An independent study recommends
increasing the number of foreign workers in the Cayman
Islands as a way to boost government revenues.
Adding 1,000 work permits within
the next five years in skilled and top professional categories would eventually
earn up to $12.5 million a year in additional permit fees for government, the
recently completed Miller Commission report stated.
The report, requested by the United
Kingdom government and completed by US economist James Miller, UK lawmaker
David Shaw and Cayman Islands Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson, also recommended
cutting the costs of work permit fees by 5 per cent across the board.
The government raised work permit
fees in the beginning of this year, doubling the costs in some employment sectors.
Right now, work permit fees account
for approximately ten per cent of Cayman’s government revenues each year.
Work permits are legally required
to be obtained by any company wishing to employ a foreign national in the Cayman Islands. There are more than 20,000 people employed
in Cayman’s private sector on work permits.
“An average work permit, according
to one estimate, generates $39,000 of indirect spin-off benefits to the private
sector each year,” the Miller Commission report stated, adding that skilled
foreign workers help widen Cayman’s available skill base and can help educate
the local population.
The report’s authors stated it
would be more beneficial to Cayman in the medium to long term to increase work
permit numbers, reduce the costs of each individual permit, and allow workers
in certain industries to stay beyond the current seven-year term limit on
residency set out in the Immigration Law.
“Our research has revealed that
recent increases in the fees for Cayman work permits have made them extremely
expensive when compared with other countries,” the report read. “Nevertheless,
this is one area where government might still be able to raise additional revenue.”
“There is potential for increasing
and extending certain permit fees is government is willing to liberalise the
permit regime and allow longer stays and/or greater chance for permanent
The report recommended making the
seven-year term limit (nine for workers designated as key employees) more
flexible for skilled professionals.
“A newly qualified professional
accountant or lawyer will cost a private-sector business about $80,000 a year
in salary and work permit fees, and a senior level professional might cost
$150,000 or more,” the report stated.
One thousand new work permits might
generate an estimated $150 million in gross revenues; of which a projected $39
million in indirect expenditures would flow to the local economy, the Miller Commission
“While this scenario is a possible
one, the current situation in Cayman is not capable of delivering it,” the
report’s conclusion stated, recommending that government do more to encourage
high-skilled business activities to relocate and remain in the Islands.
The final recommendation contained
in the section of the report that dealt with work permit issues was to sell
permanent residency and/or citizenship rights to as many as 1,000 high net
worth individuals who meet appropriate vetting criteria.