of Permanent Residence for Persons of Independent Means (“lifetime certificate”)

The benefit of holding a lifetime certificate is that within 5 years of holding the certificate you are allowed to make an application for naturalization as a British Overseas Territory Citizen and you may then apply for the right to be Caymanian. Once you are naturalised as a British Overseas Territory Citizen you are entitled to hold a Cayman Islands passport and be registered as a British Citizen.

You can, in due course, also apply to have your certificate varied to allow you the right to work in the Cayman Islands.

As this is a popular option, the Cayman Islands Government grants a maximum of 250 lifetime certificates per year.

How do I qualify for a lifetime certificate?

To qualify for a lifetime certificate, you must meet the criteria for a ‘term’ certificate but your investment in the Islands is increased to a minimum of CI$2,000,000 (US$2,439,024) in developed real estate in Grand Cayman.

Again, you must demonstrate that you have sufficient financial resources to maintain yourself and your dependants, however there is no specific annual income required with this option.

Option 3: Substantial Business Presence

This option to residency is available to anyone who:

is, or proposes to be, resident in the Islands for a minimum period of ninety days in each calendar year; and

owns, or proposes to own, either directly or indirectly, a minimum of 10% of the shares in an approved category of business in the Islands through which a substantial business presence in the Islands has or will be established; or

proves to the satisfaction of the Director of WORC that, he or she is or will be employed in a senior management capacity of an approved category of business in the Islands.

The certificate is valid for 25 years and is renewable at the discretion of the Cayman Islands Government. An approved category of business covers a host of financially based services including funds administration, investment banking, investment and fund management services and actuarial services.

To be regarded as being employed in a ‘Senior Management Capacity’ in an approved business the person must be employed in a position which would attract an annual work permit fee of CI$20,295 or above or CI$5,000 or above.

As with the Certificate of independent means, the applicant will be required to demonstrate that they do not have any criminal convictions, are in good health and hold adequate health insurance coverage

Option 4: Certificate of Direct Investment

This option requires you to invest at least $1,000,000 (US$1,220,000) in an employment generated business in the Islands, of which, 30% of its employees must be Caymanian.

 You must have a substantial proven business history or an entrepreneurial background, adequate funds for the business venture and the financial means to support yourself and any dependant. You must not have any criminal convictions, be in good health and have adequate health insurance cover.

What are the application costs for all residency options?

 The fees for making your application and upon being granted your certificate vary depending on which category you apply under.

The fees to make the application itself range between CI$500.00 (US$610.00) to CI$1,000 (US$1220).

If the application is successful, you will then be charged a grant fee. This fee varies significantly depending on how you apply. For example, the lifetime certificate has a grant fee of CI$100,00 (US$121,9995) while the term certificate and the certificate of direct investment have a significantly lower fee of CI$20,000 (US$24,440).  The fee for the ‘Substantial Business Presence’ is even lower and is currently CI$5,000 (US$6098).

Every individual’s circumstance is unique to them.  if you are considering making an application, we suggest you meet with a member of the McGrath Tonner immigration team to discuss your options in detail.

For inquiries with any of the above, please contact Angelique McLoughlin,