Residency application tests under way

18 months after Immigration Law change

Approximately 350 permanent residence-seekers in the Cayman Islands will be taking the required “history and culture test” as part of their PR application over the next five to six weeks.  

The first batch of tests was given to 19 people at the University College of the Cayman Islands campus last Friday, and another 38 candidates for permanent residence took the test on Saturday, immigration officials said.  

Another group of applicants will be given the test this Friday and Saturday and each week thereafter, with the goal of completing all of the tests for current applicants around the end of June or the first week in July.  

Acting Chief Immigration Officer Bruce Smith said Monday that the department is attempting to get the history and culture tests done without further delay due to the earlier holdups that have occurred in hearing permanent residence applications under the revised Immigration Law. 

“We’re trying to get this done as quickly as possible,” Mr. Smith said. “The applicants are getting very anxious.”  

According to records provided by the Immigration Department in late March, 337 residency applications had been received since changes to the law made that status far more difficult to obtain. Since Oct. 26, 2013, when amendments to the Immigration Law took effect, none of the PR applications has been heard because of legal uncertainty surrounding how to interpret the points system that governs whether an applicant will be successful. That legal uncertainty was cleared up earlier this year, and the next step is for the prospective permanent residents to take the history and culture test, which accounts for up to 20 points on their PR application. Successful applicants must receive 110 points out of a possible 215 to gain PR, which is the right to remain in Cayman for the rest of one’s life.  

A number of applicants who took the history and culture test that was administered under the old Immigration Law have privately expressed frustration to the Cayman Compass about questions on that 20-question test. Some of the questions provided to the Compass last year from the old test revealed that they included queries about the names of the wood beam that ran through the center of Cayman-style houses [the crosspiece], the name of the pen in which live turtles were kept [a kraal] and the name of a local fiddle player who once performed at the Grand Ole Opry [Radley Gourzong]. 

Under the new test, which has 40 multiple choice questions, each correct answer will be worth half a point, with a maximum of 20 points. Successful applicants must earn other points in a system that judges them based on numerous categories, including investment in the islands, volunteer work, their job, their earnings, their age, their nationality and any Caymanian connections they may have. 

Once the tests are complete, each application will be evaluated to determine success or failure. According to Mr. Smith, the “contentious applications” will be heard by the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board. However, applications where the person clearly has enough points to earn permanent residency, or obviously does not have enough points, can be heard by one of two Immigration Department administrative workers.  

Mr. Smith could not state exactly when applicants would begin hearing back about their permanent resident status, but with the administration of the tests, the final hurdle to the board or immigration staff considering those applications has been removed.  

Test class  

Dozens of permanent residence applicants have enrolled in a test class at the University College of the Cayman Islands since early April. The class is designed to help them study for the Immigration Department history and culture test.  

The class costs $200, not counting additional expenses for buying books, and consists of a month-long, weekend course aimed at assisting potential “new Caymanians” in taking the permanent residence test. The course can be taken on Saturday or Sunday, typically lasts for four hours, and will be taught by either UCCI professor Livingston Smith or professor Christopher Williams. Following completion of the course, UCCI will provide the Immigration Department with the names of the class participants. 

Several books available at the UCCI bookstore have been listed as approved study materials. They include: “The Cayman Islands in Transition: The Politics, History and Sociology of a Changing Society” by J.A. [Roy] Bodden, “Founded Upon the Seas: A History of the Cayman Islands and Their People” by Michael Craton and the New History Committee, and “Caymanian Expressions: A collection of sayings and phrases used in the Cayman Islands” by Kevin Goring. 

The Immigration Department is starting to process permanent residency applications. – PHOTO: CHRIS COURT


  1. Although we may at times rollover, curse and carry on about immigration and its tough rules and regulations, I accept all of this as them taking a firm stand to protect the people and fragile island we live on. Just take an observation seat one day and you will see that everyday they have a rough road to travel and a long way to go.
    Sometimes I myself scratch my head at new to do and not to do list, but switching the coin I see protection stamped on it.
    Every person who go as far as to want permanent residence and status in the island should honestly first consider their true reason for wanting to become a part of everything we do, including the right to vote. If that true purpose is not there then we need to accept that you only want to make money and leave. Not a thing wrong with that.

  2. Interesting, while I am not applying for PR, it seems like these books would be great reading and may answer a lot of questions. I think I’ll read them myself just for the knowledge and to get further insight into Caymanian history, where it was when it started and how it got to where it is today.

  3. When I first heard about the test and its very tough questions I looked up the test that USA potential citizens must pass.
    You are given a book with all the answers. Here is a sample of the questions:
    What ocean is on the west side of the USA?
    What country is to the north of the USA?
    What is the name of the current President?
    I scored 100% without even looking at the book.
    And of course this is a citizenship test. There are no tests for permanent residence in the USA.
    Certainly it is important that anyone who applies to live here full time should have a basic understanding of our history, geography and political system. But I can’t see how knowing the name of some long dead fiddler is relevant.

  4. There are two basic statistical principles required for any predictive test: reliability and validity. This test predicts nothing other than reading and memory skills. It will have absolutely no predictive value in identifying who will actually acculturate in Caymanian society.

  5. While I understand the comments of 12:42:35. I would like to point out to the writer that this is Cayman Islands, not US of A.
    Cayman Islands Immigration does not have to give the same test as US of A. Not with intention to hurt anyone, but people who come to live here need to accept that we have our own notebook of rules.
    Leave your notebook at home and pickup the Cayman Islands Handbook and use it while you are here, then leave it at the airport when you are going until you get back. Good advice.

  6. Twyla
    Of course the Cayman Islands are entitled to have their own rules.
    And they even have the absolute right to prevent any foreigner from ever taking up permanent residency here.
    That is not my point. Simply that if you are going to have a knowledge test then it should be about important, currently useful facts, not long dead fiddlers and turtle enclosures that have not been used in over 50 years.

  7. Of course Cayman is entitled to any method it chooses to select individuals for permanent residency, but when your "culture and history" test is reduced to a game of Cayman trivial pursuit, you might want to rethink what culture and history you actually want your residents to know. It seems to me you would want people to know more about the civics and historical and current political system of the island in order to be better citizens, than you would want them to know the made up names of things found around the house 50 years ago.