Short-term visas to clear way for business visitors

| 26/09/2011

(CNS): The five day instant visa for people visiting Cayman on business, first mooted by the premier last year, could become law by November. The Immigration Review Team has suggested that a short term visa lasting one to five days for business visitors could be paid for at the airport and would not require a police clearance certificate. The business visitor would simply need a letter from a local sponsor and would no longer fall foul of the law that requires people coming to the island on business to acquire a work permit, even when they are here on a business trip lasting just a few days.

The premier has persistently complained that business visitors are not well treated when they arrive at the airport here and are questioned about permits. He said he wanted to improve the system for potential investors to enable them to receive a warmer welcome and get a better impression when visiting the Cayman Islands on a business trip.

The introduction of the new visa is expected to be one of a number of impending changes to the immigration law (which is expected to be presented to the Legislative Assembly in November) that the premier hopes will create a more business friendly approach.  

Chair of the IRT, Sherri Bodden-Cowan, said the new visa will cost around CI$100 and be paid for by the sponsoring  ‘employer’. The business visitor will also get a 30-day visitor stamp in order to stay and enjoy a vacation on the island with their family as well as the short period of employment. These visitors would then not need to become part of the temporary work permit system.

Regulation 11 of the Immigration Law, which details who can come to the Island without needing a work permit, will be expanded under this amendment. Board directors coming to the Island for executivecompany meetings and people attending conferences will also be included in the list of individuals who would not need a work permit.

“We’ve been working with the business community to expand this regulation. Both movesare to make us more business visitor-friendly at the airport and the law is written and is ready to go,” Bodden-Cowan said.

With regards to the financial services sector, the IRT is also looking at an initiative for individuals who want to establish a substantial business presence on the Island, therefore encouraging businesses such as brokerage houses and investment managers who do not usually locate their business in Cayman to do so.

This could be done by offering a 25 year residency with the right to work certificate to those individuals within the management and control of such businesses. These businesses would also have to be licenced by the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, have bank accounts here and show a physical presence.

“The result would be to bring people of high net worth on the Island who would enjoy living here and carrying out their business, which would expand our business community,” Bodden-Cowan confirmed.

Companies would have to be an approved business(of which there would be a list), they would have to show they had established a substantial business presence or physical presence and they would have to show those individuals who were in management and control of the company were actually working here in order to obtain the certificate, she added.

Another initiative the IRT has been examining was the recently published intention to offer permanent residency for an individual’s physical cash investment into property. This would not be based on mortgages people have for a property or how much it might be worth but based on a cash injection, the IRT explained.

“The premier’s idea is to get the construction trade started,” Bodden-Cowan said, “so they could be granted permanent residency if they are going to come and build a house for $500,000 or more or buy an apartment for $500,000. The premier is looking for cash in, so mortgages and valuations do not count.”

She explained that the government was looking to put a quota on the numbers of cash-for-residency applications, as used to be the case for the grant of Caymanian Status,“say, around 100 a year,” she said. “There are a lot of people here who don’t want to wait eight years to get residency. At the moment they have to wait eight years and they are not buying homes and apartments.”

Bodden-Cowan confirmed that the IRT has “a substantive law created” and it would be up to Cabinet to decide issues such as the amount required to be invested before PR could be granted.

The final initiative currently being worked on by the IRT is the removal of the requirement for a child or grandchild of a Caymanian living abroad to be a legal resident before applying for Caymanian status.

“At the moment you cannot apply for status unless you become legally resident on the Island.  But the only way to become legally resident is to have a work permit. That has created real problems because people who have lived away and want to come back have found themselves in a catch 22 situation where employers are saying they won’t give them a work permit because they don’t want to hire a work permit holder, and that they should come back only when you have Caymanian Status.

"There is a backlog of applications which cannot be dealt with because the individuals are not legally resident here. So we are removing the requirement of legal residence from that section of the law,” Bodden-Cowen explained.

The IRT is currently working on a paper to Cabinet and hopes the bill will be on time to be read for the November session of the House.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Is this going to be in place of the visa that visa-required visitors need to have (ie: Costa Ricans and Jamaicans) before they travel?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I work in a field that requires specialists to help Cayman's business.

    I am a Caymanian and it took me a year to be trained up in this new field. Business is booming, but it will take a while to recruit and train up more Caymanians, so in the meantime, in order to service my clients and build a client base to support income for those new Caymanian staff, I need to bring in expertise in short bursts (a few days at a time, on a recurring basis) to help in the business.

    This means I use the Business Visitor Permit system. Though well intentioned, it is a massive roadblock to my ability to both serve Cayman businesses and grow my own business.

    To illustrate, last week I had to submit for two business visitors to come to Cayman soon. This is their only visit of the calendar year, and they are coming to do only three days work each, though this is essential for the client.

    One may only submit for Business Visitor's Permits once per calendar year per individual.. and, guess what, it has to be for multiple visits. End result ? I had to pay for two visits for each of these individuals even though I only need one. That is a total of CI$3100 for two people for three days each, half of which was unbudgeted.

    Now, the specialists I bring in are all consistently trained and so are interchangeable, but the Business Visitor Permits are not. So, in 2012 if (say) I have a client who says "I need them in 6 times this year", I then pay CI$4500 upfront for that individual. If the client changes the dates for that work and I need to switch out to another specialist… nope, process starts again and I lose the money I spent.

    There are more gaps in the system I could outline, but suffice to say a simple system for short admissions of specialists will be very beneficial to my business, and I am in the business of helping Cayman businesses.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This accomodative policy is pro-business, pro-music, and pro-specialised tradespeople that can legally fix my house.  How incredibly refreshing!  

    • Nonnie Mouse says:

      "Pro-music"?  Music events in Cayman are always hampered by the local musicians union demanding a slice of the gig when no-one wants them on the bill.

  4. Good move says:

    I think this is a good decision,but just make sure that these people do not overstay.

  5. An on nymus says:

    Really ? Open to anyone without a police clearance on pretending to do honest business. that is transparent all right . We can see right thru it ! How much more garbage will we be fed ?

    • Anonymous says:

      These are basically working tourist visas.  Might as well make it legal and collect some revenue – because it will hapen either way.

  6. Anonymous says:

    These are exactly the sort of visitors Cayman should encourage.  They bring business, they bring their families, they stay in hotels and eat in restaurants and as long as Cayman is better than BVI, Bermuda etc, they'll keep coming back here.

    Immigration is the first encouter these people have with Cayman.  If they don't feel welcome, or spend 5 hours lining up to pay a fee just for bringing their business here, or have to produce a "sponsor letter" (from who exactly?) that first impression is going to be bad. It's going to look like red tape and rip offs.

    Plus when they realise they could have walked through a giant loophole by claiming to be tourists they are going to feel stupid. 

    And what if you're here for a board meeting but then want to stay on for a week as a tourist? Do you have to pay? Are you an overstayer after 5 days? What if they bring their family? Are they tourists?

    Just give business visitors the same status as tourist visitors. In the long run you'll make more money off them.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah, they'll say they're on business hoping that speeds things up, but it does the opposite.  This is just a consequence of not having joined-up government.  You can't say you value each pillar equally without giving them the same treatment.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Long overdue for visiting salesmen, technicians, specialists etc.

  8. Pending says:

    So I can write a letter about someone and they automatically get given a work permit at the airport.

    Anyone see any issues here, such as due diligence on these so callled "business visitors" ?……….

  9. Anonymous says:

    Why bother?

    Every years thousands of people already enter the Caymans doing exactly what this visa is supposed to permit them to do but they simply tell immigration they are on vacation.

    It's like the rule that supposedly prevents people entering the islands to seek work. Anyone in the know just ignores it.

    The other problem I can see is, "The business visitor would simply need a letter from a local sponsor." Hmm!!! I can see a whole new line of work opening up here for 'Immigration Advisors' and possibly some Immigration Officers along the lines of, "No problems we can fix that but it will cost you $…….."