The hidden costs of permanent residence applications

Unstated costs involved in applying for permanent residence in the Cayman Islands can add thousands of dollars to what is an already pricey endeavor for those seeking to remain in Cayman for the rest of their lives, local attorneys and immigration advisors warn. 

The upfront costs of an initial PR application were greatly increased when the government amended the Immigration Law in October 2013. Those amendments included requirements to pay a one-year work permit fee, a one-time fee based on salary, a $1,000 application fee and any dependants’ fees. If the application is denied, everything but the $1,000 fee is returned to the applicant or the company supporting them. 

However, those costs, which can range from $3,000 to $30,000 or even higher depending on who is filing the application, do not include other costs associated with filing for permanent residence. 

Those costs, depending on what is required, can add anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars to the application fees. Most of those costs are associated with official documents that must be submitted in support of the permanent residence application. 

“People rarely give [these fees] much consideration in advance of applying,” said Daniel Altneu, an immigration attorney with the Samson and McGrath law firm. “[However] the [total] fees are considerable in all applications. 

“I submitted one last week where the applicant was a high earner, had two children and a spouse listed as dependants and … the total fees submitted with the application [were] almost $40,000.” 

Business costs 

One such area given little consideration by both applicants and the companies they work for is the period between the application for permanent residence and the final ruling on that application. 

The issue arises every six months when an applicant with an expired work permit must seek permission to continue working from the Immigration Department. 

“Given the current delays in processing … this can present cash flow issues and other challenges to businesses and individual applicants who may have very recently paid a full year’s permit fee as part of their PR application,” said local immigration attorney Nicolas Joseph of HSM Chambers. 

Mr. Joseph explained further: “Take the example of a person with a $10,000 [annual fee] work permit [who] may have a nine-year term limit in January. When they apply in December for PR, their employer will usually provide CI$10,000 towards the application cost. Two weeks later they will have to pay $5,000 in relation to the permission to continue working application and, six months later, a further $5,000. The result is that in that first year CI$20,000 is paid to Immigration in respect of the equivalent of work permit fees, in relation to a worker whose annual work permit fee is only half that.” 

The good news is, once the application is approved, the applicant has already paid the first year’s permanent residence fees, Mr. Joseph said. If the employer does not support the application, the initial costs must be borne by the applicant. 

Security and health 

The Immigration Department requires that all applicants for permanent residence have a clean police record and are in reasonably good health. The cost of obtaining a local police clearance from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service is $25 per application. Applications are not required for dependent children under 18 years of age. 

A medical questionnaire and series of tests are required of the permanent residence applicant and spouse. The costs of those can vary, but they are typically between $100 and $150 per person. In addition, passport-type photos are required to be submitted for the applicant and each dependant. Those cost $15 apiece at Island Photo. 

Financial/professional records 

Applicants must also prove they have the requisite education, professional experience and financial investment in the islands. 

In order to do this, a number of documents must be provided, including birth certificates, university degrees, bank letters, up-to-date land registry information – if the applicant owns a house or a business – and other associated fees. 

If the original copies of those records are not available, they must be certified by a notary public. The cost of that can range from free to $25 per document. 

Mr. Joseph said, in practice, some of the records should already be in immigration’s files if the person had previously applied for a work permit. However, other records will have to be mailed from overseas, he said. 

The cost of obtaining official bank letters is $20 per letter. Updated land register documents, of which two are required, cost a total of $40. 

Getting a professional valuation of an applicant’s property or business can cost between $400-$600, but Mr. Joseph said those are no longer legally required under the amended Immigration Law. 


Applicants also have the potential costs of paying $200 to take a four-week course on Cayman Islands history at the University College of the Cayman Islands. 

The course is to assist applicants in taking a 40-question test as part of the process.  

However, additional costs of taking the course can include $60 to $100 in books to assist in studying for the test. 

Legal fees 

The permanent residence application process has become increasingly complex over the years and many applicants choose to retain the services of either a specialist human resources firm or licensed attorneys to assist them in the process. 

The professional firms can charge between $75 and $200 per hour, while attorneys’ fees are more. Some companies charge a flat fee for the provision of immigration services. 

“With the uncertainty surrounding appeals, the fact that all appeal submissions are now made in writing … there is an even greater emphasis on ensuring that the initial application is correctly submitted, contains properly-worded submissions and is supplemented by all requisite supporting information and documentation so as to ensure the best possible chance of a grant of PR at first instance,” Mr. Altneu said. 

There are a plethora of costs involved in applying for permanent residence through the Immigration Department in the Cayman Islands.

There are a plethora of costs involved in applying for permanent residence through the Immigration Department in the Cayman Islands.

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  1. This is the unfortunate side effect of having a small island. If we made living here free, we’d run out of space in no time. I’m not saying I agree with the fees since ‘d never want to pay them, but for those who feel "wronged" by them, how else would you bottleneck an influx of people who’d want to remain on this small island?

  2. Mr Shaw, if this is the case , why do the Island have so many people that do not pay the fees and still remains on the Island. I would like to see someone from Government/Immigration explain why all of these costs are included, and laws are not enforced , when the Islands needs the work force to sustain a growing economy.

  3. i live here and that is expensive so i can only think that getting the right to live here is more expensive but thousands and thousands keep coming to live the dream of a better life so that demand sends up the cost. I think that is apart of economics of anywhere..

  4. There is one more area of expenses which is difficult to estimate but is definitely material – cost of forced financial decisions pushed on applying person by requirements of the law. Owning apartment is not the best option for everyone. Holding cash at 0.01% in Cayman-based bank is not the best option for everyone. Being locked in owning your apartment (being able to exchange it only for more expensive apartment) is not good for anyone. It can get people with not really enough income getting into mortgage for house they can’t really afford and running low on retirement funds because of that.

    In some cases they would not get PR and would thus lose stamp duty on property. In other cases they would get PR and status later on and result of their bad financial decisions would also become Cayman Islands problem.

    This is another hidden cost of PR application – difficult to estimate, but very real.

    Other countries somehow survive without term limit and without letting anybody who wants to stay in the country forever (read – for retirement or when lost job). Some people apply for PR only because they want to keep the job, not because they want to live in CI forever.

  5. This is surely a huge discouragement to anyone considering applying for PR with hopes of becoming a permanent part of the Caymanian community. Outside of someone needing to do it to keep their job or the super rich that are burdened with Taxes from other jurisdictions, where’s the value for seeking PR, especially when you’ll be treated, referred to and looked upon like driftwood anyway..

  6. The question is much simpler

    Inward or Outward investment?

    At the moment policy is actually stacked against inward investment.

    If we consider the 22,000 workers on permits, multiply that by the average wage (I seem to remember a figure of 40K quoted a couple of years ago).
    This gives a figure of 880 MILLION.

    The work permit sector contribute over a billion US$ to Cayman – that is WITHOUT the work permit fees!

    The message, written between the lines of this policy is clearly an ”unwelcome mat”, so there can be no complaint from either party.

    Expats will live out of a suitcase while here, make no major capital investments, nor bring in funds from their home country to buy property – The policy prevents that form of inward investment with the associated boost to the economy. At the end of their tenure here, they will leave and take their earnings with them.

    Caymanians often criticise the expats for doing exactly that, yet nobody appears interested in removing the barriers which to all intents and purposes make it the only possible option.
    A quarter of a billion dollars or more leaves the island annually because of this and the roll-over.

    The other thing to consider is that if the policy is weighted to the point where only millionaires need apply, won’t the cost of living on island get higher for everyone?

    They won’t end up building a branch of Walmart – it will be a branch of Harrods! And most Caymanians won’t be able to afford to shop there.

  7. Yes Caymanians constantly criticize expats for sending money home to support their families and saving their earnings for when they will be kicked to the curb. What I don’t understand is why this is not expected with the way Expats are viewed in Cayman even if they’re granted PR or Status.

    Maybe legislation should be passed that would force expat to spend all of their hard earned cash locally in lieu being able to send it home. See how quickly that number changes from 22,000 and see if it works out for the best for Cayman.