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Cayman Islands - Visas

Since roughly half of the Cayman Islands workforce and about a third of the local population were born elsewhere, it can be tempting to think that the Cayman Islands has an open policy towards immigration. In fact, migrants can only live and work there if they have the right skills, qualifications and resources to meet strict immigration conditions.

Every year, the dedicated enforcement team of the Cayman Island immigration service arrest and deport hundreds of people who are in the country illegally. Typically, more than half of these people are found to be working without a permit at all, while less than half have overstayed their legal permission to remain in the territory. The rest are prisoners who are deported after serving their sentence in the Cayman Island, and people whose application for asylum was not successful.

In addition, employers who employ staff without a valid work permit add more than one hundred and fifty thousand dollars to the public purse each year in fines.

Meanwhile, anyone making the dangerous – sometimes fatal – illegal journey by boat from Cuba, Honduras or Colombia will be picked up on the beaches by the authorities. These people are then sent to detention centres where they will be clothed, fed and housed in secure facilities whilst their application for asylum is processed. If the authorities are aware of refugees escaping from the beach or the detention centre, the local population is informed and asked to look out for them.

These actions send a clear message to anyone who considers working illegally in the Cayman Islands, which is that they will be dealt with severely when they are caught.

So before you arrive in the Cayman Islands, ensure that you organise your legal right to stay.

Visas For Entry Into The Cayman Islands

If you need a visa to enter or pass through the Cayman Islands, you must obtain one from the nearest embassy in your home country that has a visa office. Do this before your arrival. Some offices take between seven and 10 days to complete the visa process, while others take two weeks.

You can apply for a multiple visa if you intend to visit the Cayman Islands more than once; the fee is the same as for a single visa. These visas expire after 12, 24 or 36 months.

Some people are exempt from visa requirements. These include work permit holders and their named dependents, and anyone with permission to reside in the Cayman Islands.

However, under the 2009 revisions to the immigration laws of the Cayman Islands, there are a number of conditions under which a person can be deemed a prohibited immigrant for economic or moral reasons. These include previous deportation, prison sentences of more than 12 months anywhere in the world, anyone working in or suspected of working in the sex industry, anyone with mental health challenges or those facing destitution.

Working In The Cayman islands

No one can arrive to work in the Cayman Islands unless they have been issued with a work permit. In order to secure this, your prospective employer must advertise the job role to ensure no suitable local candidates are available, and sponsor your application. You will also need to pass the English language test in reading, writing, speaking and listening skills, unless you come from an English-speaking country.

There are several different types of work permit available which all have individual conditions, such as their period of validity. You can find out more about this process in our section on Finding Employment In The Cayman Islands.

Do not work in the Cayman Islands without a work permit, and do not break the permit’s terms. If you do so, and are caught, you will be deported. This means you will be included on the list of prohibited immigrants and will not be able to return to the Cayman Islands in the future.

If you successfully obtain permanent residency status after eight years, you will be free to work for any employer of your choice without having to obtain a work permit. However, your new employer must notify the authorities so they have a record of where all permanent residents are working.

Study Visas For The Cayman Islands

Study visas are only available for students attending a recognised educational institution on a full-time basis.

Named dependants under the age of 18, citizens of the Cayman Islands and their spouses, permanent residence holders as well as residency and employment rights certificate holders may stay for study in the Cayman Islands without obtaining a visa. Exemption also applies to children who are arriving for the express purpose of adoption proceedings.

Everyone else over the age of 18 must obtain a visa in order to stay and study legally. You are expected to leave the territory on completion of your studies or expiry of your visa, whichever comes first.

Other Residency Certificates Available

If you are not coming to the Cayman Islands to work or study, it is possible to gain residency permission to stay. However, the process is expensive, and you must meet stringent conditions for your application to succeed.

The residency certificate for persons of independent means, the residency certificate for retirees and the certificate of direct investment all require documentary evidence of your resources and investments.

Certificates are also issued for dependents, who are considered as part of the approval process.

Permanent Residency In the Cayman Islands

As stated above, becoming a permanent resident in the Cayman Islands is a costly affair. Firstly, you will pay a non-refundable filing fee. Then, you must pay an issue fee based on your annual earnings and the number of dependents you have, although this will be refunded if your application is not successful. Finally, you must pay an annual fee every year that you continue to live in the Cayman Islands as a permanent resident.

The latter is based on the amount that would have been received by the government had you been living there to work under the terms (and costs) of a work permit. There are some people who are exempt from the annual fee, such spouses of Cayman Island citizens.

You may apply for permanent residency under two conditions only:

1) You have lived in the Cayman Islands for eight years
2) You are a person of independent means

Your spouse and dependents can be included within the application process.

Your application will be assessed within a points system, based on nine factors:

1. Occupation
2. Education, experience, and training
3. Local investments
4. Financial stability
5. Ability to be community minded/integrate into the Caymanian community
6. Knowledge of Cayman Islands history and culture in test conditions
7. Possessing close Caymanian connection
8. Demographic and cultural diversity
9. Age distribution

In addition, the assessment will consider points to be deducted for evidence of undesirable behaviour. For example, a criminal conviction, a fine for a statutory offence, or an issue on public health grounds will all lead to a loss of points and make your application less likely to succeed.

There is a maximum points level of 215 that can be achieved. To be accepted as a permanent resident of the Cayman Islands, your application must score at least 110.

Obtaining Citizenship Of The Cayman Islands

Very few people are eligible to apply for citizenship of the Cayman Islands. If you are the child, grandchild, spouse or surviving spouse of a Cayman Islands citizen you may make an application to the Caymanian status and permanent residency board.

If you are a British overseas territories citizen in possession of a certificate of naturalisation or registration issued under the British Nationality Act 1981 by virtue of your connection with the Islands, you can apply. However, holding a British overseas territories citizen/Cayman Islands (BOTC/CI) passport is not conclusive proof that you are Caymanian.

Finally, if you are at least 17 years of age and your Caymanian status will or did expire on your 18th birthday, and you have been living legally in the Cayman Islands for at least five of the previous seven years, then you are also eligible to make an application.

Read more about this country

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