Earning residency through business investment in the Cayman Islands

July 27, 2020Blog

By Florence Allan

Calling the Cayman Islands home is a dream for many, but an increasing number of high-net-worth individuals are making this dream a reality through the Islands’ residency by investment programmes.

Cayman is a great place to do business, especially considering its international standing as a global financial centre, its tax neutrality and stable economy. This British Overseas Territory is therefore an ideal base for wealthy individuals looking to set-up or relocate their business interests.

Cayman offers four residency by investment options, including two residency through business investment programmes. We spoke to Cline Glidden, a senior associate with Ogier, located in Camana Bay, to learn more. Cline has particular expertise in advising clients on Cayman real estate, securitisation of funding, and relocations of high-net-worth individuals.

Cline Glidden, Ogier


Cline, can you outline what the key differences are between the two residency by business investment programmes?

The Certificate of Direct Investment is for those who have made, or propose to make, an investment of at least US$1.2 million in an employment generating business in the Cayman Islands where at least 30% of employees are, or will be, Caymanian. The applicant must also hold substantial management control in this business, such as being a director of the board.

In contrast, the Residency Certificate (Substantial Business Presence) is for those who either (i) own, or propose to own, a minimum of 10% of shares in an approved category of business through which you have established a substantial business presence in the Islands; or (ii) those who are employed in a senior management capacity within an approved category of business. In order to confirm that a substantial business presence has been established, the Chief Immigration Officer will consider whether the applicant has established a physical presence on the Islands.

There are also some differences in fees (see final question).

Can an applicant eventually qualify to apply for a Cayman Islands passport through either of these programmes?

Unfortunately not; the only programme which allows the holder to apply for a Cayman passport after five years is the Certificate of Person of Independent Means, which can only be obtained through the purchase of developed real estate valued over US$2.4 million.

The residency by business investment programmes only provide the holder with a 25-year renewable certificate of residency. It’s also important to note that applicants cannot ‘upgrade’ or change their residency certificate once the application has been submitted, therefore potential investors should have a good idea about what their goals for residency in the Cayman Islands are before they submit an application.

How many applicants typically apply for residency through business investment annually?

The business investment programmes are not particularly popular compared to the residency by real estate investment options. The government typically approves two or three applications a year.

There are a number of possible reasons for this. Although there is initial interest in these programmes, clients often decide that applying for a work permit is the better option for them. Cayman issues work permits for legal and financial services professionals fairly often. Once an individual has held a work permit for eight years, they can apply for permanent residency. This is often a more affordable option for applicants, and it also allows them to apply for a Cayman passport in future years.

However, sometimes clients need a residency certificate immediately for security of tenure or for tax residency purposes. While the business investment programmes provide this, the real estate residency certificates are much more popular. Real estate is a strong and safe investment in the Cayman Islands; aside from the lack of recurring property tax, real estate has tended to appreciate in value. Often it is easier and cheaper to get security of tenure through the real estate investment programmes, especially since the Certificate of Person of Independent Means can be varied to allow the right to work.

What are the various costs associated with applying via either programme?

There are a number of fees associated with the initial application which are outlined in the table below.

 Certificate of Direct InvestmentResidency Certificate (Substantial Business Presence)
Application FeeUS1,200US$1,200
Certificate Issue FeeUS$24,000US$6,000
Issue Fee for a DependantUS$1,200 per dependantUS$1,200
Dependant FeeUS$1,200 per dependant per annumn/a
Application for a variationUS$600US$600
Annual Fee equivalent to that of a person in the same occupationFee variesFee varies

However, there are other possible fees that potential investors should be aware of. There will obviously be costs associated with setting up the business and different industries have different regulatory requirements. One of the main costs to consider is a Trade & Business License which is fairly straightforward to calculate. This license requires that there is 60% Caymanian participation within the business; if this is not possible an exemption will be required which can increase the cost considerably. Further, if the business has a substantial immigrant workforce, work permit fees may be a significant start-up cost.

For more information on applying for long-term or permanent residency, please contact Cline Glidden at Ogier.

About the author

Florence Allan is a Dart Scholar and a returning intern with Dart’s business development team. She has joined various teams in Dart each summer since 2017, and before this she was a student at Cayman Prep & High School, spending her free time training for the Olympics, where she represented the Cayman Islands in sailing. While born in Scotland, Florence moved to Cayman at just six weeks old; her Scottish heritage and Caymanian upbringing offered her a truly multicultural childhood. For the past three years, Florence has been studying for her undergraduate degree in International Business Management at the University of Bristol, and she will be graduating by the end of summer 2020. Returning home for holidays is something Florence always looks forward to, as she misses her dog Archie when she is away and loves returning home to coach sailing to Cayman’s youth.

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