28 May 2020
As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to constrain free movement across the globe, high-net-worth individuals who are normally globally mobile are looking at low-density jurisdictions as residency safe havens. Destinations featuring high-quality healthcare, modern infrastructure and a strong, proactive response to the pandemic demonstrate added value to those in search of privacy and safety.
With their search for places in which to seek refuge has come a review of residency-by-investment programmes by high-net-worth individuals, as it is anticipated countries will open their borders first to citizens and legal residents before welcoming back visitors.
Some of those high-net-worth individuals are looking to the Caribbean, particularly the Cayman Islands. The cosmopolitan jurisdiction is both an easily accessible tropical island and a thriving financial centre, and thus appeals to individuals considering relocation to the Cayman Islands for residency purposes.
The tax-neutral British Overseas Territory – with one of the lowest-population densities in the world – may well provide the answer for those seeking a new domicile. Whilst not the only country to offer residency through investment to high-net-worth individuals, Daniel Altneu, a senior associate at law firm Bedell Cristin, notes that the Cayman Islands offers some distinct advantages.
“In addition to its pre-eminence as a luxury vacation destination and an international financial centre, the territory boasts one of the highest GDPs and standards of living in the world,” says Altneu. “Its traditional values of community and privacy and the fact that it is a safe and secure place with one of the lowest crime rates in the Caribbean make it the address of choice to many high-net-worth individuals who are attracted by its natural beauty, well-developed infrastructure, stable government, elite health services and education systems.”
The public and private sectors in the Cayman Islands provide timely and efficient service in normal times and, in response to the current global pandemic, have demonstrated agility in moving to remote work environments with negligible impact on business continuity. This is an important factor when considering a jurisdiction for residency, says Chris Willis, managing director – government advisory and programme delivery with Latitude Consultancy Limited.
“The most important features of Cayman’s residency programme are ease of application, reasonable physical residence requirements per year and efficient, predictable processing,” Willis explains. “The amount of the investment must be reasonable and in a sensible vehicle such as real estate.”
In addition to timely processing of applications, the Cayman Islands offers two residency certificates through investment in real estate; a 25-year residency certificate requiring a minimum investment of US$1.2 million and 30 days’ annual residency, and a certificate of permanent residence requiring a minimum investment of US$2.4 million and one-day annual residency. Those who achieve permanent residency by independent means may apply to become a naturalised British Overseas Territory resident in five years.
Those individuals seeking to purchase a property to meet the real estate investment requirements will find an extensive selection of luxury properties available with a straightforward acquisition process as there are no restrictions on foreign ownership of property, no alien landholding license requirements and certainty of title.
Jackie Doak, president of business development at Dart and broker of Provenance Properties, the official Christie’s International Real Estate affiliate in the Cayman Islands, notes that Cayman’s modern infrastructure, high-quality building standards, sophisticated business environment and vibrant community make the transition to island living an easy one. “Our sales specialists often see residency applicants who plan to spend only part of their time in Cayman, but it’s not long before they are asking us to help them plan a permanent move for their families – and often their business.”
Comprehensive relocation guides describing how to buy real estate and how to establish a business presence in the Cayman Islands can be reviewed here.