Home to more than 700 islands, islets, reefs, and cays, the 28 nations of the Caribbean have been highly regarded for their investment opportunities by affluent individuals throughout recent history. From the sartorial colonial style of the Bahamas in the thirties and forties, the glamour of Ian Fleming’s Golden Eye Beach in the 1960’s, to the luxury of Sandy Lane, Barbados in the nineties, the Caribbean is now seeing a new Luxury lifestyle destination come to the fore.
Further, the disruption caused by the recent COVID-19 pandemic has seen a sharp increase in this interest in the Caribbean from high and ultra-high-net-worth individuals seeking citizenship and residency in offshore jurisdictions, in large part due to the relative proximity of the Islands to North America and the opportunities it offers mainlanders to get away to safe secure, less crowded boltholes. The theme of relocating to islands that are surrounded by beautiful turquoise waters and endless sunshine certainly isn’t a new one, but the desire to relocate to locales that are also seen as being stable, safe, and liveable has increasingly garnered the appetite of wealthy investors over the last few months.
Of the 28 Caribbean nations, five have begun offering Citizenship by Investment (“CBI”) programmes over the past decade, which offer citizenships to individuals who purchase real estate in the respective nations; Antigua, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts, and St Lucia. All Caribbean British Overseas Territories, including Anguilla, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Monserrat and Turks and Caicos also offer Residency by Investment (“RBI”) to those of independent means. And, while a select few Islands' offer similar programmes to those of a certain calibre, the Cayman Islands has established a reputation for standing out from other jurisdictions in the region by providing its residents with countless opportunities, economic and lifestyle benefits that make it a “place worth living” for an extended period, not just a place to occasionally visit.
The Cayman Islands offer two RBI programmes:
1. Residency Certificate for Persons of Independent Means; and
2. Certificate of Permanent Residence for Persons of Independent Means.
1. To qualify for the Residency Certificate, an individual must demonstrate a continuous annual income of US$146,000 without the need to work on the Islands or open a bank account with a Cayman Islands Monetary Authority regulated and locally licensed institution and maintain a minimum deposit in the account of at least US$480,000 in assets. The applicant must also establish an investment of at least US$1,200,000 in Grand Cayman, of which at least US$610,000 must be in developed real estate. A Residency Certificate is valid for a renewable period of twenty-five years and does not allow the holder to work in the Cayman Islands. However, the certificate holders must spend a minimum of 30 days annually in the Cayman Islands, even though many choose to stay much longer, with some making it their primary residence.
2. The Certificate of Permanent Residence is for individuals and any qualifying dependents seeking a lifetime right to reside in the Cayman Islands without the right to work, although this doesn’t mean a resident cannot run their international business via technology platforms, as they could anywhere in the world. To qualify, an applicant must invest in a minimum of US $2.4 million in developed real estate in the Cayman Islands. While there is no specified minimum annual income requirement, the applicant must be able to demonstrate that their financial resources are sufficient to maintain themselves and their dependents adequately. Certificate holders must spend at least one day a year in the Cayman Islands. This option has no expiry date and it offers a path to naturalisation as a British Overseas Territories Citizen once the applicant has been legally and ordinarily resident in the Cayman Islands for five years. Naturalisation entitles the holder to a British Overseas Territories, Cayman Islands passport and enables them to apply to register as a full British citizen and obtain a British passport. In taking this up, there is no obligation to surrender any existing citizenships.
The Cayman Islands Government has taken exceptional steps to keep the islands safe during the recent crisis, steps that haven’t gone unnoticed by international media houses. The decision to close the borders early in the pandemic has since safeguarded the relatively small population. Cayman has managed to contain the spread of COVID-19, and by mid-July, had zero active COVID cases. In doing so, the Islands have proven themselves to be one of the safest places in the world and can now safely claim to be Covid-Free.
As a British Overseas Territory and tax-neutral jurisdiction, the Cayman Islands provides a prominent outlook for the savvy real estate investor. With its wealth and stable economy, the Cayman Islands has established itself as an international business hub and relocation centre. The high standard of living, one of the highest rates of GDP per capita in the world, and modern infrastructure continue to attract overseas investments allowing most new residents to find the transition relatively easy.
Cayman’s ideal location provides ease of access to countries around the world. The recently upgraded international airport, Owen Roberts International, is a gateway offering direct flights to some of the largest cities, including Miami, New York, London, Toronto and one of the world’s busiest airports, Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta.
Sophisticated and cosmopolitan, Cayman has one of the lowest crime rates in the region. The Cayman Islands is one of, if not the safest of the Caribbean islands, making living in one of the islands exclusive gated communities a choice that provides privacy, rather than a necessity.
Cayman is home to a handful of top-rated international schools which offer both British and American curriculums as well as the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme. Medical, law and undergraduate institutions also exist.
In comparison to its neighbours, Cayman has first-class health services with renowned surgeons and medical specialists in hospitals and private clinics, including Health City, which is the brainchild of the internationally renowned heart surgeon and humanitarian, Dr Devi Shetty. Cayman has roughly 4.5 doctors and 6.3 nurses for every 1,000 people, one of highest ratios in the civilised world. Residents can almost always find medical services and quality experts that meet their needs.
Known for its international culinary scene, Cayman hosts annual world-class food and beverage events, including the one held every January over the Martin Luther King Holiday weekend. Cayman Cookout, which sees world-renowned chefs including Eric Ripert, Jose Andres and Emeril Lagasse, as well as culinary influencers, mixologists, and wine experts, travel to the islands for the week-long event.
Cayman offers a vibrant, luxury real estate market. From the condominiums along the world-famous Seven Mile Beach, to the beach houses of Rum Point, and the large villas in the northern coast of the island, Grand Cayman provides anonymity and comfort to larger families who are looking for a secluded escape.
Choosing a jurisdiction which will become your primary residence, is about settling somewhere that ultimately works for you, your wealth, and your family too. Although the Cayman Islands provides a plethora of opportunities, its residential programmes may not suit everyone’s pocket. Cayman is by no means cheap. However, our message to the high and ultra-high-net-worth individuals is this, if you are seeking a safe, stable, tax-neutral home with substantial international standing, the Cayman Islands is a great bet and one where, once you’ve experienced them, you may not end up needing that return ticket!