Cayman Islands Investment Immigration Programs Overview
While other Caribbean CBI programs were jostling for investors in 2017, the Cayman Islands kept a low profile, and pointedly opted out of the regional CBI price-war by doubling the minimum investment for some of its investment options. Unlike many other Caribbean CBI programs, the Cayman Islands doesn’t simply offer a second passport in exchange for a donation; instead, it provides residency opportunities — including permanent residency, which can lead to a British passport — for investors who genuinely want to relocate, and who are willing to spend a seven-figure sum on real estate or other qualifying investments.
That keeps demand low, with only a few dozen investors seeking Cayman residency each year, but locals say that sense of exclusivity, along with a far higher quality of life than some of the other countries in the region, is part of the islands’ charm. The islands’ investor-friendly tax policies — with no income, property, estate or corporate taxes — are also undoubtedly a big draw.
The Cayman Islands don’t offer a pure citizenship-by-investment program, but as a British Overseas Territory, its permanent residents become eligible for a British passport after five years. That’s potentially an important consideration for investors choosing between Cayman’s pricey permanent-residency option, and its cheaper 25-year residency permit, which offers no such path to British Overseas Territory citizenship.
The Cayman Islands has several different options for investors seeking residency on the islands:
- Permanent Residency for Persons of Independent Means: Investors can obtain permanent residency in the Cayman Islands by investing a minimum of $2 million Cayman Islands dollars (about $2.4 million) in developed real estate. Investors must also pay a CI$100,000 fee to receive their residency certificate. This option, used by about a third of Cayman residency-by-investment applicants, is the only pathway to permanent status in the Cayman Islands, and thus the only way for investors to obtain a British passport through investment in the Cayman Islands. While the applicant and their family receive the permanent right to reside in Cayman, they are barred from working on the islands without obtaining special permission from the government. Applicants’ children lose permanent status upon turning 18, but can subsequently apply for permanent status in their own right.
- Residency for Persons of Independent Means: The cut-price version of the Cayman Islands residency program, this option allows investors planning to live on Gran Cayman to obtain a renewable 25-year residency permit in exchange for investing CI$1 million ($1.2 million) in the Cayman Islands, including at least CI$500,000 in real estate. (Investors planning to live on Cayman Brac or Little Cayman, the smaller and less sophisticated “sister islands,” can qualify by investing CI$500,000, with CI$250,000 in real estate.) The investment covers the investor and their immediate family, and children can independently seek permanent residency upon turning 18. Permit-holders are not allowed to work in the Cayman Islands, and unlike permanent residents, there is no scope for obtaining special dispensation to seek employment. Investors seeking renewable residency must also demonstrate that they have an annual income of at least CI$120,000 (or CI$75,000 on Cayman Brac or Little Cayman), or at least CI$400,000 deposited with a Cayman bank. While the renewable option offers no pathway to permanent status, it’s popular with retirees.
- Direct Investment: Entrepreneurs have the option of seeking a renewable 25-year residency permit by investing at least CI$1 million in a new or existing employment-generating business, as long as the investor exercises “substantial management control” in the venture, such as by sitting on a company’s board of directors. Investors must also demonstrate that they have a track record as a successful entrepreneur, and the specific technical know-how to operate their business successfully. Investors’ businesses are audited twice during their first five years of operation, and investors much file annual declarations regarding their ongoing investment and the venture’s job-creation activities.
- Substantial Business Presence: Investors who own at least 10 percent of an approved business in one of twelve categories — chiefly relating to fund management, underwriting, and financial services — can obtain a renewable 25-year residency permit. The business in question must purchase or lease commercial real estate in the Cayman Islands, and employ at least four full-time workers in the Cayman Islands, and the investor must work for the company in a “senior management capacity,” such as a department head or director. While no additional investment is required, work permits for senior positions can be costly: to qualify for the residency permit, investors must hold a position requiring an annual permit fee of at least CI$20,925.
How To Apply
Applicants seeking either permanent status or a 25-year residency permit through investment must first purchase property in the Cayman Islands, then submit extensive supporting documentation, including a police background check, a health report, a financial statement prepared by a bank or professional accounting firm, and three sealed character references.
Government records show that virtually all investment-based residency applications take between one and nine months to process, from the first receipt of the application to the final decision being issued.
Cayman residency doesn’t confer travel benefits, and holders are required to spend time on the islands each year in order to maintain their status: permanent residents must spend a day a year in the Cayman Islands, while 25-year permit holders must spend 30 days a year physically present in the islands.
Investors who ultimately qualify for British Overseas Citizenship receive a British passport, but do not typically receive the right of abode in the United Kingdom. The British overseas passport is robust, with many countries viewing it as the equivalent of a regular British passport, which allows visa-free travel to 175 countries, including the European Union’s Schengen Area. Some countries do require visas for British overseas passports that lack a right-of-abode endorsement, however.
The Cayman Islands has little domestic industry, and imports 90 percent of its food and consumer goods, but maintains a high standard of living thanks to its thriving tourism and financial-services sectors. About 2 million tourists visit the island each year, and more than 93,000 companies — including 300 banks and 10,000 mutual funds — have registered on the island in order to take advantage of its tax-free status. Add in sunny Caribbean weather, golden beaches, and political stability, and it’s easy to see why Cayman is an attractive destination for many investors.
The Cayman Islands has little domestic industry and imports 90 percent of its food and consumer goods, but maintains a high standard of living thanks to its thriving tourism and financial-services sectors. About 2 million tourists visit the island each year, and more than 93,000 companies — including 300 banks and 10,000 mutual funds — have registered on the island in order to take advantage of its tax-free status. Add in its sunny Caribbean weather, golden beaches, and political stability, and it’s easy to see why Cayman Islands is an attractive destination for many investors.