The Cayman Islands is a British Overseas Territory located in the Western Caribbean, approximately 470 miles southwest of Miami. The jurisdiction is renowned for its leading financial services sector, robust tourism industry, modern infrastructure and high standard of living that make residing and working in this tropical locale both convenient and enjoyable. The country is largely tax-neutral; there are no corporate, capital gains, personal income, sales or property taxes.
DOING BUSINESS IN THE CAYMAN ISLANDS
Setting up a business in the Cayman Islands is a straightforward process but involves a few essential steps.
Apply for a Trade & Business Licence
Before conducting business in the Cayman Islands, all individuals, partnerships and companies must apply for a Trade & Business Licence, which carries an annual fee.
Incorporate Your Company
Several firms in the Cayman Islands specialise in providing company incorporation services and registered office services as well as company management, administration and fiduciary services.
Open a Bank Account
There are several global banks in the Cayman Islands to attend to everyday banking needs, including setting up a new account, transferring offshore funds to a Cayman Islands account, personal lending, business loans, mortgages and credit applications.
Each bank will have its own required documents and forms for opening a business account, however at a minimum most financial institutions request the company incorporation paperwork, the certificate of incorporation, financial statements or a business plan (for corporate accounts), a copy of the Trade & Business Licence, a bank reference, a passport, a utility bill, and professional references.
Apply for a Work Permit
Individuals who intend to work in the Cayman Islands must apply for a work permit. Permit applications are specific to a person’s role within the company and the fee structure is based on this role. Permits are generally granted in three-month, six-month, 12-month and two-year periods.
Arrange Health Insurance
Employers are required by law to provide each employee with basic health insurance, of which a minimum of 50% of the premium must be paid for by the employer. Employees may choose to include their spouse and/or dependent(s) on their health insurance plan.
Open a Pension Account
Employees are also required by law to have a pension plan. A minimum of five percent of gross earnings are to be paid each pay period by the employer and employee each to said account.
Buying Property in the Cayman Islands
Unlike several other Caribbean countries, there are no restrictions on foreign ownership of land in the Cayman Islands. Added to this, a simple and regulated land registry process which guarantees property title to landowners by the Cayman Islands Government exists.
There is a one-time stamp duty (land transfer fee) that is owed to the Cayman Islands Government when purchasing property. The dollar amount payable is based on the purchase price of the property or the value of the property, whichever is greatest.
Hiring an attorney to work with you during the buying process is recommended, both for guidance and help preparing the required documents. Estimates for attorney fees for a property purchase are approximately 0.5-1% of the purchase price. In the Cayman Islands, real estate agent fees are only paid by the seller, allowing for further savings for property buyers.
If financing your property purchase with a mortgage with a Cayman Islands bank, one requirement will be a property valuation report. The cost of this valuation will depend based on the property’s size and value, but starting costs are estimated at CI$400. Allow four to six weeks from the time of application for a mortgage to be approved by the bank.
The Cayman Islands offers a wide range of professionals in the legal and financial industries, allowing buyers peace of mind in working with experts and receiving appropriate guidance when choosing their ideal Cayman Islands home.
Once you have completed the purchase process, international buyers are eligible for residency in the Cayman Islands if real estate is purchased at a value of CI$2 million or more.
The real estate specialists at Provenance Properties can introduce you to a wide range of luxury properties and help explain the process of buying real estate in Grand Cayman.
INDUSTRIES IN THE CAYMAN ISLANDS
Banking & Finance
The Cayman Islands is a leading offshore financial centre. The country is among the top five largest global financial sectors and is internationally regarded as a world class centre of commerce. Some 600 banks and trust companies have been incorporated in the Cayman Islands, largely because of the country’s tax neutral status. With more than 700 captives, it is also the second largest captive domicile in the world.
In its 2017 global survey, Banker magazine named the Cayman Islands as the world’s #1 specialised financial centre, a position it has held for nine consecutive years. The country was also ranked in the 22nd Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI 22) as among the top 29 percent of financial centres of the world, which ranked it as the second highest among all UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.
The banking, finance and insurance sectors contribute nearly half of the country’s GDP. Over 96,000 companies are registered in the Cayman Islands, each listed on the major stock exchanges around the world. Some 10,500 mutual funds have been established in Grand Cayman, representing a collective net value of US$3.59 trillion.
The Cayman Islands have a stable legal and judicial system, with the first law firm tracing its origins back to 1945. As a British Overseas Territory, the legal system is based on English common law, though local statutes apply.
Leading international law firms Maples & Calder, Walkers, Appleby, Ogier, Mourant Ozannes, Conyers Dill & Pearman and Bedell Cristin have a presence in the Cayman Islands and several boutique law firms also operate on Grand Cayman. Many have consistently been listed in leading directories such as Chambers and Legal 500, and have been recognised as among the best offshore law firms in the Caribbean and the world.
Licensed attorneys based in the Cayman Islands provide legal advice in the areas of litigation, dispute resolution, corporate, private client, trust, employment, real estate, insurance, banking, aviation, shipping, funds, intellectual property and civil and criminal law.
The Cayman Islands is frequently referred to as the ‘Culinary Capital of the Caribbean’. Not only are there over 150 restaurants, cafes and bars across the three islands, but the variety of cuisine is what separates the Cayman Islands from other Caribbean islands.
From fine dining restaurants suitable for impressing a new client to enjoying quality time with family at casual waterfront dining venues, global-inspired brasseries and fusion cuisine worthy of discovery with friends to Caribbean favourites and fare that marries the finest ingredients and cooking practices of the region, there’s a restaurant to suit any taste and any occasion.
Cayman’s culinary industry employs over 2,500 people and contributes approximately six percent of the country’s GDP.
In contrast to other Caribbean islands, the Cayman Islands is serviced by dependable telecoms infrastructure. There are four telephone and internet providers in Grand Cayman. Phone service is offered via a traditional fixed line, internet connection or state-of-the-art fibre optic network. Broadband internet is available through wireless, fixed and fibre optic connections.
Close to 100,000 mobile phone lines, 24,000 internet connections and 34,000 fixed lines have been set up across the three Cayman Islands.
Aircraft & Shipping
The Cayman Islands are widely recognised in the maritime industry as a top-quality flag state and in the international aviation sector as the registry of choice.
The Maritime Authority of the Cayman Islands provides a well-developed regulatory framework for the registration, security, certification and crew documentation of merchant ships and pleasure yachts. Some 216 new pleasure yachts were registered in the Cayman Islands in 2015.
Owing to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands’ steadfast standards and exact requirements to qualify, a high level of respect has been earned throughout the aviation industry. This statutory body works closely with prospective registrants through the process of applying, seeking legal counsel, obtaining insurance and issuance of the certificate of registration.
A CI$55 million dollar expansion and renovation of the Owen Roberts International Airport (ORIA) in Grand Cayman is being carried out with an anticipated completion date in early 2019. While the ORIA facilitates arrivals from major airliners like Air Canada, American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, WestJet and the national carrier Cayman Airways, the General Aviation Terminal caters to private aircrafts.
With over 800 active insurance licences, the Cayman Islands is a major centre for international insurance business in the Class A, B, C and D categories, offering a broad range of coverage in the areas of home, health, life, personal property and automobile.
The captive insurance industry in the Cayman Islands has sustained its strength and resilience in a changing economy and, today, the country maintains its position among the top three insurance domiciles. The annual Cayman Captive Forum is widely recognised as the leading conference in the insurance industry.
One of the very first successful family offices to move to the Cayman Islands was that of the Dart family, who made the move in 1993 after visiting the islands several times on holiday. At the time, Ken Dart saw the potential for the Cayman Islands.
Over two decades later, many high-net-worth individuals and families have chosen to move their family office to the Cayman Islands due to its close geographical location to the USA and the incredible quality of life. In addition, a booming financial industry and tax-neutral environment are supported by a democratically elected government, ease of company incorporation, sophisticated infrastructure, ability to purchase real estate as an expatriate and the availability of turnkey Class A office space at locations like Camana Bay.
As a small island with minimal exports, most resale goods are imported into the Cayman Islands from the USA. The retail industry in Grand Cayman thrives with an abundance of storefronts, most of which are located in the heart of George Town and cater to cruise visitors or along Seven Mile Beach selling to stay over visitors. While many retail stores are family-owned and entrepreneurial ventures, there are a few internationally recognised stores like Victoria’s Secret, Island Company, GNC, Books & Books and Cost U Less. In addition, many luxury brands are carried at local stores, such as POLO, Philip Stein, Hermes, Tory Burch and Tacori.