Ritz, Foster’s, Maples, top list of work permit employers

Cayman Islands Department of Immigration records show the government’s proposal to increase work permit fees will impact businesses in a variety of sectors. 

The 10 per cent expatriate tax is off the table and has been replaced by an array of measures, including progressive increases in work permit fees. 

In response to an information request from the Caymanian Compass, the Immigration Department provided a list of the 10 private businesses in the Cayman Islands who employ the most work permit holders. The businesses include hoteliers, retailers, law firms and financial services companies. 


Largest employers 

Cesar Hotelco (Cayman), the company that controls The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, tops the list with 578 employees on work permits, according to the department’s records on business staffing plans. That’s followed by Foster’s Food Fair (332 work permit holders), the Maples group of companies (183), Luxury Hotels – the company behind the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort (165), KPMG (149), Walkers (130), PwC (123), Reliable Industries (120), The Security Centre (118), Kirk Freeport Plaza (105) and Island Companies (105). 

The list does not include the number of employees who are Caymanian or permanent residents with the right to work. According to the department, even though companies that submit business staffing plans must include the number of Caymanians, non-Caymanians and permanent residents, the department does not record the number of Caymanians by employer, nor does it track the number of permanent residents by employer. 

Island Companies is the only listed business that is part of the Dart Group, which overall would be one of the largest employers of work permit holders.  

Each Dart entity (for example, Cayman Distributors, Dart Realty, DECCO, etc.) is recorded in the department’s database separately, and officials were unable to combine all of those separate companies to arrive at a single number 
of work permit holders 
for Dart. 

Big government  

The list demonstrates that the Cayman Islands government is by far the largest employer of non-Caymanians. As of 30 June, 2011, core government employed 991 non-Caymanians (and 2,628 Caymanians). Additionally, statutory authorities and government-owned companies employed 542 non-Caymanians (and 1,649 Caymanians). Overall, 1,533 non-Caymanians were employed in the public sector, 26 per cent of the total number of public employees. 

Just by itself, the Department of Education employed 292 non-Caymanians (and 437 Caymanians), and the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service employed 206 non-Caymanians (and 219 Caymanians), as of 30 June, 2011. The Health Services Authority employed 343 non-Caymanians (and 401 Caymanians). 


Different increases 

According to government’s latest proposal, the increases in work permit fees would range from 10 per cent to 35 per cent, with more expensive work permits seeing greater percentage increases. While the department’s list does not break out the categories of work permit holders by business, it stands to reason that law firms and accounting firms, even though they may employ fewer numbers of work permit holders, may end up seeing bigger total increases in their work permit fees than, say, hoteliers and retailers. 

For example, the existing work permit fee for a certified accountant is $10,500 and for an attorney is $12,500, both of which would be subject to a 30 per cent increase under the government’s latest proposal – increases of $3,150 per accountant and $3,750 per attorney. Meanwhile, the work permit fee for a food and beverage server is $1,000 and for a retail cashier is $1,000. Those fees would be subject to a 5 per cent increase – $50 per server or cashier. 

Rtiz Carlton Grand Cayman

Cesar Hotelco (Cayman), the company that controls The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, tops the list with 578 employees on work permits, according to the department’s records on business staffing plans. – Photo: File


  1. The professional firms with a large staff are no doubt already looking at outsourcing work to other locations. That’s a lot of money for Maples.

    The hotels though, and places like Fosters are just going to have to suck it up. Their only choices will be to pay higher fees, or to offer higher salaries to the small pool of qualified Caymanians with a good work ethic.

    Either way this will not be a good thing for the Cayman economy. Everything is going to get even more expensive, except the price of rent on some very nice accommodations as the professionals leave.

  2. Thank you Patrick for this story.

    Why does the Cayman Island Government need to import so many workers?
    Why are half the police force from overseas? These are decent, well paying jobs.
    How about Fosters. Are they prejudiced against employing their own countrymen? I doubt it.

    I understand that being a hedge fund attorney, for example, is highly skilled and specialized. But why are there so few Caymanian legal secretaries?

    It would be interesting to see a breakdown of work permit holders vs. Caymanians by job.

    Example: How many Caymanian vs. work permit hair dressers, car mechanics, doctors, nurses, labourers, maids etc.?

    I say again that there needs to be government assisted further education programs.

  3. Caymanians unemployed or in the civil service must now look at taking up posts in education and police service in order for the CIG to start eliminating jobs held by contracted workers.

    @longtermresident re need for legal secretaries from overseas, in my opinion the attorneys are made to feel they can’t be replaced and must have whatever they want ie secretaries from their homeland or firing Caymanians they don’t like. It would be interesting to do a report on largest work permit holder law firm and look at the secretaries in each department/team, for eg do we note that the lawyers from Australia have Australian secretaries?
    Do we see more of one nationality in the same department/team? discrimination against Caymanians and or a preference given to their own nationals?

    why cant immigration boards really address this issue? does having so many work permits in the first place (whether necessary or not) actually allow an employer to have greater say since they can threaten loss of revenue? does the immigration board feel the first object is to satisfy revenue criteria hence impossible to refuse applications?

  4. Long Time Resident

    Please take off the blinkers old man. Your observations you have made suggests you just dont get it.

    Caymanians will pay dearly for this economic plan of the Bushites. Woody Foster is no fool and at the end of the day, we the consumer will get the kick in the face that this plan produces.

    The dart board approach is alive and well. Who knows, someday Bush might hit the board.

  5. Most companies in Cayman are owned by local businessmen guess who pays these new taxes ? You do because prices will go up.I guess Mac is trying to catch Bermuda as the most expensive island to live on do business.Sometimes being #1 in something is not good.

  6. This is a little interesting I recall Bush saying the these increased fee will encourage people to hire more Caymanians in positions that expats currently fill. But I find it strange that the lower fees are on the position that require less skills and would more easily be filled by local people such as cashiers and Food and beverage handles. And before to start yelling at me please everyone understand that I am not at all saying that these are the only positions that Caymanians can hold, I am only saying that people who hold these type of positions are more easily replaced. Whereas a CPA, Lawyer or Paralegal is harder to find. I’d think that if he really want to push businesses hard to hire locals he would have raised the fee across the board. Come on really how is an extra 50 Bucks on top of 1000 going to encourage someone to hire a local person over an expat. This will still probably be cheaper than hiring a qualified local.

    Longtermresident has a good point a breakdown of work permit holders per profession would also assist young people with choices of what type of training they want to get to prepare for a specific type of Job

  7. The permit fee increase is really a joke 5 10 15 20 25 percent is not deterring clay institutions and businesses etc from hiring foreign laborers. CHEAP labor has taken the world by storm, and Immigration is an Apostolic event. Am sure you can find caymanians to work in most of these positions, IF not let company train and educate Caymanians by awarding scholarships and so on or don’t give them a business license simple which side is the Government on any way. I’ll ask the question who runs the Immigration network here. WE’RE all alone caymanians there’s no end to the game. THE budget is more important than little old us…

  8. @Bubba
    I’m sorry but I feel it is you who does not get it.
    It appears there are few career choices for middle-class Caymanians other than the civil service.

    But every one of these jobs is supported by taxes.

    We MUST make it possible for Caymanians to work in other fields. Of course not everyone is smart enough to manage a hedge fund, I certainly am not, but it is self defeating to import so many workers if Caymanians are capable and willing to do these jobs.

  9. Well, if some of those at Immigration Dept were made redundant we could save some money there cos they can’t even add a few figures manually, according to this:

    Each Dart entity (for example, Cayman Distributors, Dart Realty, DECCO, etc.) is recorded in the department’s database separately, and officials were unable to combine all of those separate companies to arrive at a single number of work permit holders for Dart.

  10. Long Term Resident

    The term entitlement is causing much grief in this country.

    As soon as you get it that we are entitled to nothing in this world, you too will understand. Where I come from, the edge goes to the citizens of the country afte all is said and done.

    Caymanians seem to think that entitlement is a way of life.

  11. To read this article … that Walkers is one of the top employers with some (130) work permits is really a great concern. What has immigration or government done about the Caymanians that were made redundant by Walkers in the past 3 or 4 years, but yet they still have this number? I know what nothing was done because the Caymanians don’t bring in revenue to the Government, and the work permit fees do.

    With the numerous complaints lodged with the Immigration Department how is this able to continue the granting and renewals of work permits when Caymanians are let go.

    This is called Caymanians fighting against Caymanians and it will not get any better.

  12. In the development of the recent budget crisis, and relations with expats, I can not help but see that the normal forum denizens here have all but given up with their CAPSLOCK posts.

    This budget crisis is serious and inflammatory material really doesn’t help anyone. I have to wonder though if an order was given to quit posting such material, or did the normal forum denizens finally wake up?

  13. First they tried to drive us off with the expat tax. Now they are going to stick it to the Ritz with a higher permit fee. Forcing a more aggressive hiring of Caymans who don’t want service jobs to begin with. The hotels and resorts are all struggling to keep afloat. The government will not ever get what they planned for on the higher permit fees and once again be in deficit mode. But mission accomplished by driving more expats off the island and getting the coveted votes.

  14. @Bubba… they only people who are feeling ENTITLED are expats, period! they control the politicians, decide which Caymanians to hire, which Caymanians will get employment, they are holding he claim of being so unique and necessary that with all the unemployed around the GLOBE they can’t be replaced.

    Bet if we set work permits to 3 years tops, controlling expenses, revenue and sense of entitlement would be a lot easier. We can’t hire every unemployed West Indian, Canadian and Austrailian….nope not possible.
    Clearly though, the West Indians dominate the CIG and unskilled positions, the others dominate the unskilled (never for long, they are soon moved along to higher paying jobs) and professional categories and guess what? In my opinion, it is almost arguable that the professionals are now being targeted because the ‘majority’ of unskilled CIG expats are ‘highly influential….see how they are are exempt from Labour Laws additional fees and most of nation building is probably going to their churches??!!! Trust me, even the expats who are ‘doing well’ and in the minority are being treated as threats and the anger is not mainly from native Caymanians.

    Funny though, persons calling us entitled are saying that and one second later making demands about what they deserve because they HAVE to pay for housing, food and entertainment while making money and living in paradise.

  15. This is an interesting debate.

    Cayman Islands work permit fees are still relatively low. I remember about 10 years ago or more when the Bahamas upped the work permit fee for a dive instructor to 3000 dollars (they now want 4000!). It was all gloom and doom but it appears the people who I heard complaining at the time are all still in business. Mind you they do have more local staff now. Even somewhere with a low cost of living like Egypt has about a 500 dollar annual work permit for dive instructors and TCI are currently charging 3000 dolars.

    However, I do have some sympathy with employers like Ritz-Carlton who have tried to recruit local staff only to regret it afterwards.

    Back in 2007 I went to R-C to do a promo story and very nearly never got past reception because the local employees on duty were either unable to speak and understand basic English or just could not be bothered. After messing around for 15 minutes, during which time everyone supposedly on duty conveniently vanished, the ex-pat (Scottish I think) front desk manager came out to do a routine check and solved the problem in about 20 seconds. I have had better hotel service in Albania and Russia from people who actually did not speak any English at all but were at least professional enough to make every effort to help their customers. It is an attitude issue and if you cannot get over it do not complain when high-end employers like R-C take on ex-pats rather than locals.

  16. OK Could we sort this out by an online Poll?

    I see the ratio in the Department of Education is about 2 to 3, Given the importance of education and the fact the government has spent 20m on schools;-

    What are peoples criteria for hiring a Teacher?

    A) Hire the BEST possible teacher regardless of nationality.

    B) Hire a Caymanian if there is one who is close (e.g. 75%) and train them, only then consider a non Caymanian

    C) Give any Caymanian teacher preference, even if they lack the required a experience or expertise in the subject (Maths Teachers for Physics?)

    D) Any Caymanian can do the job

    Personally I don’t think we need the poll, because everyone should be answering A).

    Why then do people suddenly see D) as a correct answer when applied to a business?

    Business’ only reason to exist is to make the owners and investors money, and anyone who thinks they’d waste 10k on a work permit just to avoid giving a Caymanian a job needs a serious reality check!

    The simple equation is;-

    Caymanian ( Extra 10k profit) vs. Expat

    Any business would glady hire a transvestite circus freak rather than paying even a few extra dollars to goverment, let alone thousands! So why won’t they hire a Caymanian?

    The answer is simple – the Caymanians that can do the job DONT EXIST, They are phantoms, apparitions, figments of a deranged imagination. They are works of fiction conjured up by politicians to justify additional revenue extortion on business, and of course there are always some to jump on that bandwagon bleating Expats Bad, Expats Baaaaad

    Its easy to underestimate the skills and experience jobs require. I’ve seen that Tiger Woods guy, I could get a few of them golf stick thingies and I’d be able to give him a run for his money in a couple of weeks…
    A school leaver applying for a management job thinks they could be trained easily too. But the skills gap is just too large for a company to invest the time and money required even if they pay them a trainee wage – it’s a gamble too, they are free to go and work elsewhere once trained.

    I grew up in a village with a population of 20,000 (compares to cayman at 50,000) and everyone understood that there were only limited fields open if you wished to stay in the village – you accepted that reality and took ANY job you could get OR moved to get the job you want, you also took any chance to better your odds – I paid over 1000 for a training course 2 hours, 2 nights a week because I needed that qualification to advance. I’ve helped manage multi-million dollar projects but I’ve also worked in a Bar.

    Expats are not taking Caymanian jobs, they are bringing world class skills, which in turn brings prosperity to the island. The jobs are equally out there for Caymanians and those who set their sights on realistic goals and work hard are valued both by management and their colleagues. Look at the figures above – even the Government needs those Expat skills.

    Remember also that there are Caymanians who have landed good jobs abroad too, hopefully they’ll return someday bringing a wealth of skills and experience back to the island (and someone is bound to resent them for that too!).

  17. Sonic, how tragically mistaken you are. The unemployed/underemployed Caymanians do exist. I have personally seen their applications concealed from immigration at permit renewal time. Tell us, what should we do when the Caymanian dive master has no Hawaii experience, or the Caymanian waiter cannot speak German required for efficient communication in the kitchen, or the Caymanian Masseuse does not speak Japanese? Would you call for the closure of businesses that treat capable Caymanians that way? How surprised are you really to see a backlash arise?

    And if you want a pure meritocracy for all positions, with everyone competing directly globally for every position, I hope you are not employed. Whether you are Caymanian or not I am pretty sure that your employer can find someone as good as you at a lesser price from somewhere in the world. That is exactly why the UK has shut it’s doors to most Indian lawyers – to protect it’s own. Maybe we should just try to keep a reasonable balance before views get too extreme on either side.

    It’s not good when they chase those crazy ball heads out of town. I’ve already seen it happen once – you plainly have not.

  18. Dreamer: The Romans thumbs have spoken, down with the nay say, while the locals coward in exclusion.. Knowing the averages I see thumbs down as having driven home the point into a bias ear.

  19. Lantern

    Read the post

    The point is not that there arent unemployed caymanians.

    The point is they don’t correspond to the jobs available.

    Their skill set falls so far outside what the business needs that the expat gets the job by default.
    To undo a Bolt you need a Spanner/Wrench, A Hammer (even if made in cayman) just wont do.

    If a business needs a Divemaster today, should THEY have to spend the thousands and wait for several months. Most DM’s have paid their own way to get there and a Caymanian wanting to go into the industry can approach any diveshop on island and ask about an internship – they’ll work 4-6 months for free but get about 8 to 10k in value of courses, that is not a bad salary.

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