More than 24,000 hold work permits

Permit numbers reach pre-crisis levels

The line outside Immigration Department headquarters early Thursday morning. – Photo: Matt Lamers

The number of work permits held by non-Caymanians rose in July to their highest level since before the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, data produced by the Immigration Department revealed.

As of July 6, there were 24,077 work permits held in the Cayman Islands by individuals of more than 120 nationalities. Those figures include all of the non-Caymanian workers in the territory who hold government contracts, as well as those who are given permission to continue working as they await a decision on permanent residence applications.

The figures represent a 4 percent increase in permitted workers since the Cayman Compass last measured work permits, in February. At that time, there were just more than 23,000 work permit and government contract holders in the Cayman Islands.

The numbers reportedly increased in July, typically when businesses are starting to scale down for the tourism “low season,” as opposed to February, which is the peak of the tourism season in Cayman.

The figures for each month represent a snapshot of the current situation in Cayman, and may fluctuate to some extent monthly or even weekly as workers come and go.

However, work permit numbers measured over the last several years have shown a clear, steady increase since 2010.

According to data compiled by the Compass, work permits and government contracts increased from a low of about 18,500 in fall 2010 to about 20,360 in July 2014. The numbers increased again in January 2015 to a total of 21,400 and then again to 22,232 in July 2015.

As of February 2016, there were 23,097 permits and contracts held by non-Caymanians working in the islands, which was again eclipsed by last month’s figure, stated at 24,077.

The figures suggest an 18 percent increase in work permits in Cayman in the past two years.

The last time the number of work permits and government contracts held in Cayman was measured above the 24,000 mark by the newspaper was in mid-2009, when the Immigration Department reported 24,594 permits. That is still far from the number of work permits and contracts held by non-Caymanians in November 2008: 26,659.

Permits breakdown

The vast majority of the work permit holders, about 17,500, are full-time, one-year or multiyear permit holders who have either received their first working contract or have renewed their permit after finishing their initial work permit.

Another roughly 4,300 people – as of July – had temporary work permit contracts, meaning either three-month, six-month or nine-month permissions. Those permits are often used for short-term jobs or seasonal permits for the tourism industry.

A total of 906 non-Caymanians held government contracts as of July 6, according to the report.

Another 728 people had been granted “permission to continue working.” Those are mostly individuals who are awaiting decisions by the Immigration Department or boards on applications to remain in Cayman for the rest of their lives. None of those applications has been decided upon since last year.

The special economic zone at Cayman Enterprise City now employs more than 300 people on work permits, according to the immigration data.

The five most populous immigrant worker nationalities in the Cayman Islands have not changed in the past decade. Jamaicans held nearly 10,000 work permits as of last month. They were followed by Filipinos (3,066 permits), Britons (1,957), Americans (1,388) and Canadians (1,233).


  1. And is this necessarily such a good thing for the Cayman Islands ?

    On the surface of things, it appears that the CI Govt. is doing a brisk business in ‘work permit sales’ department, bringing in much needed revenue for the country.

    Beneath the surface, it could also be argued that the work permit system is a de facto ‘back-door’ immigration by-pass for foreigners to enter the Cayman Islands and stay there without tenure or citizens rights, at least for as long as their work permits are granted or they find Caymanians to marry and gain legal status, for which they have a period of 9 years to do.

    In a population of approx 57,000 people, the number of foreign nationals as economic migrants out-numbering the local population of working-age adults cannot be seen as anything other than a potentially dangerous thing, with the possibility of upsetting economic and social balances, with disastrous results in the long run.

    One of the reasons the British population voted out of the EU is because exactly the same thing had begun to happen here but it is happening in a British Overseas Territory, with no voice being raised against the dangers of such a policy.

    The future of the younger generations of Caymanian nationals is being undermined and ignored and put at risk without as much as a peep of protest from those most vulnerable.

    There is no checks and controls as to the actions of these work-permit foreigners once their permits have been granted and no guarantees that they are actually working, and working within the legal parameters of their work permit.

    That is only to address one of the concerns, there are others too many to mention in a short newspaper commentary.

    I have no problem in being one to raise a voice of concern and warning of the negative effects and dangers of over-populating a small country with a majority of economic migrant foreign nationals.

    Hopefully, my concerns will not fall on totally deaf ears.

  2. Mr Tatum, I applaud you for writing such a good and honest and speaking up about where the Cayman Islands are headed. I wish more people like you would speak out publicly about issues like this one. I also think that Caymanians hate losing their freedom of speech, that should be a other topic of discussion.

  3. There is a significant difference between an EU member country and the Cayman Islands. Any citizen of an EU country is entitled to work in another member country without a work permit. Here, everyone entering for the first time (unless to take up a Government job), needs a permit. The issuance of permits and also the monitoring of existing permit holders is entirely under the control of Caymanians. If indeed there is concern for the large expatriate population, which is quite understandable, then the solution is also entirely in your hands.

  4. Rodger , the problem with the issue of work permits, is that it is in the hand of Caymanians but these Caymanians are not ordinary Caymanians .
    What happened to the quota system for work permits ? I think that the Immigration Board members needs to be elected members then they can be held accountable for their actions.

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