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 price-war by doubling the minimum investment for some of its investment options. Unlike many other Caribbean programs, the Cayman Islands doesn’t simply offer a second passport in exchange for a donation; instead, it provides residency opportunities — including an option for permanent residence which, after a period of five years, can lead to: (i) naturalisation as a British Overseas Territories citizen; (ii) a British Overseas Territory (Cayman Islands) passport; and (iii) registration as a British citizen (with all the privileges that entails, including a British passport) for investors who are willing to spend a seven-figure sum on developed real estate in the Cayman Islands.
That keeps demand relatively low but locals say that sense of exclusivity, along with a far higher quality of life and financial services industry than some of the other countries in the region and the lowest crime rate in the Caribbean, is part of the Islands’ charm. The Islands’ investor-friendly tax neutrality — with no income, property, inheritance, estate, sales, capital gains or corporate taxes and no restrictions on foreign ownership of real estate — are also undoubtedly a big draw.
CITIZENSHIP BY INVESTMENT
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 Cayman Islands passport after five years and a British passport within twelve months thereafter. That’s potentially an important consideration for investors choosing between Cayman’s options for permanent residence or long-term residence, noting that the long term residence categories offer no such path to citizenship.
Applicants seeking either Permanent Residence or a 25-year Residency Certificate permit through investment must submit extensive supporting documentation, including identifications, police background check, a health report and proof of insurance, a financial statement and proof of income prepared by a bank or professional accounting firm, and three sealed character references. Each pathway has its respective application forms which can be found on the government website.
Government records show that virtually all investment-based residency applications take approximately three months to process, from the first receipt of the application to the approval decision being communicated. There are attorneys located on the islands that are able to assist with the process.
Requirements once an investor is granted residency includes: maintaining real estate investment (if applicable); paying annual company and work permit fees (if applicable); and submitting annual declaration affidavits each December.
Holders are required to spend time in the Islands each year in order to maintain their status: permanent residents must spend at least one day each year in the Cayman Islands, holders of 25-year Residency Certificates on account of property investment must spend 30 days per year; and holders of 25-Year Residency Certificates on account of a Substantial Business Presence or Direct Investment must spend at least 90 days per 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 185 countries, including the European Union’s Schengen Area. Some countries do require visas for British overseas passports that lack a right-of-abode endorsement.
Updated by Daniel Altneu
Residency By Investment
The Cayman Islands has several different options for investors seeking residency on the islands:
Certificate of Permanent Residence for Persons of Independent Means: Form R5
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. Upon successful grant, investors must pay a one-time CI$100,000 fee to receive their Certificate of Permanent Residence, as well as a one-time fee of CI$1,000 per dependent. This option, used by the majority of Cayman applicants, is the only instant pathway to permanent residence in the Cayman Islands, and thus the only route for such investors to obtain a British Overseas Territory (Cayman Islands) and/or full British passport through investment in the Cayman Islands. While the applicant and their family receive the permanent right to reside in Cayman, should they wish to work in the Islands, a variation application would first need to be submitted. Although investors are not allowed to work with their permanent residency right away, a work permit can be obtained for a application fee of CI$500 and a payment of a work permit fee in the category of employment that is being sought. Applicants’ children lose their dependent designation upon turning 18, but can extend such dependency until the age of 24 if they are attending full-time tertiary education. Thereafter, it is possible for them to apply for permanent residence in their own right.
Residency Certificate for Persons of Independent Means: Form R2
This less popular option allows investors to obtain a renewable 25-year Residency Certificate in exchange for investing CI$1 million ($1.2 million) in the Cayman Islands, of which at least CI$500,000 must be invested in developed residential real estate. Investors planning to live on Cayman Brac or Little Cayman, the smaller Sister Islands, can qualify by investing CI$500,000, of which at least CI$250,000 must be invested in developed residential real estate. As with the Certificate of Permanent Residence, it is possible for the holder to include dependents and the same principles cited above in respect of dependent children apply. However, unlike permanent residents, there is no ability to obtain a right to work in the Cayman Islands, nor is there any ability to progress to any form of citizenship. As an additional requirement, and unlike the Certificate of Permanent Residence, applicants must also demonstrate that they have a continuous annual income of at least CI$120,000 (or CI$75,000 on Cayman Brac or Little Cayman) or a continuous sum of at least CI$400,000 deposited with a locally licensed institution. Upon successful grant, investors must pay a CI$20,000 fee to receive their Residency Certificate, as well as an ongoing annual fee of CI$1,000 per dependent. Due to its constraints when it comes to employment and citizenship, the Residency Certificate is popular with retirees.
Certificate of Direct Investment: Form R8
This is the least popular option with only two ever granted so far. Entrepreneurs have the option of seeking a renewable 25-year residence permit by investing at least CI$1 million in a new or existing licensed employment-generating business or businesses, as long as the investor does or will exercise “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. In addition to the initial investment, there is a CI $20,000 fee upon being issued the Certificate of Direct Investment. If there are any dependents, there will also be an ongoing annual fee of CI$1,000 per dependent.
Substantial Business Presence: Form R6
There are two sub-categories within this option and it is a popular route to residency for family offices, investment manager and financial traders.
- Investors who own or propose to own, directly or indirectly, at least 10 percent of the shares in an approved category of business can obtain a renewable 25-year Residency Certificate provided the business in question also purchases or leases commercial real estate in the Cayman Islands and employs at least four full-time workers in the Cayman Islands.
- As a more popular alternative, an investor can apply for the same 25-year Residency Certificate by simply being employed in a senior management capacity (i.e. an occupation that attracts an annual work permit fee of CI$20,925 or above) within an approved category of business (either an existing business or a newly incorporated exempted company). . While no additional investment is required and only CI$5,000 is payable upon approval of this 25-year Residency Certificate, there is the additional consideration that the Investor must hold a position requiring payment of an annual permit fee of at least CI$20,925. In addition, the applicant must be resident in the Islands for a minimum of 90 days per year.
Updated by Daniel Altneu