British Virgin Islands: Country and Foreign Investment
Entry and Residence
All non-residents, including British citizens, require a passport to enter the BVI, except that Canadian and US citizens need only a birth certificate, certificate of citizenship or voter registration card. However, under the US government's Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), citizens of the United States, Canada and Mexico will also have to present a passport or other accepted document that establishes the bearer's identity and nationality, in order to enter or re-enter the United States by air from within the Western Hemisphere. This has applied to visitors to the Caribbean since January 2008.
Visas are given for up to six months' stay provided that there is a return or onward ticket and evidence of sufficient funds.
In order to work in the BVI, a work permit is needed, except for 'Belongers', naturalised citizens and holders of a certificate of residency. Work permits are issued only when there is no suitable local applicant for the job.
At the time of writing, in order to lease or purchase land, non-Belongers must obtain an Alien Landholding Licence. Applications for a Licence must be accompanied by two personal financial references, one bank reference, two character references, police record, a filing fee of US$200 (per individual) or US$300 (per company) is paid at the time of application. Once the licence has been granted applicants pay an acceptance fee of US$600 per person and US$1000 per company. Licences carry a 2 or 3 year commitment to develop unimproved land.
In December, 2004, the government outlined the details of a new immigration policy framework in a bid to clarify the rules surrounding applications for residence and ‘belonger’ status. Chief Minister Orlando Smith explained that the Board of Immigration would make recommendations in 2005 concerning those who applied for residence status before January 1st 2003 and had lived in the territory continuously for the last twenty years. In June, 2005, 92 of these individuals received residence and belonger certificates.
Approvals for those applying for residency status after January 1st 2003 are limited to no more than 25 persons per year. The government also stressed that in all cases, individuals cannot be away from the BVI for more than 90 days in any calendar year if they want to qualify for residency status.
Smith acknowledged that controlling immigration in the territory represented a “very serious challenge” for the government, and explained that a balance must be struck between welcoming outsiders and protecting the privileges afforded to BVI citizens.
In March 2008, Premier and Minister of Finance Ralph O’Neal announced in his budget speech that comprehensive immigration reform would be a priority in 2008.
"We will amend existing legislation to implement additional control measures. Current legislation will be reviewed to ensure compliance with international laws, human rights and other conventions. As we embark on the reform process, we will ensure citizen participation by conducting regular consultations with representatives of the community, advocacy groups and other private sector organisations," he revealed.
As part of this process, has begun preparations to streamline immigration procedures by creating a "one-stop process" for obtaining entry permits and work permits.
For further information, the Immigration Department can be contacted at:
341 Waterfront Drive,
Ashley Ritter Building,