Lindsay: The right to be Caymanian, and losing it

Alric Lindsay

A highly debated topic in the Cayman Islands is who is a real Caymanian. The informal definition is that a “Caymanian” is a person who is “born and bred” in the Cayman Islands. The more formal meaning under the current immigration law (the “Law”), is that a “Caymanian” is a person who possesses Caymanian status under the repealed Immigration Law (2003 Revision) or any earlier law providing for the same or similar rights, and includes a person who acquired that status under Part III of the Law.

Some of the common types of acquisition of such status are described in more detail below.

Caymanian as of right under section 21 of the Law

“Caymanian as of right” means a child:

  • born on or after Jan. 1, 2004 whether in or outside the Cayman Islands, at the date of whose birth at least one of his parents was settled in the Cayman Islands and was Caymanian;
  • born outside the Cayman Islands, after the Jan. 1, 2004, at the date of whose birth at least one of his parents was Caymanian otherwise than by descent; or
  • acquiring the status of Caymanian under section 21 of the repealed Immigration Law (2003 Revision) or under any earlier law conferring the same or similar rights.

Caymanian by grant of the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board under section 22 of the Law

The Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board may, subject to certain considerations under the Law, grant the right to be Caymanian to:

  • any person who has attained the age of 18 years, satisfies the Board that he is the child or grandchild of a Caymanian born in the Cayman Islands and is not otherwise entitled to the right to be Caymanian; or
  • any person who is a British Overseas Territories Citizen by reason of a certificate of naturalization or registration issued under the British Nationality Act, 1981.
  • Right to be Caymanian “by entitlement”
  • The right to be Caymanian by entitlement means entitlement by a person by virtue only of his being, in the determination of the Chief Immigration Officer, the child of a Caymanian who is under the age of 18 years and is legally and ordinarily resident in the Cayman Islands for a period of not less than one year.

Losing the right to be Caymanian granted by the Board

The right to be Caymanian granted by the Board may be lost:

  • where the holder has supplied false or misleading information in a material particular, to the Board;
  • where the holder has ordinarily resided outside the Cayman Islands for a period of five years and can no longer be said to be settled in the Cayman Islands;
  • where the marriage of the holder, being the spouse of a Caymanian, is deemed by the Board to have been a marriage of convenience; or
  • where within three years of the grant to the spouse of a Caymanian of the right to be Caymanian under the Law or any earlier law, the marriage of the holder has broken down, has declined to the point where the parties have separated as a result of a decree of a competent court or a deed of separation or no longer subsists.

Losing the right to be Caymanian by entitlement

The holder of the right to be Caymanian by entitlement under the Law or under any analogous provision in an earlier law may lose that right where he has not been legally and ordinarily resident in the Cayman Islands for a period of seven years immediately before reaching the age of 18 years. Such person shall notify the Chief Immigration Officer forthwith of the relevant circumstances involving his legal and ordinary residence in the Cayman Islands and wilful failure to do so is an offense.

Giving up the right to be Caymanian

In respect of any rights granted under the Law, the holder may relinquish such rights of his own free will by advising the Board or the Chief Immigration Officer in writing and upon that relinquishment that person shall cease to enjoy any of the rights associated with that grant.

Why you should not give it away or lose it

Maintaining your status as a Caymanian means that you are at the top of the list under the law for prospective employers to consider for job opportunities. It also indicates that you may be able to cast a vote, have an easier transition into opening a business which is 100 percent owned by you and, of course, all of the other benefits attached to citizenship. Giving up this right or losing it would appear to lead to an uncertain future and being subject to a work permit, which may have restrictions of movement and low pay attached to it.

Alric Lindsay is a local attorney.

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