Work permits back on rise

During the typical economic doldrums of mid-September, the number of work permits held in the Cayman Islands is showing resilience, even some slight growth, according to data from the Immigration Department.  

As of Sept. 16, the overall number of work permits, government contracts and other job designations allowing non-Caymanian workers to be gainfully employed in the islands stood at 20,587.  

That number is merely a “snapshot” of immigration permits held at any one time. Typically, the total number of work permits held in the islands will vary from week to week, even day to day. However, over time, trends can be established by periodically looking at work permit numbers.  

During September 2012, the total number of permits held in Cayman was 20,112, so the rise a year later to 20,587 – about a 2.5 percent increase – is not a major increase. But looking at the work permit numbers for December 2011, during the tourism high season, the numbers stood at 19,927. By last December, that number had risen to 20,743.  

If trends are any indication, the number of work permits held in the Cayman Islands by December 2013 could rise above 21,000 for the first time in several years.  

The most recent numbers, as of Sept. 16, are being increased by two relatively new categories of permit holder.  

Those who successfully applied for Term Limit Exemption Permits within the past two years and those who have obtained permits to work within the Cayman Islands special economic zone at Cayman Enterprise City.  

According to immigration data, 1,510 people held Term Limit Exemption Permits on that date, while 92 people held permits within the special economic zone on Sept. 16.  

Without those two special categories of permit holders, the total number of work permits within the Cayman Islands would have dropped to below 19,000.  

The fate of the roughly 1,500 people residing in Cayman on Term Limit Exemption Permits still has not been resolved. All exemption permits expire by Oct. 28, when those individuals would presumably have to depart the islands.  

However, the government is working on amendments to the Immigration Law that would allow individuals on Term Limit Exemption Permits to continue working in Cayman long enough to apply for permanent residence.  

According to proposals seen by the Caymanian Compass, those exemption permit holders who are in their ninth year of residence in the islands would have to apply for permanent residence status within three months of the new law taking effect.  

Those in their eighth year of residence here would have to apply for that status sometime during that year if they wished to remain in Cayman beyond the 10-year time limit the new law will set on non-Caymanian workers’ residence.  

Premier Alden McLaughlin has said he intends for the new legislation to take effect prior to the Oct. 28 deadline for the expiry of the Term Limit Exemption Permits.  

Where are the permits?  

The Caymanian Compass received a detailed list of all jobs held by work permit holders and government contract workers in the Cayman Islands as of Sept. 16.  

The single largest category of permit holders, with 3,584 individuals, was domestic helpers, not including nannies or house cleaners. Those jobs made up 17 percent of all non-Caymanian workers on permits.  

The second largest single category of work permit holders in Cayman were waiters and waitresses, at 1,254 as of Sept. 16. The two job categories of domestic helpers and wait staff alone made up 24 percent of all work permit holders in the Cayman Islands.  

The third largest category was for government employees with 881 total contracts held by non-Caymanian workers.  

Other jobs that included a large number of work permit holders according to the Immigration Department’s records were gardeners (707), janitors (650), kitchen helpers (461), security officer (413), cooks (404), masons (392), primary school teachers (354), carpenters (323), retail cashiers (269), building construction laborers (223), dive instructors (216), lawyers (211) and bartenders (162). 


Cayman Islands Immigration Building


  1. I count 9,008 work permit holders above for unskilled workers (including gov’t workers and excluding masons, teachers, carpenters, dive instructors and lawyers). Seems that number would pretty much solve the unemployment problem here. Why is Cayman importing domestic helpers, gardeners, janitors, waitstaff, cooks, cashiers, etc?

    Doesn’t appear that it’s the financial service industry taking Caymanian jobs as lawyers are a small number and accountants don’t even make the list. But I can guarantee there aren’t several thousand qualified Caymanians sitting around unemployed.

  2. What do employers do as a hedge against inflation?. Answer; import cheaper labor. What do Caymanians do as a hedge against inflation?. Answer; tighten their belts another notch. What is broken, immigration. Who wants it fixed?. Those workers who would like to negotiate for a wage to keep up with inflation but knows that they can easily be replaced by an import. Who are the casualties, the un-employed. How do you fix it. Supply the demand with home grown before opening the gates to imports. Is it an easy fix, no! the profit lobby is strong, and their is no unity, or unions of the workers..

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