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Bermuda: Business Environment

Residence and Property

In common with some other crowded and attractive offshore jurisdictions, Bermuda limits immigration through tough controls on work permits and housing.

Children born in Bermuda, without either parent being Bermudian by birth or status at the time, are not Bermudian. They are NOT allowed to register to vote in any election after they become 18 years old. All British Commonwealth nationals including Australians, Britons, Canadians, New Zealanders and West Indians and all other non Bermudians of good character and reputation who have been long term residents of Bermuda for 20 or more years but were refused Bermuda status if they applied for it and were not registered to vote in 1979, are NOT allowed to register to vote.

There is no longer any mechanism providing for any other individuals who may also be long term residents of Bermuda, but who do not have close family ties with Bermudians, to become local citizens. Without this designation, they can never vote. And because they cannot, nor can they ever own mid priced real estate by Bermuda's standards. They are limited to the top 5% in price and Annual Rentable Value (ARV).

However, a few concessions were granted in 2002 to some non-Bermudians with over 20 years of continuous residence and demonstrated good character and conduct. They took effect on October 31, 2002 with the enactment of the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 2002. Having a qualifying Bermudian connection is key to getting status after 20 years. Otherwise, there is no chance at all of getting Bermuda Status (citizenship). At the time of writing, about 400 people - 100 all of whose brothers and sisters are Bermudians; 80 parents of whose children are Bermudians; and 220 who were registered as voters on the Parliamentary Register before May 1, 1976 - are entitled to apply for Bermuda Status. All others with over 20 years of continuous residence can apply for Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC). Those with a Working Resident Certificate (WRC) - introduced in 1998 - must still apply for a PLC as some years have passed since they proved their eligibility. Having a PRC will provide security of employment and residence to long term residents. But having either a PRC or WRC does not entitle any non-Bermudian to buy lower or mid-priced real estate. They continue to be limited to the top 5% in price and Annual Rentable Value (ARV).

The Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 requires that a non-Bermudian, not being married to a Bermudian, must obtain a work permit, and this will only be granted if there is no suitably qualified Bermudian. Positions must first be advertised locally before a permit is applied for, although this requirement is often waived for senior positions. Work permits are normally granted for one year (longer in the case of senior posts). Permits are not normally given to people with more than two children.

The cost of a work permit is met by the future employer, and varies according to the proposed length of employment. Effective 1st April 2010, work permits costs range from USD721 for a one-year permit to USD5,150 for a five-year permit. The soon-to-be-introduced ten-year permit will cost USD20,000. The ten-year permit was announced during a speech to the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce by Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry, Kim Wilson in late April, 2011.

Foreigners are more or less unable to buy land or property, other than houses with an Annual Rental Value (ARV) in excess of BMD177,000.

In June 2007, the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2007 and seven related Regulations come into force representing the first complete overhaul and modernization of Part VI of the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 since the Act came into effect. It marks the culmination of the legislative process through which this Part was amended to bring into law what was the Government’s land policy and, in particular, to address the problem of “fronting”, by which means non-Bermudians have gained control over land in Bermuda either while avoiding the licensing regime or in defiance of the Government’s land-holding policy. Additionally, the Regulations ensconce in law certain administrative rules supporting Part VI of the 1956 Act.

Purchase of properties by non-Bermudians requires a license from the Minister, and payment of a fee of 25% (at the time of writing) of the value of the property.

NB: This is a very abbreviated summary of the complex rules governing property purchase or rental in Bermuda.



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