Children Born to Caymanians
The Immigration (Transition) Law confirms that children born on or after January 1st 2004 are 'Caymanian as of Right' (no matter where they are physically born) if at the date of their birth at least one of their parents was Caymanian and settled in the Cayman Islands. If the parents obtained Caymanian status (also known as 'The Right to be Caymanian') any other way than by descent, and their child is born overseas when neither parent is settled in the Cayman Islands, then their child will also be 'Caymanian as of Right'. The responsibility for determining whether or not someone is in fact a Caymanian now falls to Workforce Opportunities and Residence Cayman ('WORC'). If the children’s parents became Caymanian by descent (i.e. through a parent or grandparent), and the child is born overseas, then the child is not necessarily Caymanian.
It is strongly recommended that any child (or indeed adult) who is believed to be Caymanian apply to the Director of WORC under s. 26(2) of the Immigration (Transition) Act, 2021 for formal acknowledgement that they are, in fact, Caymanian. The form that you need to fill in and submit is the R21 ‘Acknowledgement/Continuation of the Right to be Caymanian’ form. The Act provides that the Director of WORC must, within 14 days, provide such acknowledgement (and, if requested, provide a stamp to be placed in the person’s passport confirming them to be Caymanian) or provide written reasons for the refusal to do so. There is no fee for this application, although a CI$50 fee is payable where the application is being made on the basis that a child is Caymanian by Entitlement (see 'When Parents Become Caymanians After the Child's Birth' section below).
When Caymanian Parents are Not Married
If the parents are not married at the time of the child’s birth, and the parent claiming to be the father is a Caymanian, a DNA test may be required. The issue does not arise if the mother is Caymanian. Such a child will be Caymanian as long as the mother is settled in Cayman at the time of the child’s birth.
When Parents Become Caymanians After the Child’s Birth
Quite often, parents of a child will become Caymanian after the child is born. In such a case, the child may be eligible to be 'Caymanian by Entitlement', and the parent is expected to apply to the Director of WORC for formal acknowledgement that the child is 'Caymanian by Entitlement'. The application must include a fee of CI$50, and must demonstrate that the child concerned is under the age of 18, has at least one Caymanian parent, and has been legally and ordinarily resident in the Cayman Islands for at least one year. Please note that the child must later be the subject of an application for continuation of their Right to be Caymanian. As the law presently stands, such children cease to be Caymanian upon turning 18 and need to apply for a 'continuation'. This should be done after the child turns 17 and before they turn 18. If they apply after the age of 18, they will have ceased to be Caymanian but can technically regain that status provided an application for continuation is granted. However, the child may be unable to apply for a scholarship or a job until their status has been confirmed and 'continued'. They also risk being determined to be unlawfully in the Islands and thus (if the period is long enough) ineligible to apply for 'continuation'.
Children Born to Non-Caymanians
Children born in the Cayman Islands to expats are not automatically entitled to reside in Cayman. Their treatment varies depending on the immigration status of their parents. The main options for the children of non-Caymanians are set out below:
How to Make Your Expat Child a Legal Resident
When a child is born in or brought into the Cayman Islands, unless they are 'Caymanian as of Right', they must be reported to the immigration authorities and have the appropriate permissions sought to allow them to stay. The procedure to be followed will vary depending on the nature of the parent’s immigration standing. For example, your child must be added as a dependant if you are: here on a temporary or full work permit, are a Government-contracted worker, or have an application for Permanent Residence submitted and are working on a valid PCW ('Permission to Continue Working'). The next paragraph explains how you add your child to your work permit or Permanent Residency.
Children Born to Work Permit Holders
If you are on a work permit, your baby must be added as a dependant on your work permit. You can find the AMD2 ‘Dependant Information Form Checklist’ (aka the RV37a) on www.worc.gov.ky which outlines the things you need to gather and submit.These include the application filing fee of CI$100 and a separate grant fee of CI$500, which is payable on approval. The required supporting documents include employment letters in relation to each parent and a ‘Monthly Income and Expense Report’ with which the Dept. of WORC will decide whether you can afford to have a dependant stay in Cayman with you. It is generally accepted that your minimum monthly base salary for a family of three must be in the region of CI$3,500. You will generally be expected to earn an extra CI$500 to CI$1,000 per month for each additional dependant. When all the requirements are met, your child’s passport (once issued) will get a stamp with a date on it. Remember to get each new passport re-stamped as airlines need to see an up-to-date dependant stamp in the passport when you travel. If you have any questions, call WORC on (345) 949 8344 or visit their website.
Children Born to Applicants for Permanent Residence with Permission to Continue Working
In the event that you become a parent while your application for Permanent Residency is still being processed, you need to act as soon as possible to vary your Permission to Continue Working (PCW) to add a new dependant. Following this, you need to update your application for Permanent Residence to reflect the change of circumstance. This requires a submission to the Director of WORC, accompanied by a CI$100 application fee, a completed copy of the RV37a 'Dependant Information Form' and its list of supporting documents.
Children Born to Government Employees
Foreign nationals in government service are exempt from the Work Permit Regime by virtue of their government contracts. They should, however, check with their relevant Department/ Ministry to ensure that their child is able to lawfully reside in the Cayman Islands. Please note that there is no distinction between expatriate children of persons in government service and those in the private sector. Considerations as to Permanent Residence and the 'Right to be Caymanian' (including 'continuation' thereof) should be taken fully into account.
A foreign national who has lived in the Cayman Islands for at least eight years and works for the Cayman Islands Government can apply for Permanent Residency. Once it is granted, they have the choice of adding their child/children as a dependant and paying the annual dependant fee of CI$500 per child. Alternatively, they can continue to include the child as a dependant on their government contract and, in such a case, they will not have to pay an annual fee for their children. Please note that it is very important that evidence of your child's residency status is maintained. At some point you may want to apply for Permanent Residency or Status for your child, and you will need to show proof that they have been a legal resident in the Cayman Islands for some years prior to the application.
Children Born to Permanent Residents
A child born to a Permanent Resident (whether through the points system or by independent means) must be added as a dependant to the parent’s PR. You will need to fill in and submit a ‘Variation of Permanent Residence’ form (the RV37a form) as well as the 'Dependant Information Form Checklist.'
There is an administrative non-refundable CI$500 fee attached to the application. You will need to include a cover letter explaining why the change is being made, as well as a certified copy of your child’s birth certificate, a signed affidavit, a completed application form, as well as (where relevant) an employment letter from both parents which includes the hours worked per week, the monthly income and any other benefits received.
The issue fee is CI$400 for the holder of a 'Residency and Employment Rights Certificate' on the basis of eight years' residence or CI$1,000 for the dependants of the holder of a 'Certificate for Persons of Independent Means'.
At the time of the child’s birth, if one parent already holds Permanent Residency and/or has been Naturalised as a British Overseas Territories Citizen (BOTC) because of a connection with the Cayman Islands, but is not (yet) Caymanian, then the child born in the Cayman Islands (to expatriate parents resident in the Cayman Islands) will be born a British Overseas Territories Citizen by virtue of a connection with the Cayman Islands. Although they will not be Caymanian, such children can hold a British Overseas Territories (Cayman Islands) passport and have an automatic right to live (but not to work) in the Cayman Islands. They should be registered under the British Nationality Act with the Deputy Governor’s Office and an application made through the local passport office. As mentioned above, the child also needs to be added as a dependant on your Permanent Residency.
Please note that as a Permanent Resident, if you then become a Caymanian (and have children and a spouse as dependants) you have only 45 days to 'regularise' your dependants. If for some reason you forget, then your spouse’s 'Residency & Employment Rights Certificate (RERC) as the Spouse of a Permanent Resident' will be revoked and there will, in effect, be nothing to extend. In this situation, the only option to 'regularise' your spouse’s position is to apply for the 'Right to be Caymanian', but you cannot do this unless you sign an affidavit saying that you tick the 'stable marriage' box. Alternatively, if you have been married for less than seven years, then you can simply apply for a RERC on the grounds of being married to a Caymanian.
Expatriate Children Born in the Cayman Islands and Continuously Resident for the First 10 Years
The British Nationality Act makes provision for the registration of children born in the Islands (and legally resident for the first ten years of their life) as British Overseas Territories Citizens by virtue of a connection with the Islands. While such registration will not make them Caymanian, they will be entitled to a Cayman Islands passport and allowed to reside permanently in the Cayman Islands provided they do not move away, are of good character, and do not breach the Immigration (Transition) Act.
This option is available without regard to the immigration status of the parents and an application should be made to the Deputy Governor’s Office as soon as possible following the child’s 10th birthday. Such children can hold a Cayman Islands passport, and (independent of their parents) almost certainly be able to apply to become Caymanian immediately following their 15th birthday if still legally and ordinarily a resident in the Cayman Islands at that date.
Rules Once a Child Turns 18
A 'Caymanian by Entitlement' Turning 18
Please note that a child who is a 'Caymanian by Entitlement' will lose this Status when they turn 18. In order to continue to be Caymanian after their 18th birthday, an application must be made to the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board for 'continuation' of their Status. Such an application ought to be made when the child is 17, and before they turn 18, or they will automatically lose their Status upon turning 18. If a child forgets to apply to continue their Caymanian Status, they can reapply at any time, however, they may be unable to work or apply for a scholarship until they have had their Status reinstated. A student visa or alternative immigration permission may be needed to fill any gaps. An application can only be granted if the child has been legally and ordinarily resident for five out of the seven years immediately preceding the date of application. Provided that an application is made before the child turns 18, they will (once the application is granted) be deemed to have been Caymanian without break. If the child is the subject of an application after their 18th birthday, they will (if the application is granted) be deemed to only be Caymanian from the date of the grant. Under the Immigration (Transition) Act, absences necessitated by health and education may nevertheless count as legal and ordinary residence in the Islands provided that Cayman is 'home' for the relevant period of absence (which cannot, in any event, be for more than 12 months).
Permanent Resident's Child Turning 18
An expatriate child of a Permanent Resident (even if the child has a Cayman passport) must, in most cases, apply for Permanent Residence in their own right under section 39 of the Immigration (Transition) Law. They can do this without being subject to the points system, provided they have been legally and ordinarily resident in the Cayman Islands for seven years prior to the application being made. This application must be made before the child turns 19 (ideally even before they turn 18) but if the parent’s Residency & Employment Rights Certificate has been varied to allow the child to be a dependant past 18, it can be made up until the child is 24, provided the child is still in tertiary education or within six months of the end of such education. They will then be able to apply to become Caymanian once they have been in Cayman for 15 years, or five years after having been Naturalised and becoming a British Overseas Territories Citizen (BOTC). An expatriate child, who is the child of the spouse of a Caymanian and whose parent holds a RERC (Residency & Employment Rights Certificate) as the spouse of a Caymanian, can be added as a dependant on their parent, but only until they are 18, unless they continue into tertiary education and their permission is varied.
Work Permit Holder's Child Turning 18
Dependant children can only remain on a parent’s work permit after the age of 18 if they are in full-time tertiary education or special circumstances apply (such as the child is unable, for medical or other exceptional reasons, to maintain themselves). Should your child turn 18 before they finish secondary school, the immigration authorities will usually allow your child to remain in Cayman, although not formally as a dependant on your work permit. However, if your child chooses not to go on to university or college and they want to continue living in the Cayman Islands, then their only option is usually to try and get their own work permit. At this point, they are competing with every Caymanian and Permanent Resident school leaver who will have precedence over them, placing them at a distinct disadvantage when seeking job opportunities.
Gap Year Dilemma
The Immigration authorities have, to date, declined to confirm their treatment of students seeking to take a gap year, and the Law does not appear to make any provisions for them.
Work Experience for Expat Kids
Children of work permit holders cannot accept paid work experience without having their own work permit, and an unqualified 16-20 year old is very unlikely to ever be granted a work permit. However, there is nothing in the Act to say that the children of expats cannot accept unpaid internships if they have been resourceful enough to go out and find work in their school holidays! In fact, all children, expat or Caymanian, should be encouraged to seek work experience as soon as they are over the age of 16. It not only keeps them busy, but it also teaches them the value of money and to have a good work ethic – invaluable tools for life!
Naturalisation as a BOTC (Section 18 (1) Grounds of Residence at 18)
If you are a Permanent Resident (PR) and not married to a Caymanian then getting Naturalised as a British Overseas Territories Citizen (BOTC) is an essential step in the process of acquiring Caymanian Status. Once you have had Permanent Residence for 12 months, and have lived in Cayman for at least five years, you can apply under the British Nationality Act for Naturalisation as a BOTC by virtue of a connection with the Cayman Islands. Please note that you will still need to pay your Permanent Resident work-related fees every year once you are Naturalised. However, the spouse of a Caymanian does not pay these fees. The spouse of a Caymanian will (provided their Caymanian spouse is a BOTC), be able to apply for Naturalisation 12 months from the date that their RERC was approved, provided they have been resident in the Islands for at least three years and seek to apply on the basis of marriage to a BOTC. The application is made to the Deputy Governor and must include an up-to-date travel history covering the last five years (you can obtain this from WORC), as well as certified copies of your relevant documents and a fee of CI$825. Please note that a child under the age of 18 can (on successful application) be registered as a BOTC and the cost is CI$450.
Law Firms in the Cayman Islands that specialise in Immigration
About the Author: Nick Joseph
Nick Joseph is a partner at HSM, he deals primarily with the provision of advice in relation to a range of regulatory matters including immigration and employment issues with an emphasis on relocation advice. Nick is a leading immigration lawyer in the Cayman Islands and was a partner for almost ten years at a major offshore law firm in the Cayman Islands before joining HSM in early 2013.