Work permit decline levels off

The number of work permits issued to foreign nationals by the Cayman Islands government appeared to level off through the spring months after a precipitous drop between the end of last year and April 2009.

In late April, there were 24,594 people here on work permits, government contracts or working as an operation of law while awaiting decisions on permanent residence or appeals of work permit denials.

At the end of June, that number was 24,261 people, according to Immigration Department records – a drop of just more than 300 permits.

Work permits dropped by more than 2,000 between late 2008 and April 2009.

The largest decrease by far occurred in the issuing of temporary work permits, six-month contracts given to short term workers or as introductory permits to foreign workers who are new to the Islands. About 1,000 fewer temporary work permits were active by the end of June this year than had been granted in November 2008.

Immigration boards also appeared to be wading through the backlog of applications for permanent residence, a legal status that grants the right to remain in the Cayman for the rest of one’s life.

Individuals making applications for permanent residence are allowed to remain in Cayman until their cases are decided one way or another. This is one example of what is known as working ‘as an operation of law.’

As of 30 June 2009, nearly 1,000 fewer people were working here as an operation of law than in November 2008.

However, standard work permits stayed almost exactly the same between April and the end of June. In fact, there were slightly more permit renewals and new work permits in effect as of 30 June than there were as of 29 April.

The Caymanian Compass has been examining the work permits issued for each specific job category tracked by the Immigration Department, here’s what we found:


For the most part, work permits issued in the professional job categories continued a slight decline from the beginning of this year.

Permits for foreign auditors dropped from 236 to 206 from the beginning of 2009. Similarly, accountants saw their work permit numbers drop from 730 in January to 633 by the end of June. Work permits for professional managers went down from 787 to 716.

Attorneys bucked the general trend amongst the professionals. Their work permits had dropped to 281 in February, but climbed back up slightly by June to 289. Non-professional commercial managers also increased their permit numbers slightly going from 275 in February to 289 in June.

Tourism and service jobs

Work permit numbers dropped in several areas of the tourism and service industry in the Islands as overall visitor numbers continued to fall through the early part of 2009.

Dive instructors went from 253 permits in January to 214 permits issued by the end of June. There was also a small drop in permits for food and beverage servers, falling from 1,176 permits in January to 1,094 permits in June.

Permits for chefs or skilled cooks also dropped slightly from 605 to 575, as did those for boat deckhands going from 109 to 83.

Hairdressers and cosmetologists were two categories that defied the downsizing trend in the service industry. Together, work permits for the two job classes jumped from 357 to 378.


Work permits for both skilled and unskilled labourers have fallen sharply right across the board this year.

About 100 fewer work permits existed for domestic helpers in June than did in January, and permits for unskilled labourers fell by nearly 200 in that same time.

Skilled labourer permits dropped from 773 to 744 between January and June.

Carpenters also saw a big drop in work permits, going from 924 in January to 822 in June.

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