Caymans hits foreign lawyers with seven-year practice limit

The Cayman Islands government looks set to bow to pressure from young attorneys seeking to reduce the number of foreign lawyers working on the Caribbean island.

An immigration bill is due to be passed this month limiting foreign workers to a stay of seven years on the island. Critics say the bill is in part being used as a tool to enable greater numbers of Caymanians both to enter the profession and join the partnership of a firm by excluding foreign lawyers.

Foreign lawyers will be exempted from the seven-year rule if they can prove to the Caymans’ immigration board that: they are experts in their field; have skills that are of “substantial economic benefit to the islands”; are essential to the continued success of their business; and are involved in training local Cayman lawyers.

Sherri Bodden of Cayman firm Bodden & Bodden, who helped draw up the legislation, said one of the main aims of the bill is to stop foreign workers, with one or two-year permits, from working for “long or indefinite periods of time”.

She added: “We now have more than 6,000 work permit holders employed in the islands for over 10 years, and most of them have no security of tenure.”

However, one foreign lawyer said the driving force behind the legislation is that some Cayman lawyers want to become partners but are being forestalled by the dominance of foreign lawyers in higher positions in Cayman law firms.