CPA FAQs

Periodically, I get emails from readers across the States and around the world that are interested in what it would take to move themselves and their careers to Grand Cayman. Typically, I draft some kind of response that (hopefully) helps them navigate their options and make informed decisions. Since the questions generally have repetitive qualities and cover a few recurring themes, I thought it would be helpful to post some of the questions we've received and the responses that we've given. My goal is to update this page periodically with new content when new questions come in, so check back for more Cayman tips in the future!


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February 2014

Off the Beaten Track Race

Reader questionI am originally from Germany but I moved to California to go to school. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and worked here as a Financial Analyst for about a year. Now, I’m seriously looking into career opportunities on the Cayman Islands...First of all, with my rather limited experience (1 year + internships), do you think I have a chance finding a job out there? And then, I know on your blog you said you sent out resumes directly to the firms. Did you call them first or did you directly reply to job openings? Or did you just “cold email" them? 

offshore cpaI would suggest contacting some of the recruiters on the island to find out what opportunities might be available for someone with your degree and experience. In general, please be aware that all jobs must be offered to all qualified Caymanians before an expat will be granted a work permit, so it can be challenge to find permanent work (but certainly not impossible.) As for the recruiters, I'd recommend CML, Stepping Stones, and Baraud


In terms of our experience, we reached out to the public accounting firms directly through the main contact email listed on their websites. I'm not sure if the contact info has changed in the past 3.5 years, but there is usually some kind of mailbox for inquiries. I will say that as far as the public accounting firms, I have heard that they've switched to mainly recruiting exclusively from their own global networks, so I think it's been more challenging for those outside of the firms to get interviews. But again, the recruiters will know more about the current state of affairs than me.

Follow-up reader question: I was wondering if I should fly out there for a couple of weeks and look for jobs while there since it’s typically easier to find out about opportunities when you are local and can contact firms in person. Do you think that would be a good idea? Are the firms there receptive to such a direct approach? About contacting them through the main contact email, when you first reached out to the firms, did you send your resume in your first email or did you only inquire about open positions first and then apply based on that? 

offshore cpa: Offering to meet firms in person could help in finding a job, but companies still face the challenge of looking for local talent first. So if there is an adequate supply of qualified Caymanians for the jobs you're looking for, they legally cannot hire you, even if you fly here and interview well. Sorry to be discouraging; I just don't want to offer you false promises. I would suggest sending your resume in an initial email to the firms, as I know from experience that dozens of employment emails can be received per day, and if you are waiting for a positive response from a firm before giving them your info, you'll likely not get it.

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December 2013

Christmas Eve service at Dart Park with Sunrise Community Church

Reader question: A bit of background - my husband and I are both Canadian Chartered Accountants who worked for [a Big Four firm in] Vancouver for 4 years.  We both left public practice and now work for [a] government crown corp., but I am currently on maternity leave.  We also have two little boys (2 years and 6 months).

One of the main reasons I left public practice was crazy hours.  For public practice jobs in Cayman, how have you found busy season?  What kind of hours were you working?  Was there flexibility to take work home with you?  With kids now I want a job with good work/life balance.  What about non busy season?  What were the hours like then?  Do many firms offer time off in lieu of overtime?  Also, have you found that there are many jobs for accountants outside of public practice?

offshore cpa: Busy season in Cayman can take a few different forms. We found that it can be very intense for about 3-4 months, or it can be less intense than in the States while lasting for about 6 months. We were generally working 50-70 hrs/week. Weekends are usually not expressly required, but are often needed to meet various regulatory deadlines. We were able to take work home, but the culture is more or less to be in the office with your team for the majority of the hours. There isn't a big culture of telecommuting (esp. b/c the island is so small.) Time in lieu is not popular. One of the firms offered an extra week vacation to seniors who worked a certain number of OT hours, but that's about it.

During non-busy season, we generally worked a standard 40 hour week, so nothing too strenuous there. 

There are accounting jobs outside of public practice, but they are primarily to service the financial services industries on island. So there are a lot of hedge fund administrators and captive insurance managers that require qualified accountants to manage clients' accounts. Some firms also have insolvency departments, and accountants can sometimes find jobs in those roles, depending on the big cases that are being investigated. There are some other accounting jobs (local companies, the tourism industry, banking, etc.), but there are less of them than the public accounting jobs and the administration jobs.

Also, all jobs are offered to Caymanians first, by law, so there is a work permit process that all expats are subjected to before an employer will grant a contract.

Sorry if I sound discouraging; it's just that I think the easiest ticket to Cayman (from an accounting perspective) is to be willing to do at least two years in public practice. If you're not able or willing to do that, you'll have to rely on having relevant industry expertise on your CV to find a role in Cayman. You could try applying with some of the recruitment agencies on island. I'd recommend CMLStepping Stones, and Baraud.

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November 2013

Pirates Week

Reader question: My husband has been offered a job on GC.  We really want to make this move, but we're trying to determine if we can really afford it.  We have three children, ages 13, 11, and 8.  I think to make it work financially, I would need to home school the kids.  I'm wondering if you know of any home schooling families on the island who may be willing to offer me some guidance.  If it makes a difference, we are from the U.S., so we may be looking for a U.S. based home schooling curriculum, but I'm honestly not sure if it matters.

offshore cpa: [The following response was passed along to me by SS, who is a math/science tutor on the island. ]

"[This] is something a parent passed along to me a couple years ago (so the information could be out of date).  I do know that the K12 program, which is a US curriculum, is good, but I am not aware of what other curriculums are available.  I've heard rumors of a homeschool group (for younger kids I believe), but am not sure if it's anything official and/or how to find them.  As for school sports and activities, most of these on island are clubs rather than having an association with a school. So they should be able to easily get involved with those. 

HOME SCHOOLING IN CAYMAN
It is possible to home school your children in the Cayman Islands with the approval of the Department of Education. Here is what you need to do:
  • Complete a home schooling form obtained from the Department of Education. This form is to be submitted, along with a cover letter, explaining the reason for the home schooling request.
  • Submit information on the curriculum and teacher for the child/children. If parents decide to home school their own child/children, the Department is open to this option. In this instance, information about the parents’ educational background needs to be provided. The Department of Education does not provide teachers for home schooling.
  • Submit proof of the child’s/children’s enrolment in a home schooling programme. Examples of acceptable proof include, for example, payment receipts (credit card payment slips or bank drafts) for a home school curriculum.
  • The completed package (cover letter, home schooling application and documentation) should be delivered to the Department of Education Services for the attention of Mrs. Shirley Wahler, Chief Education Officer. The Department’s physical address is 130 Thomas Russell Avenue (Room 7). If the package is being mailed or emailed the address is:
Mrs. Shirley Wahler
Chief Education Officer
Department of Education Services
PO Box 910 GT, Grand Cayman , KY1–1103


  • Once the package is received, it is reviewed and a letter is then prepared with the decision. This letter is sent to the parents by mail and a copy is also sent to the Immigration Department for their records."
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May 2013

Usain Bolt runs in Cayman

Reader question: Is it possible to get a job on the island as an Accountant without a CPA? I did a little research after I found your blog and came across some positions but they all required a CPA. I read somewhere that you can't get the work permit without the CPA??? I was really curious about that because I'm wondering why that is necessary? I have the 150 credits and actually took 2 parts years back after I graduated in 2006 and didn't pass so I guess I just gave up. However, I do have 3 years experience working for as a Mutual Fund Accountant for a bank here in Milwaukee.

offshore cpa: The main reason it's almost impossible to get an accounting job here without the CPA license is because the local laws require all jobs to be offered to Caymanians before expats. Any jobs that don't require a CPA license will almost definitely be filled be a Caymanian. I hope that answers your question, in a nutshell!

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May 2013

A&C get married

Reader question: We are seriously considering applying to join the ranks of expats in Cayman for Oct 2014. My husband has his CPA and MBA and will have 1 year as senior under his belt before we would make the move. As I am sure many prospective newcomers are, we have concerns about being able to make ends meet financially. We have been looking at listings online and the majority give a salary of $55k-$60k US and 10%-20% bonus. Is this salary and bonus range accurate from your experience?  If so, is there any room to negotiate salary or benefits? On average, what would you say health insurance premiums would be for employee+spouse? Is the career track 1-2 years from senior to manager? At the end of the 2 years will your contract be renewed as long as you are doing a good job and want to stay or is it a select few that are chosen?

offshore cpa: 1. Senior salaries are generally not all that negotiable. The range you stated is fairly typical; I've seen initial salaries go up to about US$63K (before bonus). Benefits are also somewhat standardized: Generally, 4 weeks paid vacation, paid public holidays, and 50% of medical covered by the employer for the employee premium. 

2. Monthly out-of-pocket insurance premiums for employee + spouse would be about US$450 for premier coverage, which covers all medical, prescriptions, dental, vision, etc.

3. Career track: Most people stay at senior for two years. There are the rare cases were a senior will get promoted to manager after one year (or some firms have assistant manager), but unless the senior comes in with very strong financial services experience, that would be unlikely. There is also the typical issue of the firm having the space for promotions - ie. other managers leaving, growth of client base, etc.

4. After 2 years at senior, some firms will sign seniors up for a 3rd year if this is in line with staffing needs and the seniors are strong enough to keep around. The strongest seniors tend to get promoted to manager after 2 years, but again, that depends on the facts and circumstances within the firm.

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March 2013

Ritz staycation

Reader question: Is getting a job in the Cayman's more about good luck and good timing or are the people that wind up there generally people who already have this specific type of experience beforehand? I ask only to determine what kind of a challenge it would be for me to get down there at all.

offshore cpaThere are plenty of auditors in Cayman that had no financial services experience prior to arriving on island. If you have a solid audit background with a large to medium sized firm, have proven yourself to be a high performer, consistently produce strong audit documentation, understand how to do a risk assessment process, have effective communication skills, and are dedicated to a high level of client service, those are the basic skill sets required to be successful in Cayman. However, HR teams will also look for financial services experience as a major plus, and many of the firms first attempt to bring people in from other global offices rather than recruiting from outside. 

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February 2013

Art@Governors

Reader questionI am currently seriously considering a 'tour' to my firm's Cayman office for 1-2 years starting in October 2013. 

A little background on myself - I am a 25 year old audit senior associate working within the FS practice (mostly work on Registered Investment Companies, some smaller PE/hedge jobs) of a Big 4 firm in Philadelphia. I really enjoy Philly, the people I work with, and (generally) my clients; however, I feel that I am in a great position to experience work abroad for a period. I came across a posting internally for the Caymans and have done some pretty thorough research in the past couple weeks regarding working and living in the Caymans. My next step now would be to speak to my 'coach' at work (sr manager) and relationship partner regarding the opportunity and formally initiate the process.

Before doing so, I just had a few questions/concerns that I was hoping you could maybe lend some perspective to:

1. Cost of living - the Cayman dollar is stronger than the USD, as such, I assume my salary would be adjusted to reflect this. That said, do you find that you are still able to allocate money to savings? I know that everyday expenses are going to jump in price; however, I do not want to deplete my savings account entirely.

2. Housing - in looking at your blog, in conjunction with other sites online, it seems that the best places to live are West Bay, SMB, and GT. My firm's office is in GT, and I would ideally like to live in one of the three aforementioned places. Looking at rental listings online, living alone (I am single) on my senior associate salary, even if adjusted, may prove difficult. I was wondering if you had any good resources to turn to in terms of looking for rental listings, as well as roommates. I would not be opposed to (may even prefer to) living with a roommate(s), especially if this meant that I could live in a more sought-after location at an attractive price. I was also wondering if you had any thoughts on living in one of the other areas of the island that I did not mention. I would want to be close to work ideally (within 20 minutes) and not be isolated (have some social options available nearby).

3. Social life - as a single 25 year old moving to an island where the closest person I would know is at least an hour flight away, I was wondering about the social scene in the Caymans. I am pretty laid-back, and am by no means a party every night type; however, I would definitely like to go out with co-workers and on the weekends. After all, a large part of my wanting to head to the Caymans is to experience other cultures, gain new perspectives, and build relationships that will last. How difficult is it to assimilate to island life? Are co-workers generally accommodating and outgoing? I would basically be relying on co-workers to be my extended family for the 1-2 year tour. I know the culture may be different from firm to firm, but any insight you can provide would be greatly appreciated. 



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February 2013

Slow Food

Reader question: I was wondering what is the best way to get hired in Grand Cayman? I graduated last May, and am currently half way through getting my CPA (two tests left to go and 4 months more of experience needed) and plan on obtaining it in June. Currently I do mostly audit work and some tax. We audit government entities, non-profits, banks, and private companies. I absolutely love what I do just not where I do it. I am a very motivated person and hope to move to Grand Cayman as soon as I can. I know most places like 2-3 years of experience but is it common to hire with less?

offshore cpa: Typically, new audit seniors find their way to Grand Cayman one of three ways:

1) Internal transfer (all the big firms are here, so people come across with the same firm on a transfer or secondment)
2) Recruiting agencies
3) Direct application (this is how we got our jobs)

Firms do typically want about 2 or more years of audit experience before hiring, since the senior positions here carry a lot of responsibility and require seniors to understand the audit process from start to finish (not just one section of the engagement.) It's also extremely difficult/impossible to get a public accounting job in Cayman without having your CPA license. This is due to the law that requires all qualified Caymanians to be hired ahead of expats - no questions asked. However, there aren't enough Caymanian CPAs to fill all the positions, so this is why we and many other expats were able to get jobs on the island. However, without the CPA license, it's difficult to legally hire an expat accountant.

I would probably stick it out for at least two busy seasons at one firm. It shows some loyalty on your resume, which will be important for future employers to see, and you'll learn a lot of important skills that will be useful no matter what industry you're auditing.

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January 2013



Reader question: How long did it take for your work permit to be approved after sending the documents?

offshore cpa: Work permit documents can take a while to get through the immigration board. This year, [our public accounting firm] had trouble getting our new starts on island for their pre-arranged start date, as the board took especially long to process and approve their permits. What used to be a matter of weeks has turned into at least a couple months. Hopefully your employer started the process well in advance!

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January 2013



Reader question: You mention auditing. Is that what most of the CPAs on the island do? Here in the US CPAs work in a mix of taxation and auditing. Is offshore work the same or different. Also, what kind of companies do you audit? Foreign industries? Hedge funds? 

offshore cpa: Many of the expat accountants on island are auditors, although there are also fund administrators, insurance managers, controllers, and CFOs. Since Cayman is a tax haven, there is a limited amount of tax work here, although it does exist. Usually people are dedicated to one or the other, and don't experience a mix in the public accounting firm arena.

Most of [the public accounting firm's] clients are hedge funds, banks, captive insurance companies, private equity firms, etc. There are also some local audits for companies that have operations here in Cayman.

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July 2012

Super Six Finale
photo credit: KK


Reader questionWhat do people generally end up doing with the money they used to put in their 401k's? Do they suspend structured saving for the duration of the rotation?

offshore cpaYou can choose what you want to do with your 401ks - either leave them in the plans or roll them into IRAs. However, if you're staying with your current firms after moving to Cayman, it might be wise to leave the money in the plans so that you get credit for those years of vesting (if applicable.) In any case, you almost definitely won't be eligible to contribute after moving, plus there will be no tax deferral incentive.

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June 2012

Flowers Sea Swim

Reader questionI am an experienced consultant in Houston (MBA, CPA, CIA, PMP, Six Sigma Green Belt) who has been doing projects for oil and gas and other energy companies. Have audit and big 4 experience. Question for fellow CPAs down on that beautiful island: Do the CPA firms/other firms on the island use contract (temp) labor? If so, do you know anyone I might contact?

offshore cpaYour best bet will probably be to contact one or more of the recruitment agencies (like CML Offshore - cmlor.com) to see if they can place you. The problem is that the island is small, and it doesn't support the large companies that you're used to servicing. However, there are various projects going on, and it's quite possible that they do need temporary accounting personnel. There are always opportunities in public accounting, due to the audit requirements for all of the captive insurance and hedge fund companies that are domiciled here.

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May 2012

Reader question: What do most of the members of Big4/Accounting firms tend to go work at after there usually 18-24 months stay at the Cayman when they go back to their  respective countries? Based on your experience do most go back to become Managers back at there old firms etc or tend to go for some specific Industry jobs? Generally want would you say are the key skills that you are gaining through your time at the Cayman Island?

offshore cpa: Life After Cayman




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Got other questions? Email us! offshorecpablog [at] gmail [dot] com


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