First drop in work permit renewals

Total permits fall by 1,100 in six weeks

For the first time in the last two
years, the number of work permits being renewed in the Cayman Islands has
fallen by a significant number; further foreboding a slow period for the local

Work permits are required for all
foreign employees who come to the Cayman Islands to fill jobs. The permit
numbers have continued to slide steadily since they reached a high of 26,659 in
November 2008.

By 30 June, 2010, the Immigration
Department recorded 21,527 people on work permits in Cayman, including those
who were working in public sector jobs. That’s a drop of about 19 per cent in
less than two years.

However, the June figures for work
permits also reveal that the drop occurring is not just the typical summer
leaving of temporary positions such as hospitality industry workers, teachers
and the like. Rather, the figures tended to show that permanent jobs were
leaving the Cayman Islands.

First the first time since late
2008, work permit renewals – those are for individuals who have already lived
in Cayman for at least a year and are renewing their permits for at least
another full-year term – have dropped significantly.

Between March 2010 and June, there
were nearly 500 fewer permit renewals recorded by the Immigration Department.
That figure had not fluctuated much over the past two years; it had even increased
slightly between November 2009 and March of this year.

But the decline of 473 permit
renewals between March and June was something that had not been seen in recent

Between March and June, the total
number of work permits in the Cayman Islands dropped by nearly 1,600 issues.
The vast majority of those were the permit renewals (473) and a big drop in new
full-year work permits issued. The number for new full-year permits fell by

New work permit issues by
immigration has fallen steadily over the past two years; going from 7,572 new
permit issues in November 2008, to 6,947 in November 2009, to 5,854 as of 30

Local industries began experiencing
a sharp decline in work permit numbers by late last year, led by the
construction industry and financial services.

According to the government’s
Economics and Statistics Office, construction industry permits fell by 23 per
cent between 2008 and 2009, while permits in the financial services industry
dropped 16 per cent as did work permits issued for hotel and condominium

Restaurants and bars, as well as
private housekeepers, saw a slight decline (about four per cent) in permits
over that period.

Cayman Islands government contracts
– issued to foreign workers and Caymanians older than 60 who are still employed
in the civil service – dropped by 13 per cent between 2008 and 2009.

“Expatriate labour…decreased by
11.2 per cent – the largest contraction since the late 1990s,” the statistics
office report noted.

So far this year that trend has
continued, according to figures obtained by the Caymanian Compass through a
Freedom of Information request.

Working through backlog

There are still more than 1,400
people in the Cayman Islands who are “working as an operation of law” – which
means they are awaiting the outcome of applications for permanent residence, or
an appeals of work permit denials.

That number was once as high as
3,277 in November 2008, due to backed up applications made when the country’s
seven year term limits policy for foreign residents took effect.

The Immigration Department has previously
said that it was struggling to contact some of those people and deal with individuals
who may have made frivolous applications for permanent residence.

There was also a backlog of some
1,500 work permit applications earlier this year, but Chief Immigration Officer
Linda Evans said the Work Permit Board had brought that number down to around
1,000 by June.


  1. The recession has indeed played a role, but as the cost of doing business here in the Cayman Islands continues to rise, businesses must shrink operations and seek more attractive locations to operate in. The finance industry is mobile, able to relocate with little impact to service – Cayman has reached the tipping point.

  2. really no one to blame but government…
    When the economy slows down, gov’t needs to stimulate it with lowering fees, set incentives for people and industry to spend more money and increase gov’t spending.
    Cayman has done everything wrong:
    – 7 year roll over policy
    – not cutting LA salaries the 20% but instead cutting 3%
    – increasing work permit fees
    – increasing duty on alcohol, imports and now fuel (utilities)
    – signing all these tax treaties

    Expats and multi-national corps will dwindle to nothing soon, they have all realized it is way to expensive to operate here and they really have no need to be in Cayman when there are cheaper less invasive countries to go to.

    These decisions will hurt Cayman for many more years to come.

  3. Why do you think the rents are going down. And no one can sell thier houses. So the housing market is at an all time low, and going to dip lower.

    another year or two of this, and the housing market is going to be on thier knee’s. Rents are going to be bargain basement prices. All good for the rest of the people that stay.

  4. Only in Cayman banks charge you for using your own money (not for services provided).I am not talking about governmental fees. Every time you use your debit card, on top of the stamp fee, bank charges you another fee. $3 purchase with debit card will cost you additional .65cents, or 21%. Bank of Bermuda refunds you at the end of the year 1% of all purchases made with debit card. They, like all US Banks, earn money charging merchants, not debit card holders. No Banks I know of charges you for withdrawals from your own account, from the Bank’s ATM. And we have yet to see "service" they provide.

  5. "Would the last person out of the Cayman’s please turn out the lights".

    I’m sorry to say it’s starting to look that way, where’s the leadership in reversing this unprosperous trend.

    Stewards of current government must now step-up passionately recognize this insidious catastrophe and get pro-active.

    If you think drugs, burglary, violence and crime are increasing now, imagine a future with high unemployment, under funded government, lack of services and depreciating infrastructure.

    How many quality investors,tourists skilled doctors, educators and professionals would enjoy that climate yearly.

    Time to see the need and opportunity to revitalize sustainable growth, a new trend.

  6. Cayman is in a spiral down, and no-one at the government level is making any attempts to remedy it. Is the hospital being built (what hospital?) Are the commercial docks being relocated built (well, we’re not sure about that, the people of EE don’t want it). Are new cruise ship docks being built (not yet, we don’t know what to do about the commercial port yet, guess we need more feasibility studies and environmental impact studies — check back in 5 years). So the fact that work permits are down is a shock to anyone???

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