Immigration, residency and business laws, details and formalities of the Bahamas.
Buying real estate in any country is a challenge. One must thoroughly investigate the legalities, and the overall general safety of doing so. The Bahamas, and Long Island in particular, has long been a safe, secure place to do so. Back in 1992, the government changed the laws to encourage more investment in Bahamian lands by foreigners, and, since then, many foreign investors have come to Long Island and benefited for a variety of reasons:
1, Safe, low or no crime, especially in the Out Islands.
2, Good infrastructure, roads, health facilities, restaurants, monetary system, banks.
3, Taxes, low taxes, no capital gains tax.
4, Good attitude of government toward foreign investments.
As in any country, one should hire a local attorney when buying any real estate, especially in a foreign country, and ONLY buy land that has clear title.
Starting 60 miles off the coast of South Florida and stretching as far south as Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, The Bahamas is a coral archipelago of 700 islands, 29 of which are inhabited, and over 2,000 rocks and cays.
With a population of some 269,000 people, most of whom live on the major islands, New Providence, Grand Bahama, Eleuthera, Abaco, Exuma, Long Island, Inagua, Cat Island, Bimini and Andros, and with an adult literacy rate of 95%, The Bahamas, an English speaking country, has a capable and adable work force.
The term, Isles of June has often aptly been used to describe the Bahamas due to its mild climate. Having a tropical maritime wet and dry climate, with slight incursions of mildly polar air, generally the Bahamas does not experience extremes of temperatures. The humidity is fairly high, especially in the summer months, but there is usually a pleasant breeze which lessens the humid effect. Rain showers can occur at any time of the year, but the rainy months are May to October. Rainfall is mainly in the form of heavy thundershowers, which clear quickly.
The Bahamas has comprehensive and modern infrastructure, particularly on the two major islands, New Providence and Grand Bahama, where most of the population live. Electricity and water are in abundant supply. Telecommunications services and facilities in The Bahamas are state of the art, with direct international links provided through a 100% digital switching system.
The Bahamas declared independence from Great Britain on July 10, 1973, a new Constitution became the supreme law of the land for the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. The Constitution of the Bahamas proclaims the islands as a sovereign democratic state, sets forth requirements for citizenship and guarantees fundamental human rights. The Bahamas retains its ties with the Commonwealth of Nations (formerly the British Commonwealth) and also retains the British monarch as its head of state. The Queen is represented in The Bahamas by a Governor General who is appointed and serves at Her Majesty's pleasure.
The legally acceptable currency of The Bahamas is the Bahamian dollar. Although all other currencies are foreign, the U.S. dollar is normally accepted throughout The Bahama islands and is on par with the Bahamian dollar. The Exchange Control is administered by The Central Bank of The Bahamas.
The Bahamas is a stable developing nation, according to a United States of commerce report by the U.S. Embassy in Nassau. The economy is based mostly on tourism and offshore banking. Retail and wholesale distributive trade, manufacture, agriculture and fisheries are the other major sectors of the economy. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of The Bahamas exceeds $3 billion, 60% of which comes from tourism related activities. The per capita income of the country is $11,000.
NATIONAL INVESTMENT POLICY.
The Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas is committed to building an economic environment in which free enterprise can flourish, where the Government assumes its proper role as regulator and facilitator of economic development, where the ideals of transparency, fair play and equality of treatment are paramount, and a policy that maintains a stable society in which all people are afforded the opportunity to realize their maximum potential. In this regard, the National Investment Policy is designed to support an investment friendly climate, guarantees the complementarity of Bahamian and overseas investments, fosters appropriate linkages with all sectors of the economy, in particular, the tourism and financial services sectors, encourages the exploitation of our natural resources in an environmentally sound and sustainable manner, provides for the maximum level of employment, guarantees an acceptable level of economic security and generally foster the economic growth and development of The Bahamas.
The Investment Environment.
To undergrid the National Investment Policy the Government will provide.
A politically stable environment conducive to private investment.
An atmosphere where investments are safe and the expropriation of investment capital is not a considered option.
A legal environment based on a long tradition of parliamentary democracy, the rule of constitutional and statute laws and where security of life and personal property are guaranteed.
A stable macroeconomic environment bolstered by a prudent fiscal policy, a stable exchange rate, flexible exchange control rules and free trade.
An environment in which freedom from Capital Gains, Inheritance, Withholding, Profit Remittance, Corporate, Royalties, Sales, Personal Income, Dividends, Payroll and Interest taxes is ensured.
Essential public services, an adequately equipped police constabulary, modern health and education facilities and other social service.
Dependable public utilities, and
Essential public infrastructure such as roads, ports and airports.
International Financial Centre.
The Government is committed to enhancing the image of The Bahamas as an international financial centre. To this end the Government will.
Maintain the Bahamas as a leading financial services centre.
Monitor all developments in the international financial markets and amend any rules, regulations or legislation that would preserve and enhance the competitiveness of the financial services sector of the Bahamian economy.
Ensure the operation of a clean financial centre with specific rules and regulation to prevent the laundering of criminally derived assets.
Support The Central Bank of The Bahamas in its commitment to bank supervision and promoting high standards of conduct and sound banking practices.
Support the self regulatory measures of the Association of International Bank and Trust Companies (AIBT), particularly, the established code of conduct for bank and trust companies.
Continue enforcement of our bank secrecy laws.
Investment incentives under the following Acts include exemption from the payment of customs duties on building materials, equipment and approved raw materials, business licensing fees and real property taxes for periods up to twenty years.
The Export Manufacturing Industries Encouragement Act.
The Industries Encouragement Act.
The Agricultural Manufacturers Act.
The Tariff Act.
The Free Trade Zone act.
The Hotels Encouragement Act.
The Spirits and Beer Manufacturers Act.
NOTE: Custom duty exemptions do not apply to personal consumables.
Investors may acquire publicly owned lands for approved developments on concessionary terms, and
Acquire low cost space for lease for industrial enterprises.
Government will provide special training and retraining for Bahamian workers to ensure the continuing availability of a highly skilled labor force.
Preferential Trade Incentives.
Business located in The Bahamas may benefit from the following preferential trade arrangements:
The Lome Convention.
General System of Preference. (GSP)
Caribbean Basin Initiative.
Administration of The Investment Policy.
Executive Management of the investment Policy is resident in the National Economic Council (NEC), headed by the prime Minister and operational activities will be the responsibility of the Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA) or the Investors "One-Stop-Shop".
Establishing a Business In The Bahamas.
An international investor seeking to do business in The Bahamas should submit to BIA a project proposal, along with supporting documents. The proposal should provide the information indicated in the following Project Proposal Guideline.
Project Proposal Guideline.
Address, include telephone/fax.
Description of Proposal, an executive summary of project.
Type of Business, state whether entity is share company, partnership, individual or joint venture.
Principals, persons investing in the venture or major beneficial shareholders.
Land or Factory Space.
Proposed Start Up Date.
Management and or Personnel Requirement, years of experience, training, success of similar previous or current activity, work permits (if any) required for key personnel and or non-key personnel.
Employment Projections, number of Bahamian and non Bahamian employees.
Financial Arrangement, for project include Bank Reference.
Environmental Impact, toxic waste, disposal procedures, toxic input.
Concessions Sought, Customs Duty Exemptions.
Investment Incentive, if applying under a particular Act or programme.
Local Representative, attorney, accountant or agent.
To ensure the maximum benefit to The Bahamas from the National Investment Policy, certain immigration provisions will apply.
Necessary work permits for key personnel will be granted. Businesses requiring permits for persons other than key personnel are encouraged to discuss these requests with the Bahamas Investment Authority in advance.
2. International Owners of Second Homes.
Overseas Investors may acquire residential properties in The Bahamas of up to five acres without prior Government approval. Such acquisitions are required to be registered in accordance with the International Persons Landholding Act. Second Home Owners are eligible for a Home Owners Residence Card, renewable annually.
This card will facilitate entry into The Bahamas, entitle the owner, his spouse and minor children to enter and remain in The Bahamas for the duration of the validity of the card. Application may be made to the Director of Immigration.
3. Annual or Permanent Residence.
Accelerated consideration of applications for annual or permanent residence will be given to.
Major international investors, and fit and proper owners or residence valued at $500,000 or more.
4. Areas Especially Targeted for Overseas Investors.
Upscale Condominium, Time share and Second Home Development.
International Business Centre.
Information and Data Processing Services.
High Tech Service.
Ship Registration, Repair and other services.
Light Manufacturing for export.
Banking and other Financial Services.
Off-shore Medical Centres.
NB. This list is not exhaustive and investors interested in areas not included above are encouraged to bring their interest to the attention of BIA.
5. Local Partners in Joint Ventures.
International investors are encouraged to establish joint ventures with Bahamian partners. The choice of such Bahamian partners is in the absolute discretion of the investor.
6. Access to credit facilities of the Bahamas Development Bank.
The Bahamas Development Bank was created to assist Bahamians in establishing new businesses or expanding existing concerns through the provision of concessionary funding and technical assistance, for projects which generate jobs and which contribute to the economic growth and development of The Bahamas.
Joint ventures between international investors and Bahamians are eligible to access funding from BDB. However, the equity of the overseas investor may not be borrowed from the BDB or from the domestic capital market. Bahamians may, however, borrow a percentage of their contribution from BDB or the domestic capital market. An established joint venture is not debarred from accessing BDB funds.
7. Areas reserved for Bahamians.
Wholesale and Retail Operations.
Commission agencies engaged in the import/export/trade.
Real estate and domestic property management agencies.
Domestic advertising and public relations firms.
Nightclubs and restaurants, except specialty, gourmet and ethnic restaurants, restaurants operating in a hotel, resort complex or tourist attraction.
Domestic distribution of building supplies.
Construction companies, except for special structures for which international expertise is required.
Personal cosmetic/beauty establishment.
Shallow water scale-fish, crustacea, mollusks and sponge-fishing operations.
Auto and appliance service operations and Public transportation.
International Investors may engage in the wholesale distribution of any product they produce locally.
Current Real Estate Legislation, Stamp Duties and Taxes.
In 1994 it became much easier for non-Bahamians to purchase real estate in The Bahamas.
Effective January 1, 1994, the government of The Bahamas introduced new legislation to facilitate the purchase of land in The Bahamas by non-Bahamians. This Legislation is cited as "The International Persons Landholding Act, 1993." The important provisions of this Act are as follows.
It provides that a non Bahamian (other than a permanent resident or a non Bahamian acquiring land or an interest in land under a devise or by inheritance) may purchase a condominium, or property for use as a single family dwelling or for the construction of such a dwelling without the need of a permit provided the property is no more than 5 acres in size. The purchaser must, however, apply to the Secretary upon the receipt of the respective fee specified in the schedule shall register the purchase or acquisition in the Register and shall issue a certificate to the applicant.
A permanent resident may purchase land without a permit but must also register the purchase on acquisition as above.
No permit is required by a non Bahamian if land or an interest in land is acquired by reason of device or inheritance but the acquisition must also be registered.
A non Bahamian (other than a permanent resident or non Bahamian acquiring land or an interest in land under a devise or inheritance) who wishes to acquire five or more contiguous acres of land in The Bahamas must apply for a permit from the Board on the requisite form stating the intended use for the land. Otherwise any such acquisition shall be null and void in the absence of such permit.
The Act exempts banks and trust companies and insurance companies who acquire interests in land under a mortgage from the requirement to obtain a permit.
The Act exempts banks and trust companies and insurance companies who acquire interests in land under a mortgage from the requirement to obtain a permit. Again, the acquisition need only be registered.
The Act provides that certain business leases be registered with the Board where the lease is for 21 years or more. Otherwise, the lease is defective.
The Act provides that the stamp duty payable by a non Bahamian is the same as in the case of a Bahamian.
The Act also enables a non-Bahamian who owns and maintains a home in The Bahamas to obtain an annual home owner resident card upon application to the Director of Immigration and payment of the specified fee in the Schedule. This card shall entitle the applicant, his spouse and minor children (if any) to enter and remain in The Bahamas for the duration of the card unless their entry is otherwise barred under the Immigration laws.
SCHEDULE OF FEES.
Application for registration, $25.00
Application for permit, $25.00
Certificate of registration.
A. the value of the property is $50,000 or less, $50.00
B. the value of the property is $101,000 and over, $100.00
Home owner resident card, $50.00
GOVERNMENT STAMP TAX ON PROPERTY CONVEYANCES.
A graduated tax is payable on the conveyance of all real property in The Bahamas based on the value as follows.
Up to and including $20,000 - 2%
From $20,000.01 to $50,000 - 4%
From $50,000.01 to $100,000 - 6%
From $100,000.01 to $250,000 - 8%
Over $250,000 - 10%
This tax is shared equally (50/50) by the buyer and the seller.
Both the buyer and the seller are responsible for 2.5% legal fees on the sale of property.
RATES OF TAXES.
Effective from January 1, 2003, the rates of tax on real property are as follows.
The first $250,000 is tax exempt.
On that portion in excess of $250,000 and less than $500,000 the rate of tax is 3/4 percent of the market value of the property.
On that portion in excess of $500,000 the rate of tax is 1% of the market value of the property.
The maximum annual tax will not exceed thirty five thousand dollars. As of the 1st day of January and shall expire on the 1st day of January 2008.
Every application by a person for the exemption of stamp duty on instruments relating to the acquisition and mortgage of real property valued at two hundred and fifty thousand dollars or less, to be used exclusively by the owner of such real property as a first time dwelling house shall be made in writing to the Minister of Finance and such application shall be accompanied by an affidavit by such person stating that he intends to occupy and reside in such house and there is no other house being held on his behalf for which an exemption has already been granted.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT IMMIGRATION.
Bahamian immigration rules are designed with the view that everyone wants to immigrate to the tiny Bahamas, which, if this were to occur, would sink under the weight. Consequently, while tourism and investment are encouraged, true immigration is possible but tightly controlled. Visas, work permits and residency permits are available.
Everyone entering The Bahamas MUST fill out an embarkation, disembarkation card usually provided by the travel agent, airline or ship. Non residents surrender the specified part when departing.
VISAS & PASSPORTS NOT REQUIRED FOR.
Canadian citizens, United Kingdom subjects and those of British Colonies unless stay exceeds 3 weeks.
U.S. Citizens on regularly scheduled airlines, precleared for return at U.S. Customs and Immigration at Nassau International Airport and Paradise International Airport. Proof of citizenship is required, however, and may include, U.S. Passport, even if expired, birth certificate, baptismal certificate bearing church seal, original naturalization certificates. Unacceptable documents (except as supporting information)
Social security cards, voters registration cards, membership cards, drivers licenses. Visas are not required for U.S. citizens entering as bona fide visitors if stays are for eight months or less.
VISA NOT REQUIRED FOR.
Canadian Immigrants possessing Canadian Immigration Record and visa on single visit of less than 30 days.
US Alien Residents possessing "Green Card" or U.S. Alien Registration Card, except South African nationals who always require a valid passport and visa.
Transit Without Visa.
Dominican Republic Passports but no visa (Up to 8 month stay)
Citizens of Belgium, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland, Turkey, U.S. (3 Months or less) Austria, Denmark, Federal republic of West Germany, Finland, France, Irish republic, Israel, Japan, Mexico and Sweden (Not more than 14 Days) Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia if traveling from a U.S. port, unless in transit
Ecuador, Guatemala, Republic of Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela and El Salvador.
NO VISA REQUIRED.
Persons possessing a valid Bahamian residence or work permit from the Director of Immigration, persons in transit including stateless persons with valid refugee and stateless person document if they have tickets onward and stay no longer than three days.
Other restrictions apply.
By All others.
Applications should be made to the nearest Bahamian or British Consular Office. Citizens of Haiti and South Africa ALWAYS require visas, even in direct transit by air.
VISAS & PASSPORTS REQUIRED.
All Communist countries,
Dominican Republic except in transit, Haiti, South Africa. If in doubt, check with the Immigration Department, P.O. Box N-831. Nassau, The Bahamas. Tel. (809) 322-7530.
8 months with proper documents including a return ticket and evidence of financial support. Those wishing longer stays may apply for temporary residence to The Director of Immigration Department, P.O. Box N-831. Nassau, The Bahamas. Tel. (809) 322-7530. Visitors and temporary residents may not engage in gainful employment while in The Bahamas.
CITIZENSHIP, RESIDENCY & WORK PERMITS.
Bahamian Immigration Department permits are needed for those who wish to reside, work or engage in business, including selling. Applications must be supported with these documents
A police certificate covering the last five years or in the UK, a sworn affidavit of good character, two character references from responsible persons in the home country or The Bahamas, two full face photographs signed on the back by the applicant (max. size 3 x 3 inches min. size 2 x 2 inches) and a valid health certificate not more than 30 days old.
The Bahamas Constitution and the Bahamas Nationality act, 1973, detail the acquisition and loss of citizenship. Persons born in The Bahamas before July 10, 1973, or outside The Bahamas to a Bahamian farther became Bahamian Citizens on Independence Day, July 10, 1973, as did most persons registered as a citizen of The Bahamas under the British Nationality Act of 1948. Persons born in The Bahamas after Independence are citizens if either parent is a Bahamian citizen and are entitled to register as a citizen if born here, subject to interests of national security or public policy, by making application within 12 months after his or her 18th birthday. Persons born legitimately outside The Bahamas after July 9, 1973 to a Bahamian mother and illegitimate children born outside The Bahamas to Bahamian women are entitled to apply between the ages of 18 and 21 years subject to interest of national security or public policy. Any woman married to a Bahamian is entitled to be registered as a citizen upon application provided she is still married to that person and subject to interest of national security or public policy.
Others who are not entitled to be registered or naturalized by virtue of an existing status may apply for citizenship under the Nationality Act. Residence for a period, English proficiency and the intention to make The Bahamas a permanent home are among the qualifications.
A head of household pays $1,000 plus $20 per dependent. Male spouses of Bahamians pay only $100, annually, with no charges for dependents. Applicants must show evidence of financial support.
Those who wish to settle in The Bahamas by investing in property, retiring here or opening a business usually apply for this status. Applicants must be of good character, show evidence of financial support, and say in writing that they wish to live permanently in The Bahamas. Wives and dependent children (under age 18) usually resident in a household can be endorsed on the certificate when the original application is made or later, subject to conditions which may be made by the Immigration Board.
Persons with this status prior to the Immigration act (1975) continue to hold the status automatically. Spouses of Bahamian can receive a Certificate of Permanent Residence with the right to engage in gainful employment at any time for females and after five years of marriage for males. Permanent residency can be revoked for cause including divorce. Cost of Permanent Residence is $5,000 before issuance, with endorsements free. Permanent Residents who were formerly "belongers" (British subjects) keep the status for life with no fee and no restriction regarding employment.
The Bahamas Government tries to ensure that Bahamians are given fair consideration for employment. A work permit application is not considered if a suitably qualified Bahamian is available or if the prospective employee is already in the country and entered as a visitor. If the Immigration Board considers the prospective non Bahamian employee will be an asset to the Bahamas it reviews the application, but only after the prospective employer advertises and interviews locally and obtains a certificate from the Labour Exchange stating there is no qualified Bahamian registered who could fill the post.
Permits for longer than one year may be given for key personnel on contract, often with an endorsement that the employee will be replaced by a Bahamian or will train a Bahamian to perform the job in a specified time.
Each work permit is for a specified person and job. A permit holder may apply for a new permit for a new post without leaving the island.