Bahamas: Country and Foreign Investment
Entry and Residence
Tourist visas are of course granted readily; people wishing to stay for longer periods without working must obtain a residence permit from the Immigration Department. The International Persons Landholding Act 1993 reversed a previously deterrent stance and actively encourages the purchase of local residential property. Acquisition of a single family dwelling or up to 5 acres of vacant land for construction of a dwelling no longer needs an advance permit, but can be registered after purchase. Rule for inheritors of Bahamian properties have been similarly relaxed.
Home-owners can obtain an annually-renewable Home Owner's Residence Card which acts as a visa for entry and residence during its validity.
Major international investors and existing owners of properties worth more than USD1.5m receive accelerated treatment of residence applications.
Work permits are necessary for non-Bahamians to be employed: key (senior or specially-skilled) people are issued permits; in other cases it is wise to discuss the possibility of a permit with the Bahamas Investment Authority in advance.
In early 2007, it emerged that the Bahamas financial services industry had developed an immigration framework designed to help the jurisdiction compete with other offshore financial centres for a finite pool of skilled workers.
The proposals were drawn up following discussions between the Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB), responsible for promoting the jurisdiction's finance industry internationally, and the Ministry of Immigration, Labour and Training (MILT). Two primary 'financial services industry' contacts have been appointed within the Department of Immigration, with the turnaround period for the processing of completed FSI work permit applications now pegged at 6 weeks.
The MILT will also consider a more flexible work permit system that reflects the availability of workers in certain occupations and may grant shorter work permits for employment in areas where there is an acute shortage of skills in just the Bahamas, and medium- to long-term permits for jobs where there is a worldwide shortage of qualified candidates.
Currently, when work permits are about to expire, employers must advertise the post locally before MILT will grant an extension. However, the Ministry said that it will review this process and may give favourable consideration where the position is for senior positions in an organisation. It will also expedite the processing of applications for temporary permits, which are valid for a period of up to three months.
It is anticipated that the framework will be updated continually to meet changes and developments taking place in the industry.
In November 2007, Minister of State for Immigration, Elma Campbell announced that the government’s comprehensive immigration policy was “well underway”, and was addressing the challenges facing the Department of Immigration in the areas of illegal migration and the processing of work permits.
Since the launching of the new immigration policy, the Immigration Board convenes weekly in New Providence and twice a month in Grand Bahama.