“Live to work or work to live?”
This adage aptly sums up a binary lifestyle decision that people had to make in the past as they considered pursuing “wanderlust” or choosing corporate life. With the advent of digital technology, however, there is now increased flexibility that allows individuals to work remotely from home while they roam the world.
What just a few decades ago was almost impossible to imagine is now commonplace. Teachers, professional coaches, authors, lawyers, accountants and consultants are just a few of the occupations that can be undertaken from anywhere in the world, provided there is ready access to reliable internet services.
These “digital nomads” travel the planet and work from wherever their residence may be at the time while fulfilling their desire to experience other cultures and lifestyles.
COVID-19 brought with it a new appreciation for the merits and capabilities of working remotely as the majority of the world’s population was instructed by governments to perform their jobs at home. Almost overnight, bedrooms became virtual boardrooms, kitchen tables became classrooms and balconies became bars where co-workers joined for virtual "Zoomtini" happy hours.
With the pandemic also came a new appreciation for residency privileges, as thousands of people found themselves stranded either in foreign countries or places where they simply did not want to spend extended periods of time. Even swanky apartments in urban cities were vacated by their occupants for less densely populated locales in the hopes of being less likely to contract the virus. For many, the options available to relocate to a new country were limited by a lack of residency rights. As governments closed borders, only those legally permitted to reside in countries were given access.
This produced a new need for the digital nomads — not only the ability to work remotely from anywhere, but the legal right to do so; a six-month tourist visa would no longer suffice.
From this new reality emerged the concept of “residency without the right to work” programmes, particularly in desirable regions such as the Caribbean — which has long inspired people to escape the frantic pace of city living for a less harried life in the tropics.
Residency without the right to work is not an entirely new concept in the Caribbean. A few island nations have offered these programmes in the past, but previously did not market them extensively. COVID-19 changed that as the outbreak prompted an onslaught of enquiries from citizens across the globe urgently seeking places of refuge in the Caribbean.
Suddenly the sophistication and often-overlooked attributes of places like the Cayman Islands were appreciated, as was its success in containing the spread of the coronavirus.
A new kind of work programme
The Cayman Islands is one of the few Caribbean jurisdictions to announce a new work-from-home programme.
Minister of Tourism Moses Kirkconnell announced the programme at the 2020 Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce Economic Forum on 14 August, saying it would allow for a productive work environment with a luxurious island lifestyle.
The application process is expected to be straightforward and will require applicants to meet the following criteria: sufficient annual income to support themselves and their dependants in employment not undertaken in the Cayman Islands, health insurance and a clean criminal record check.
“We are already receiving enquiries from people keen to live on Grand Cayman and work from home,” says Sue Nickason, vice president of marketing and sales for Provenance Properties, the official Christie’s International Real Estate affiliate in the Cayman Islands. “Cayman’s success in containing the spread of COVID-19 has been widely lauded and there is growing appreciation for the modern infrastructure, excellent schools and healthcare facilities and reliable internet services here."
Nickason says the new programme can help those who remain overseas, but own second homes on Grand Cayman.
“We see the programme as a great opportunity for property owners who ordinarily rented properties to short-term visitors to offer six-month or even one-year leases to professionals planning to work remotely from Cayman," she says. "Our team is ready to assist applicants with finding places to lease and provide advice on other aspects of transitioning to Cayman via the Global Citizen Concierge Programme."
This article was originally printed in the October 2020 print edition of Camana Bay Times with the headline "Living where you vacation."