By Florence Allan

The Cayman Islands enjoys a reputation for offering a pro-business environment, where an efficient civil service and a network of professional advisors help new business owners get established with ease. One of the first considerations for new businesses is understanding the types of business licenses available and the requirements for same.

What types of businesses require a Trade & Business Licence?

Any individual or company conducting business in the Cayman Islands require a valid Trade & Business Licence, unless the business is exempted under law. If the company is less than 60% Caymanian owned or controlled, a Local Companies (Control) Licence is also required.

Who is exempted from obtaining a business licence?

The following businesses do not need to hold a Trade & Business Licence:

  • Caymanians who produce and sell agricultural or cottage industry products (including thatch work, jams and jellies)
  • Self-employed Caymanians who create and sell artistic, dramatic, musical or literary works
  • Artisans and craftsmen who are employed by other persons
  • Self-employed Caymanian fishermen
  • Any enterprise or association formed for purposes of social or public welfare, religion, charity, art or science. Any income or profits made from these activities must be used solely for promoting those purposes and no dividends can be paid out to members

What types of licences are available?

There are various licences which include the Trade and Business Licence, Local Companies (Control) Licence, Liquor/Music and Dance Licence, and Special Economic Zones. Variations in the type of business or industry will change the licensing requirements for that individual/company.

Generally speaking any trade of business, unless exempted, will require a Trade & Business Licence in order to operate within the Cayman Islands. These are issued by the Trade and Business Licensing Board, however in certain circumstances and depending on the type of business, approval may be needed by other government departments.

A Local Companies (Control) Licence is issued to companies that wish to operate within Cayman but are not Caymanian-owned or -controlled. In these instances, foreign-owned companies will require both a Local Companies (Control) Licence and a Trade & Business Licence.

Since the ultimate beneficial ownership is not Caymanian, a Local Companies (Control) Licence requires the applicant to prove that Caymanians would benefit from the provision of services offered. This licence is normally issued to companies providing services in under-represented industries. The Cayman Islands government encourages foreign investment and licences are granted and welcomed where it is appropriate to do so.

Some foreign-owned companies do not require this type of license. Companies conduct business offshore but have a corporate presence in Cayman will instead require a Trade & Business Exempt Licence. These are mainly for companies that operate from the Cayman Islands for administrative or banking purposes.

What is the application process?

Application forms, including appropriate documents and fees, can be submitted online via the Department of Commerce and Investment website. Generally, applicants can expect their request to be reviewed by the board within two to four weeks of their submission, with the board’s decision being communicated to the applicant in five to 10 working days.

In some circumstances, the board may need to seek approval from other government departments before the application can be approved. The proposed business premise may also require inspection or certification by other government departments before the Licence can be granted; for example, health and wellness businesses.

The services of a local licensed service provider will need to be engaged to incorporate the company. Other corporate services which can be procured in Cayman include nominee shareholders, directors, registered office and other management functions on the instructions of the beneficial owners.

What fees are involved?

An initial, non-refundable application fee is CI$75/US$91. Both Licence and renewal fees vary depending on the category into which the business falls, and a comprehensive fee schedule can be found on the Department of Commerce and Investment’s website. The Trade & Business Licence needs to be renewed every year and the renewal fee must be paid at least 28 days before, but not more than three months prior, the date of expiry.

What information/documents are required?

Documentation requirements will vary by type of license. For instance, the following is required for a Trade & Business Licence as a Caymanian sole trader:

  • Proof of Caymanian citizenship or status
  • Police clearance certificate
  • Copy of the lease agreement or letter of intent for the commercial location where the business will be carried on from
  • Letter of permission if the applicants works for the Cayman Islands Government

The process is largely similar to obtain a Trade & Business Licence for a registered company however the documentation required is slightly more extensive and includes:

  • Copy of Certificate of Incorporation
  • Copy of Memorandum and Articles of Association
  • Register of Directors, Officers and Members
  • Copy of the Current Year Stamped Annual Returns if the company has been registered for over one year
  • Copy of the lease agreement or letter of intent for the commercial space where the business will be carried on from

There are also a number of due diligence requirements with regards to all persons or entities with beneficial interests or control of the business. Documents required for these reviews include:

  • A financial reference from a bank or similar institution, where the account has been active for at least three years
  • Police Clearance Certificate if the individual is not Caymanian, a Permanent Resident or has not been resident in the Cayman Islands for the past five years
  • Copy of the individual’s passport, on the picture page
  • Proof of citizenship for Caymanians

The Cayman Islands is a great location to do business due to the Islands’ tax neutrality and modern infrastructure, and opportunities to achieve a compelling life-work balance in this friendly and marine-rich multicultural community.

Visit these links to learn more about moving your business to Cayman, or on how to incorporate, licence and register a business here. 

While the Dart leasing team can always assist business owners and leaders in finding office space, they can also help by making introductions to service providers who can assist in guiding business owners through the process of obtaining their Trade & Business Licence (if required). Contact the team at

About the author
Florence Allan is a Dart Scholar and a returning intern with Dart’s business development team. She has joined various teams in Dart each summer since 2017, and before this she was a student at Cayman Prep & High School, spending her free time training for the Olympics, where she represented the Cayman Islands in sailing. While born in Scotland, Florence moved to Cayman at just six weeks old; her Scottish heritage and Caymanian upbringing offered her a truly multicultural childhood. For the past three years, Florence has been studying for her undergraduate degree in International Business Management at the University of Bristol, and she will be graduating by the end of summer 2020. Returning home for holidays is something Florence always looks forward to, as she misses her dog Archie when she is away and loves returning home to coach sailing to Cayman’s youth.