Work permit numbers rebound

The Cayman Islands has about 1,000 more people employed on work permits now than it did a year ago, according to records provided by the Immigration Department.  

As of 31 December, 2012, immigration officers recorded a total of 20,823 people in the Cayman Islands employed on work permits, government contracts, or working as an operation of the law. Those figures do not include individuals who hold permanent residence or non-Caymanians who are married to Caymanians and therefore would not have to obtain a work permit for employment.  

Local laws require any foreign workers who are not married to Caymanians or who do not have permanent residence to obtain a work permit or government contract before taking a job here.  

On 31 December, 2010, immigration records showed there were 20,564 work permit holders, government contract employees and foreigners working as an operation of the law in the Cayman Islands. A year later, 31 December, 2011, that number was 19,816.  

The year-to-year increase for work permits between December 2011 and December 2012 is roughly 5 per cent.  

The figures provided by immigration are essentially a “snapshot” of what exists in the territory at a particular time. The work permit figures may change from week-to-week or even daily, but over time they can be used to determine trends.  

According to statistics, a low point for work permits was reached around late March 2011, when the overall numbers dropped to 18,828. Since then, overall permit numbers have hovered between 19,000 and 21,000 people at any given time.  

Year-end 2012 data shows the first evidence of any sort of sustained rise, albeit relatively slight, in work permit numbers since a major drop in permits that began in 2008. In the last quarter of 2008, more than 26,000 work permit holders were employed within the Cayman Islands.  

The increase at the end of 2012 appeared mainly to be due to new permit grants and the extension of hundreds of term-limited workers’ permits through the use of Term Limit Exemption permits.  

Local companies have applied on behalf of more than 1,000 non-Caymanian workers to extend their stay in the Cayman Islands beyond the normal seven-year term limit on residency set forth in the Immigration Law.  

The Term Limit Exemption Permit, or TLEP, was created in lawmakers’ 2011 amendments to the Cayman Islands Immigration Law, mainly as a way to stave off the departure of a large number of foreign workers all at once and the economic blow that could carry. Many of those who came to Cayman just after Hurricane Ivan in 2004 or early 2005 would have reached their seven-year limit on residency sometime during 2011 or 2012.  

Immigration officials have tallied some 2,350 workers in 2012 who would reach their seven-year limit on residence – often referred to as the rollover – and who would otherwise have to leave if they didn’t obtain key employee status or permanent resident status. All Term Limit Exemption Permits are set to expire in late October of this year unless government extends the legislation.  



The same five nationalities continued to possess the lion’s share of work permits and/or government contracts within the Cayman Islands as has been seen during the past decade.  

According to the Immigration Department’s data for 31 December, 2012, Jamaicans possessed 8,432 work permits or about 40 per cent of the total. Filipinos accounted for 2,678 work permits (13 per cent); individuals from the United Kingdom possessed 1,824 permits (9 per cent); Americans had 1,337 work permits (6 per cent); and Canadians were granted 1,156 work permits (5.5 per cent).  

Other nationalities possessing the greatest numbers of work permits were Hondurans (752), Indians (735), Guyanese (300), Colombians (262), Nicaraguans (259), Dominicans (250), Irish (248), South Africans (246) and Australians (205). All other nationalities in Cayman, more than 120 nationalities in total, had fewer than 200 permits per each group.  



Immigration officials made progress on reducing the numbers of individuals working in Cayman as a “operation of the law” – which means they are awaiting the outcomes of permanent residence applications or waiting to hear back on appeals of denied work permits.  

According to statistics, there were 644 people who fit into that group as of 31 December, 2012. That figure stood at 1,182 in late 2011 and at the start of 2009 it was more than 3,000.  

The number of foreign workers in Cayman on government contracts was mostly unchanged during 2012. At the end of the year, 988 people were working on government contracts. Non-Caymanians with government contracts have also dwindled since late 2008, when more than 1,500 people held those working agreements.  

Typically, government contracts are awarded only to expatriate workers. However, there are some Caymanian civil servants older than 60 who are required to obtain contracts to continue working beyond the normal retirement age. 


  1. And the unemployment numbers for Caymanians ?

    Have they gone down ?

    Meaning, are there more Caymanians in jobs than there were a year ago ?

    I choose not to live in Cayman now because I don’t intend to be competing or negotiating with any work permit holder from any foreign country… in Cayman.

    For any job for which I am fully qualified and experienced to have.

    I’ll shout and clap hands when you report a drop in unemployment numbers for Caymanians…

    The same way you’ve reported a rise in work permits for foreigners.

  2. Well that’s going to be good news for the government coffers (for this year only!). This is only temporary.

    Prediction: The insane increase in fees on work permits which happened late last year, will drive businesses to outsource to other jurisdiction or move staff off island (like my business did). The number of wp holders at 12.31.2013 will be much lower than 20,813.

    Lawyers/Accountants do not need to be on this island to work on the clients’ accounts!

  3. This government really i a big joke!

    What doe the premier have to say and do also Mario Ebanks, Sherri Bodden Cowan about the stop of granting work permit to foreigners o Caymanian can live????????

    Tic-Tac Toe!

  4. I have been trying to obtain a work permit for 6-months to no avail. My fiance has a work permit and it would be nice for us to be able to live together year round, not just 30 days at a time, but we must follow the rules of Cayman. Why not get married you ask? The alimony laws in the US. If we marry, his ex will likely take him back to court to obtain a percentage of my earnings as it is an addition to his income (once I am employed). After 25 years at my last job in the US, one would think it would be easy to secure a position, but unfortunately, that is not the case. I hear from many that they must hire a Caymanian and I know you are extremely qualified, but they will make me hire a Caymanian and train them if necessary. I love the Caymanian people, do NOT misunderstand! My point is, it is NOT easy for an expat to obtain employment unless they are in the financial arena or law as far as I have seen. It is simply frustrating that the most qualified is not given the position. I would not want to be given a job simply because of my race, religion, or other status. I believe you should earn what you receive. Just my opinion. Thank you.

  5. LuLu5

    Please inform our readers of what immigration requirements the US demands for the same qualified Caymanian as yourself, to apply for and get YOUR job in the USA.

    And then tell us what good reason you should have that job in Cayman over a qualified Caymanian…

    Except that you want to be with your husband.

    I am not anti-foreigner or anti-expat; far from it.

    What I do not agree with is that the labour requirements should be any less stringent and stringently applied in Cayman, than in the USA…or anywhere else.

    In ever other country on this planet…labour opportunities are for the NATIONALS of that country, first, foremost…and in some cases, exclusively.

    Sometimes I read comments…and see the numbers of ‘disagree’ responses to my comments…and it boggles my mind…that…

    The work permit expatriates who are having so many things to say are being so hypocritical about the fact that where they have been granted a privilege…sometimes at the expense of a Caymanian…

    Back in their own home countries, including the USA…

    NO foreigner is allowed to work unless they have become a legal resident or citizen.

    What is that saying about the goose and the gander again ?

  6. these are not my words but a lot of employers do not like to hire qualified Caymanians as they don’t tend to work as hard or come to work regularly. I have heard this from Caymanian employers as well as ex-pat employers. Also, Caymanian employers like to hire expats as they have control over them with regards to pulling work permits etc.

  7. Mustard – that is the very definition of prejudice. There are very hardworking Caymanians and there are lazy ones. You will find the same among the nationals of any country in their own country.

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