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How to Set Up a Company in Cayman Islands: A Step-by-Step Guide

Establishing a company in the Cayman Islands offers a range of benefits, including tax neutrality, a business-friendly environment, and a stable political climate. The process of company formation in this jurisdiction is straightforward, but it requires careful adherence to the local regulations and laws.  

How to Register Company in Cayman Islands - Step by Step

Here is a quick overview of the process, which we will go through more fully in the following sections.

  1. Choose the Type of Company: Decide on the type of offshore company structure that best suits your business needs, such as an Exempted Company, Limited Liability Company (LLC), or a Special Economic Zone Company.

  2. Select a Company Name: Ensure the chosen name is available and complies with Cayman Islands regulations. The name should not be similar to existing companies and must end with a corporate suffix indicating limited liability.

  3. Appoint a Registered Agent: You must appoint a licensed registered agent based in the Cayman Islands. The registered agent will handle legal documents and act as a liaison between the government and your company.

  4. Prepare and File Incorporation Documents: Submit the necessary incorporation documents to the Cayman Islands Registrar of Companies. This typically includes the Memorandum and Articles of Association, details of directors and shareholders, and the registered office address.

  5. Pay the Government Fees: There are initial incorporation fees and annual government fees that must be paid to keep the company in good standing.

  6. Comply with Regulatory Requirements: Depending on the business activity, you may need to obtain specific licenses or permits. Additionally, comply with any applicable regulatory requirements, such as anti-money laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) procedures.

  7. Know your Finances: Understand your financial obligations such as taxation, fees, and licence regulations as well as banking options. 

  8. Open a Bank Account: While not a legal requirement for incorporation, opening a bank account is practical for operational purposes. This can be done in the Cayman Islands or elsewhere, depending on your business needs.

  9. Maintain Company Records: Keep accurate records and comply with any reporting requirements, such as submitting annual returns or financial statements, depending on the company type.

  10. Consider Legal and Professional Advice: Given the complexities of international business and Cayman Islands law, it's advisable to seek professional advice from legal and financial experts specialized in Cayman Islands offshore company formation.

1. Determining the Company Type

When establishing a business in the Cayman Islands, selecting the appropriate company type based on their business needs will give you nine different company types to chose from. Each category provides distinct benefits and complies with specific regulations.

  1. The Ordinary Company: Also known as a resident company, it operates within the Cayman Islands and must adhere to local laws, including having a registered office in the islands and submitting annual reports.

  2. Ordinary Non-Resident Companies: These companies cannot conduct business within the Cayman Islands but can hold shares in foreign companies. They require a special certificate to operate and must also submit annual reports.

  3. Cayman Islands Exempt Company: Popular among foreign investors, these companies can receive tax exemption certificates and do not need to hold annual meetings. They are allowed to issue shares at nominal or par value and can express their capital in any currency. Variants include limited duration companies, segregated portfolio companies, and special economic zone companies, each with specific features.

  4. Overseas Company: Foreign companies that wish to do business in the Cayman Islands must comply with Part IX of the company's law and undergo various legal formalities.

  5. The Limited Liability Company (LLC): LLCs have a separate legal identity, and their members are not liable for the company's debts. They must file annual returns and pay an annual fee.

  6. Unlimited Company: These companies may or may not have capital, but shareholders' liabilities are unlimited, meaning they are responsible for covering any deficiencies in capital or outstanding debts upon the company's dissolution.

  7. Foundation Company: Foundation companies also have a separate legal identity and can be formed for any lawful purpose. They can be limited by shares or guarantees and do not require a benefit to another person.

  8. Associations Not For Profits: Formed for educational, religious, or charitable purposes, these associations do not need to disclose their name or members to the registrar, and any profits are used solely for their foundational purposes.

  9. Special Economic Zone Company: Designed for operation within the Cayman Islands' special economic zones, these companies are subject to a distinct set of regulations.


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2. Choosing a Company Name and Initial Setup

Reserving a Company Name

To reserve a company name in the Cayman Islands, one must first see if the desired name is not already in use or too similar to existing names. This can be done through the General Registry. Once a suitable name is identified, it should be reserved to prevent others from registering it.

  1. Check Availability: Search the General Registry's database to verify name availability.
  2. Submit Reservation: If available, submit the name reservation request and associated fee.

A company name reservation is significant because it protects the name while the rest of the incorporation process is completed.

3. Engaging with Corporate Service Providers

Incorporating a company in the Cayman Islands typically involves working with Law Firms or Company Management Firms which provide essential Corporate Services. These entities assist with navigating the legal requirements and paperwork.

  • Law Firms: Offer legal advice on company structure, documentation, and compliance.
  • Company Management Firms: Specialize in company registration and ongoing management.

They liaise with the Registrar of Companies to ensure all processes are followed correctly and legal requirements are met, thus streamlining the setup phase for business owners.

4. Registration and Incorporation

A. Drafting Articles of Association

The initial step in incorporation is drafting the Articles of Association, which outlines a company's operational guidelines and regulatory compliance as per the Companies Law of the Cayman Islands. These articles serve as a contract between the shareholders and the company, stating rights, responsibilities, and legal structure.

B. Interfacing with the Registrar of Companies

To legally establish a company, one must submit the incorporation documents to the Registrar of Companies. The process includes providing a unique company name, details of company officers, and the registered office address. The Registrar meticulously reviews all submissions to ensure adherence to the Cayman Companies Law.

C. Share Capital and Shareholders

The configuration of share capital is a fundamental aspect of company setup. It involves determining the number and value of shares that a company will issue and recording shareholder details. The Companies Law requires companies to maintain a list of shareholders for regulatory and operational transparency.

D. Obtaining a Certificate of Good Standing

A Certificate of Good Standing asserts that a company has been compliant with all statutory requirements. To maintain good standing, registered companies must fulfill annual filing obligations and ensure their information is up-to-date. This certificate is often required for banking and other formal business transactions.

5. Pay Government Fees

Simple but important step. Pay your fees, which will be an initial registration fee as well as a yearly fee to keep your company in good standing. You can also have all of this done by a corporate service provider.

6. Legal Compliance and Documentation

Understanding the Companies Law and Legislation

The Cayman Islands’ Companies Law is a cornerstone of corporate legislation, influencing how companies are structured and governed. Businesses must comply with this law, which is based on common law principles. New businesses should carefully review the types of companies allowed under the law, such as exempted companies, which are often used by foreign investors to undertake business outside the Cayman Islands.

Beneficial Ownership Regulations

All companies in the Cayman Islands are subject to beneficial ownership regulations. These rules mandate that certain beneficial ownership information is maintained in a secure register and made available to regulatory and law enforcement authorities. The goal is to ensure transparency about who ultimately owns and controls a Cayman-based company.

Anti-Money Laundering Policies

The Cayman Islands are proactive in enforcing rigorous anti-money laundering (AML) policies. Companies must implement AML compliance programs and regularly conduct due diligence. This includes collecting adequate and appropriate documentation from clients to prevent fraud and ensuring all financial activities are conducted legally.

Contracts and Legal Documents

Executing legally-binding contracts and legal documents is vital to a company’s operation and liability structure. The creation, negotiation, and management of business contracts must align with both Cayman Islands law and international standards when applicable. Companies should ensure that contracts are drafted accurately to reflect all business dealings.


7. Financial Considerations

Setting up a company in the Cayman Islands involves clear understanding of financial obligations such as taxation, government fees, and banking options. These fiscal factors are crucial for ensuring compliance and financial efficiency.

Understanding Tax Neutrality

The Cayman Islands are renowned for their tax neutrality; there are no direct taxes on companies or individuals. This means companies do not pay corporate, capital gains, or income taxes on profits accrued within the jurisdiction. This can significantly enhance profitability for businesses, making it an attractive locale for incorporation.

Evaluating Annual Fees and Other Costs

Despite the absence of direct taxes, companies must be aware of annual government fees and other costs associated with their business activities. The annual fee is a mandatory cost payable to the Cayman Islands Government, which varies depending on the type of business entity. Additional costs may include fees for legal and professional services, as well as operational expenses unique to the company.

Similarly, despite there being no taxes, you must report your earnings and file taxes in the country where you live. Remeber forming an offshore company in the Cayman Islands is about tax optimization not tax evasion

8. Banking and Wealth Management

For businesses incorporating in the Cayman Islands, establishing a relationship with a local bank is essential. Banks in the region are adept at providing corporate banking services, ranging from everyday banking to sophisticated wealth management solutions. An understanding of the banking landscape is beneficial for effective financial planning and the secure management of both corporate and personal assets.



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9. Company Operating Requirements

When setting up a company in the Cayman Islands, compliance with local operating requirements is crucial. The process involves securing appropriate licensing, adhering to employment regulations, and satisfying economic substance norms.

Trade and Business Licensing

To legally operate in the Cayman Islands, businesses must obtain a Trade and Business Licence. This is applicable for both resident companies and those controlled by Caymanians. The process entails submission of relevant documentation, and the type of licence varies depending on the percentage of local ownership. For majority Caymanian-owned businesses, a straightforward Trade and Business Licence is required. If less than 60% Caymanian owned, businesses must apply for a Local Companies Control Law Licence (LCCL).

Work Permits and Local Employment

Companies in the Cayman Islands must prioritize hiring local employees where possible. When hiring non-Caymanians, companies are required to apply for work permits for their staff, demonstrating that no suitable Caymanian was available for the role. The application should include detailed documentation for each individual, and the company must comply with immigration and labor laws, which often change and may require frequent reassessment of compliance.

Meeting Economic Substance Requirements

Economic substance requirements are pivotal for companies operating within the Cayman Islands, particularly those engaged in relevant activities, such as banking, insurance, fund management, financing and leasing, shipping, and intellectual property. These companies must demonstrate that they have an adequate amount of operating expenditure, physical presence, and Cayman Islands' employees or officers related to the income-generating activities. The aim is to ensure that companies have substantial activity within the jurisdiction, not just in name but also in practice.

10. Ongoing Management and Maintenance

Once a company is established in the Cayman Islands, it is crucial for them to adhere to local regulations and maintain their standing through diligent management and timely updates. This involves filing annual returns, keeping company records current, and utilizing digital tools provided by the local authority for efficient administration.

Filing Annual Returns

Companies in the Cayman Islands are required to file annual returns with the Registrar of Companies to stay compliant. This process involves confirming the accuracy of the company’s details and paying the necessary fee. Failure to file can result in penalties or even striking off the company from the Registrar.

Maintaining Company Records and Updates

It is critical for companies to maintain up-to-date records. Companies must promptly report any company changes, such as alterations in directorship, shareholders, or company address, to the Cayman Registrar of Companies. Keeping accurate records ensures compliance and facilitates transparent corporate governance.

Using the Cayman Business Portal

The Cayman Business Portal serves as a comprehensive resource for entities to manage their company details. Leveraging this portal simplifies the application processing for updates and compliance matters, offering a streamlined approach to deal with the jurisdiction's regulatory requirements.

Additional Info

Services and Considerations

When establishing a company in the Cayman Islands, entrepreneurs must consider engaging specialized services and adhere to unique regulatory environments that offer advantages like flexibility in business operations. This section explores key services available within the Special Economic Zone and interactions with the Department of Commerce and Investments (DCI) that contribute to the friendly business environment.

Utilizing the Special Economic Zone

The Cayman Islands' Special Economic Zone (SEZ) provides a platform designed for businesses that want to leverage the benefits of a tax-neutral jurisdiction while enjoying a streamlined setup process. Companies within the SEZ benefit from:

  • No direct taxes, enhancing financial flexibility
  • Simplified company registration and work permit procedures
  • A robust business environment fostering innovation and growth

Entities considering the SEZ should review the eligibility criteria and potential sector-specific advantages listed on the Cayman Business Portal (CBP) to ensure alignment with their business objectives.

Engaging with the Department of Commerce and Investments (DCI)

The Department of Commerce and Investments (DCI) serves as a critical liaison for businesses establishing in the Cayman Islands outside of the SEZ. DCI responsibilities include:

  • Issuing Trade and Business Licenses, which are mandatory for legal operation
  • Offering guidance on the Local Companies (Control) Law, for businesses needing a local partner

Businesses must work closely with the DCI to navigate regulations and maintain compliance. Detailed requirements for starting a company, such as necessary licenses and permits, can be found through resources like Establishing a Business in the Cayman Islands and guidance from corporate service providers listed on sites like Corporate Services Providers in the Cayman Islands.


Local Participation

Some businesses may require a certain percentage of Caymanian ownership or partnership. This is particularly true for businesses that wish to engage directly with the local market. However, there are exemptions for companies operating in certain sectors or those that can operate without a local trade license, such as exempted companies.

Registered Office

Every company incorporated in the Cayman Islands must have a registered office in the jurisdiction. This is a legal requirement for the purpose of official communications.

Business Licensing

Depending on the type of business, a foreigner may need to obtain a Trade and Business License from the Trade and Business Licensing Board. This involves submitting a detailed application that includes a business plan, financial projections, and evidence of experience in the business field.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the annual obligations and fees for a company registered in the Cayman Islands?

A company registered in the Cayman Islands must comply with annual filing requirements and pay relevant fees, which vary depending on the company type. The Cayman Islands General Registry provides details on registration and annual fees.

What is the process for obtaining a business license in the Cayman Islands?

Obtaining a business license in the Cayman Islands involves submitting an application to the appropriate authority, such as the Trade and Business Licensing Board. The process may differ based on the type of business and whether the applicant is a resident or non-resident.

How can one perform a company register search in the Cayman Islands?

A company register search in the Cayman Islands can be performed online through the Cayman Islands General Registry, where one can find information on registered companies, including their status and compliance with local regulations.

What are the considerations for setting up a holding company in the Cayman Islands?

When setting up a holding company in the Cayman Islands, considerations include understanding the tax implications, regulatory requirements, and the benefits of registration in this jurisdiction.


What are the legal requirements for a foreigner to establish a business in the Cayman Islands?

Foreign nationals wishing to establish a business in the Cayman Islands may need to obtain a local trade license and comply with certain immigration requirements. They must also meet the regulatory conditions set by the local authorities.


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***Please Note: If you are a resident of a country that is a signatory of the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) (or a US citizen) your tax reduction possibilities are limited. Due FATCA, CRS, and CFC laws you may not be able to completely eliminate your taxes without moving your residence. While opening an offshore company can increase privacy and asset protection, your tax obligations remans tied to your ownership of overseas entities. Offshore company's are often not taxed in the country where they are incorporated, rather you as the owner are obligated to pay taxes in the country where you reside. Please make sure you know your tax obligations, as we are not tax advisors. Please seek a local tax professional for help regarding your situation. 

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