Term limit exemption major issue for new gov’t


A one or two-year extension of work permits for foreign workers who had reached their residency limit in the Cayman Islands is about to expire.  

By conservative estimates, at least 1,800 holders of what are known as Term Limit Exemption Permits, granted between October 2011 and March 2013, are likely to still be here by the time those permits end on 28 October, 2013.  

What will happen to those individuals is not known, but presumably – if nothing changes between now and then – all will be required to leave after the ultimate expiration of their term limit exemptions.  

According to Immigration Department data, between October 2011 and 31 March of this year, a total of 2,277 applications for term limit exemptions were approved, that number includes 405 term limit exemption renewals. Term Limit Exemption Permits can be granted for one year, with a possibility of another one-year renewal period [or until the 28 October, 2013 date is reached]. 

Statistics compiled by immigration indicated that between October 2011 and March 2013, some 3,379 people had reached the seven-year term limit on their work permits. Cayman Islands Immigration Law requires that any non-Caymanian worker not married to a Caymanian or who has not obtained key employee status to leave the islands for at least one year after having been ordinarily resident of the country for seven consecutive years. The seven year term limit on foreign workers’ residence is often referred to as “the rollover policy”.  

Subtracting the number of Term Limit Exemption Permit renewals from the 2,277 total grants, it would appear that 1,872 of the 3,379 people reaching their term limit during that time have been exempted from the rollover. That’s about 55 per cent of those who, in the normal course of business, would have been required to leave the country.  

The difficulty with the mass rollover scenario was identified by then-Immigration Review Team chairwoman Sherri Bodden-Cowan in mid-2011.  

Cayman’s labour force statistics clearly show a massive influx of people that arrived in Cayman during 2005, compared to a sharp drop in the population around the time September 2004’s Hurricane Ivan occurred. By the fall of 2004, Cayman’s total workforce was just 23,453 people, with less than 11,000 non-Caymanians comprising that group, according to the government’s Economics and Statistics Office.  

A year later, the workforce had swelled to 36,767 people with 17,439 non-Caymanians in the work force – an increase of about 6,500 non-Caymanians in the labour force in just 12 months. Moreover, in 2006 and 2007, work permit figures continued to increase the influx of foreign workers.  

Ms Bodden-Cowan said at the time that many of those workers who remained in Cayman would have reached their term limit on residency sometime between late 2011 and early 2013. She predicted a massive exodus of foreign workers from the Cayman Islands, which the country’s economy might not be able to sustain, given the prolonged economic downturn that persisted. The Term Limit Exemption Permit was one of the devices created to deal with the issue. 

Successful applicants for the exemption permit are not allowed by law to use a Term Limit Exemption Permit to legally count toward time spent in the Cayman Islands for any permanent residence application. At the moment, foreign workers must reside in Cayman continuously for at least eight years prior to applying for permanent residence.  

“They will still be rolled over upon expiry of any Term Limit Exemption Permit issued,” an Appleby analysis of the term limit exemption permit read. “Employers that have employees who are crucial to operations, and who they would like to keep in the long term should continue to make applications for key employee designation.”  

Alden McLaughlin, whose People’s Progressive Movement political party won the largest number of seats in government during last week’s general election, has said he does not support the term limit exemptions. Mr. McLaughlin said in 2011 that the proposal could lead to a different kind of bottleneck in the immigration process. Mr. McLaughlin said the exemption created “the legal fiction that you are lawfully a resident, but you are really not resident for the purposes of the law”.  

“With all of the potential that brings for legal challenge, on a number of fronts … I cannot quite understand why the government would expose itself and the country to that possibility,” Mr. McLaughlin said.  

The PPM has said in its political manifesto that the party supports eliminating the key employee provision in the country’s immigration policy and allowing all foreign workers who remain ordinarily resident in the Islands for more than seven years to apply for permanent residents. If they do not receive that designation, they would have to depart after 10 years, under the PPM manifesto plan. 


The Immigration Department on Elgin Avenue processes thousands of permit applications each year. – Photo: File


  1. Well if nothing changes between now and then that means that 1,800 jobs will be available for locals which numbers of un-employment are overwhelming that for some reason is kept in the dark. Construction work used to be a source of employment for locals now days you see developments all over the islands and the question is how many locals these developments hire? the answer is simple none! expats are good workers but we have a big problem right here at home that need to resolved, if business owner are not willing to cooperate in hiring locals I hope this new government will do something about it and is not going be a work in process in the forgotten agenda. Caymanian families are suffering in a daily basis because because of unemployment.

  2. This is not an expat versus Caymanian thing. This is a qualified versus unqualified thing. A business must be able to hire for skill needed to succeed. How many of the businesses involved will close their doors because they will lose the necessary skill and experience and not be able to find it on island? Why are there more expat workers then local workers in the first place? Its because there is a need for them. The ONLY way Caymanians can take over jobs now being done by expats and not negatively effect the businesses is if and when government gets in there and gets them the same or better training and education so they can get the jobs done the same or better than what is expected now. (Does anyone see anything happening in this regared?) Private businesses can not afford to lose money and survive like CIG does.

  3. KTRACHO’s comment shows the ignorance there is on this issue, and exposes a fundamental problem with Cayman. The problem is that there is an assumption that when a job opens up, a Caymanian can fill it, and that they provide an equal level of work. Quite frankly, this is false.

    Of these 1,800 jobs that come up, how many are really jobs that a Caymanian can step in and fill? What about the finance and legal jobs? Can Caymanians step in and fill those? How many Caymanian scuba instructors are there? Who fills the specialized jobs once the people with special skills leave?

    As for construction jobs (and all others, for that matter), why do you think it is that employers hire expats over Caymanians? Is it because they enjoy having to pay extra money in work permit fees that they would not have to pay for a Caymanian worker? Or perhaps they like training workers and then having them have to leave when the work permits expire? No Caymanian will consider the possibility that they don’t work as hard as the expats, and that they have bad attitudes and feel a sense of entitlement that keeps them from working hard. I’m not saying that’s true of all Caymanians, but it’s true of many, and no Caymanian will ever admit it. It’s always the expats’ fault. I’m sure business owners would love to hire locals, but I’m also sure there are reasons that unemployed Caymanians are unemployed.

    This island gives every possible advantage to Caymanians, as it should. There is no reason an employer would ever choose to hire a qualified expat over a qualified Caymanian. It’s time that Caymanians look in the mirror and realize that if they are not employed, the problem might be them, and not the expats or the employers.

  4. I definitely must support the voice of the Premier Alden McLaughlin on this. Consider this, if those people on work permit continue to stay on in their jobs after their time is up, how can there be an opening for a Cayman status holder or native Caymanian to obtain a job? Those people on work permit needs to go, to open the way for Caymanians needing a job. This is the reason why Social service department has such a problem. Caymanians cannot get a job so they have to turn to social service for assistance. I believe Mr Premier needs to set the record straight on this first thing. Some Caymanians are complaining about they cannot get their rooms and apartments rented because of the rollover; but what I say is they had no business building all of those rooms and apartments after Ivan Hurricane, they should have cleared the land and planted fruit trees, banana and plantain suckers and others, at this time they would have been reaping their crop and selling to the supermarkets every day. That is a sure guarantee.

  5. I am constantly meeting qualified people that want to come and work in the Cayman Islands. This has suggested to me that there is no need to adjust the Term Limit rules or continue to issue as many Term Limit Exception Permits.

    I don’t know if this is a result of the worldwide recession, but there is no shortage of qualified people wanting to come and work in the Cayman Islands.

  6. There is a moral issue to this term limit policy:-

    People are entering into marriages of conveniences because of the fear of being separated. This is one law I see that is destroying families on the island because of prematured weddings, and businesses that are losing productivity because of inexperienced workers that replaced the experienced ones.

    The onus is with Alden as the leader to properly weigh our government interests with our spiritual / familial values. I can not stress the importance of amending the rollover policy!

  7. Of course it is no surprise to more thumbs down to my comments, because all of the thumbs down are foreign workers, and I really cannot blame you for trying to secure your space; but Cayman population is angry with you for not wanting to let go. Does that not disturb you at all?

  8. @MackB

    … there is no shortage of qualified people wanting to come and work in the Cayman Islands …

    So that makes it OK to use them and discard them when finished with them?

  9. Bodden I am a bit confused with your post.

    You said People are entering into marriages of conveniences because of the fear of being separated’

    marriages of conveniences are normally used when two people are not really in love with each other but still want to stay in the country say to work.

    Then you said fear of being separated, which to me suggests that they are in love.

  10. The manager of company X is from country Y. The vast majority of foreign workers at company X are also from country Y.

    The manager from country Y gets Caymanian Status and leaves company X. The new manager at company X is from country Z. Over time people notice that the employees from country Y, that have not already received Cayman Status, are all being replaced by people from country Z (i.e. from the same country as the new manager at company X).

    While not disputing the need for foreign workers, the question is… Are local companies getting the best possible foreign workers for the money or are they getting the friends and fellow countrymen of the manager that is in charge at any given time?

  11. Here we go again, the thumbs down posse is again in action. Everyone knew the rules when they signed on the dotted line, stop trying to dictate our country’s policies. I expect the folks at the compass will be on the new premiere’s case if he doesn’t follow their lead. But, There is a term limit in effect, if you don’t agree with it, do not take the job. Cayman cannot accommodate all of the people who wish to stay and still be Cayman. But of course you would have to be a Caymanian to understand this.

  12. Very well said Jimmy Crack Corn.
    The only thing I would add is even as a business owner in the private sector, I support the high work permit fees imposed by the UDP. Even though they cost me more, I believe they give an additional advantage to Caymanians. They are an effective deter ant to businesses who would continue to employee ex-pats without taking a good look at the local labor pool first. No business wants to pay thousands of dollars in fees if they can find a qualified Caymanian replacement.
    With that said however, if businesses are willing to pay those high fees, there should not be an approval process. Immigration should not be running my business by telling me who I can hire and who I can’t. If I am willing to pay the fee, give me the employee I want!

  13. @Sonic – Did you understand the terms of your work permit when the company that you work for submitted the application; or did that company tell you that you would be able to stay in Cayman for the rest of your life?

    Also, which properly functioning democracy allows unrestricted immigration?

  14. @ jokati – You don’t need two people not in love with each other for marriage of convenience. All you need is one. The other could truly love the person and not want the person to separate.

  15. @MackB

    Did I understand the work permit when my company submitted it?
    Well I wasn’t on Island at the time…
    And the process was so long winded that I was offered another contract in the mean time…
    None of the application forms fully detail the options…
    But I WAS told the rollover system wasn’t working…

    Generally, however, countries that need to attract skilled individuals roll out the welcome mat rather than put up barriers.

    As for DEMOCRACY, A Caymanian living and working Legally in the UK gets to VOTE, (their contribution to the economy is welcome – Thanks) Even illegal immigrants in the states can register to vote!

  16. @Sonic – The company that you work for should be reported to the immigration department for misleading you about the terms of your work permit.

    What exactly were they trying to suggest by telling you that the rollover system wasn’t working? The only thing they should have communicated to you was the period of the work permit and that you should not have any expectations of a renewal.

    There is no shortage of skilled individuals wanting to come and work in the Cayman Islands and it is very possible that at the end of your contract someone even more qualified than you will be available to take up your position.

    In exactly what elections in the US are illegal immigrants allowed to vote? You need to clarify this statement. Also, how many Caymanians do you know that vote in the UK?

  17. Although I was born overseas I have lived here over 30 years. Cayman is my home.

    It has always been my policy to employ Caymanians whenever possible. In most cases they are just as hard working as people from other countries.

    Sadly there are too many exceptions. Often from people who should know better.

    Just a couple of recent examples:

    I needed some work done on my house and called a local, Caymanian owned company. Someone showed up to see what was needed and said an estimator would get back to me.
    Two weeks later no one had called so I called them. After about 3 phone calls an estimator showed up and said he would get back to me with a quote.

    That was 3 weeks ago. I have called about 5 times and been promised a call back from the scheduling department. Never happened so I got someone else to do it.

    Another job started off well with another Caymanian owned company. Guys worked here for two days then said they would see me tomorrow and finish up.

    They never showed up and calls to their company went unanswered. So I finished up the job myself and sent the boss a text saying this and that they should not return.

    Two days later the guys showed up announced ready to finish the job. I told them I had already finished the job and they weren’t needed.

    Now how hard is it to show up when you say you will and answer your phone?

    And if you’re too busy to take a job just SAY SO.

  18. Sonic – The mere fact that the UK permits BOTCs (not Caymanians)to vote in its national elections does not mean that there should be some reciprocal right or that it reflects a human rights requirement. You should note that unless you are a British Citizen, Commonwealth citizen or Irish citizen you are not permitted to vote in UK national elections even if you are living and working there.

  19. Just a simple, practical example which is what I find myself in:

    My work permit will expire later this year and I intend to try and renew it.

    If I do not get renewed, I will move off island and will do exactly the same job from outside of Cayman. That leaves a big hole in the Cayman economy as I will take my family with me.

    So people saying that 1800 jobs will open up for Caymanians are just confused– that is not how the world works these days. Skilled labor from around the world do not come to Cayman to do unskilled work. They come here because they are skilled and many of the times, very upwardly mobile people. Cayman, the Cayman economy and Caymanians need them.

  20. I totally get a lot of people’s gripes but don’t you think the blame should be placed on the folks that put the laws in place and set the plans in motion to allow this. You can’t blame and be angry at the expats for trying to get theirs, that’s what everyone does. Me personally I’d blame the leaders of Cayman. Do you think they are more concerned about the jobs openings that may or may not be created it these 1800 or so expat worker get bounced from Cayman or the money they will lose from expat fees if they are replaced by locals. It wasn’t the expats that created the Term limit exemptions it was the CIG so in my opinion that’s where the blame should be placed, I also think the finger should be pointed at the people doing the hiring not the people getting hired..

    If the CIG was really committed to creating opportunities for Caymanians in the workplace they would be doing everything they could to help them compete. I mean for the life of me I just do understand why there aren’t schools that unemployed people could go to get skills for jobs in Finance, Accounting or Hospitality a few of the biggest skills needed. Even in the high schools you’d think that in such a financial mecca as Cayman that schools would have specialty classes to prepare students so that they can compete. I am always hearing politicians saying they are looking to create jobs, but how many of these jobs will people succeed in without proper training..

    I agree that there are probably a lot of businesses that do not bother to look for Caymanian employees most likely because they don’t have faith, but I find it hard to believe that they wouldn’t prefer to hire a qualified local and not have to pay a fee and deal with the work permit board..

    On the other side of things, when people come to Cayman to work they know fine an well that there is a term limit and that’s what they signed up for so don’t be angry when your time is up just be thankful for the time you had and hopefully you prepared well for your departure. This is one reason why I understand why expat tend to not the least amount of money locally they can, simply because they know they will eventually have to leave, can anyone blame them for that. It’s called saving for a rainy day.

  21. @Concerned about Cayman

    I am somewhat concerned by the statement that you made regarding your intention to renew your work permit. Is it not the company that you work for that should decided whether or not to apply for your work permit renewal?

    There is no need for you to do your existing job outside of the Cayman Islands as there are most likely many qualified individuals that would want to come and take up your position. Also, I am not convinced that the so called ‘skilled labor’ that you talk about is as skilled as many would have us believe.

    One of the good things about your comment is that is has given me an idea for a new business that, once established, will attempt to recruit suitably qualified replacements for work permit holders prior to the expiration of their work permits. I think your comment clearly demonstrates that we can’t leave this task to the business community as there is too much greed and unethical conduct involved in the process.

    I am thinking that I can create a website listing all of the jobs that are currently held by work permit holders along with the minimum required qualifications and when the job will become available. While I understand that I will never be able to fill every possible position, I feel that this will go a long way to solving most of the problems relating to term limits and term limit exemption permits.

  22. @MackB

    You’re obviously not very familiar with the way professionals and the firms which they work for operate. In this day and age we don’t need a large physical presence to do a job, we are skilled in knowledge and technology has enabled us to operate nearly anywhere.

    There will always be need for a certain level of physical presence, but more and more professional firms are realizing they can outsource their knowledge workers from other jurisdictions. So if an employee is coming up on his term limit, but is still a valuable part of the organization he may move back to his home country or another offshore jurisdiction while still working on the same projects remotely. Once this happens more and more, firms realize they need not have as large of a presence here in the first place – why pay all those work permit fees anyway.

    As to your business idea – wow what a novel idea – planning ahead for known job openings! I’m sure none of the companies on island have thought to look ahead 6 months to predict their staffing needs and then prepare to hire someone when the jobs need to be filled. And I’m sure there aren’t at least a dozen companies already operating on island that assist these firms in finding suitably qualified employees by scouring the island the rest of the world for a hefty fee. Yeah you may have stumbled into a massive untapped need in one of the most critical areas of running a business. Maybe you could call this new industry a recruiting agency. Good luck with your venture – just don’t be surprised if someone reads your genius on this board and beats you to the punch.

  23. Clue – Your mindset is exactly what concerns many people about authorising firms to practise Cayman law outside the jurisdiction. Thanks for highlighting that this concern has a real basis.

  24. @MackB, Good luck with that there’s a site called CaymansList.com that has a section were Caymanian can post thier jobs skill for free, yet there are absolutely no listings on there. There was even an article ran last month about tour operators who couldn’t find qualified local drivers. I am sure there are plenty of companies that would be willing to hire qualified locals if they could find them, but if they don’t bother to apply for the positions or make thier intentions known what other choice do businesses have but to hire expats.

  25. Speaker,

    This doesn’t just apply to practicing law, although that is one area. Just look at the number of accounting firms and administrators using overseas offices because the politics and cost of doing business in Cayman has increased so much. Rules against practicing law outside the jurisdiction doesn’t mean every person on a team providing service needs to be located in the jurisdiction. A firm could easily have a team of associates working overseas doing research, drafting documents, etc with a smaller team here to advise and serve the client.

  26. Clue has a good point on this. Outsourcing in huge all over the world now, when is the last time you called customer service for your Credit Card or Electronics Device and got a local person on the phone. Most customer service call centers for US based companies are located overseas now, mostly in India or South America. I’ve been personal effected by this years ago when my job of 11 years was outsourced to India, simply because they got someone to do the same job from there remotely for a fraction of what they were paying me. With today’s telecommunication technology along with the World Wide Web certain type of jobs do not actually need a local presence and thanks to all the Video conferencing options available people can have meeting from all parts of the world as though they were sitting in the same room. So don’t think for a minute that companies located in Cayman won’t take advantage of this..

  27. Clue – I think you missed my point which was not that it was confined to practising law, but rather that practising Cayman law is one area in which we have the means to do something about it, and what you have disclosed shows that we should indeed do something about it.

  28. Speaker – no I got your point and addressed it with the point that you don’t necessarily have the means to prevent it. Unless you somehow find a way to prohibit people from transferring knowledge and working across borders, then you prevent nothing except having a token workforce here to comply with the letter of the law.

    We currently have a law that requires Cayman registered funds must be audited by a Cayman domiciled firm. How much actual auditing do you think occurs in Cayman versus other jurisdictions? Much of the legwork occurs in other offices and just gets reviewed and signed here. Same principle can occur in any knowledge based profession.

  29. Clue – No, you’ve got that wrong. Registered Funds require a local audit sign off, and yes that does occur in every case. No one ever imagined that meant that all audit work would be done here. And accounting is not law which is jurisdiction-based. There are effective means of enforcing the issue re the practise of Cayman law outside Cayman even if you are not aware of them. I don’t propose to discuss them here.

  30. Clue,

    We currently have a law that requires Cayman registered funds must be audited by a Cayman domiciled firm. How much actual auditing do you think occurs in Cayman versus other jurisdictions? Much of the legwork occurs in other offices and just gets reviewed and signed here.

    My estimate is 5%. Work done in CI out of work undertaken to audit all Cayman Funds.

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