THE BAHAMAS: TO LIVE, INVEST, AND PLAY. By Kirkwood M. Seymour
Article in Offshore Finance Canada (OFC)
September/ October 1997
The idea of traveling to The Bahamas is often associated with a quick trip to set up an IBC or open an offshore bank account. In truth, however, The Bahamas offers numerous possibilities including: ownership of a second home, operation of a business from one of the Bahamian Islands, employment or simply retirement.
There are three streams through which Canadians may take up residence in The Bahamas. They are permanent residence, annual residence and home ownership.
The Bahamas’ immigration policy is designed to attract both entrepreneurial-type investors, who will create employment and business opportunities for the local people, and pure investors who will inject foreign capital into the local economy.
To apply for permanent residence in The Bahamas, applicants must submit a completed sworn application form, birth certificate, marriage certificate, medical certificate, police certificate, two passport-size photographs, financial reference indicating net worth, two character references and proof of investment in The Bahamas.
Accelerated consideration is given to major international investors and applicants investing $250,000 or more in a personal residence.
The most difficult part of investing in a house in The Bahamas is deciding which of the most delightful home sites you prefer. Do you want a palatial view of the ocean, or a rustic cottage near the waters edge? You will discover that the process from agreement to closing is very familiar, and follows the usual title search and requisition routine.
Doing Business Locally
If you decide to do business locally, the opportunities may be found in any of the following industries: development of tourist resorts, upscale condominiums, time share resorts and second home communities; international business centres; information and data processing services; marinas; high-tech services; pharmaceutical manufacture and bio-technology; light manufacturing for export; ship registration, repair and related services; aircraft services; food processing; agro-industries; mariculture; banking and other financial services; captive insurance; and offshore medical centres.
To exploit many of these opportunities, it is a domestic company, rather than an International Business Company, that should be used. The domestic company will allow investors to conduct business with Bahamians and to own land in The Bahamas.
As a participating owner in a local business, you will generally be granted a work permit for this purpose. The annual fee for a work permit ranges form US$250 for common labourers to US$7,500 for senior executives.
Some retirees may wish to take advantage of the Annual Residence Permit. This permit is available to those who wish to reside in The Bahamas without owning a home and without engaging in gainful employment.
Applicants may apply as independent economic residents, resident home owners or seasonal residents. Applicants must show, among other things, that they can support themselves while living here. The permit is issued to qualified applicants upon payment of the prescribed fee (currently $1,000 for the applicant and $25 for his or her spouse). Processing time is up to three months from the date of completion of the documentation. The permit is renewable annually.
Ownership of a home in The Bahamas (without restriction on the value of the home) will entitle you to apply for an annual home owner resident card. The application is usually a simple formality. Once the card is issued, the applicant, and his or her spouse and minor children, will be entitled to enter and remain in The Bahamas for the duration of the card, which is renewable on an annual basis. The current fee for a home owner resident card is $500 per year.
Those wishing to work in their own projects should indicate that in their project proposal. The project proposal is considered by the National Economic Council (NEC). Once approved by the NEC, the work permit in this respect is then readily available from the Immigration Department.
Others wishing to work in The Bahamas should make contact with a prospective employer, prior to setting in motion the application for a work permit. Work permits will be issued if the prospective employer is able to demonstrate that there are no Bahamians available to perform the same job that the applicant is qualified to do.
The Bahamas has an available workforce of approximately 150,000 people. Close to one-third of working Bahamians are employed in the tourism industry, while approximately 15,000 are employed in the financial services industry by banks and trust companies.
If the work permit is granted, the Immigration Department will set the term according to the length of time required for a Bahamian to be trained to fill the position. The initial term of the work permit is usually one to three years.
The immigration policy of the Government is closely linked to the grant of investment incentives. Investors are guaranteed freedom from personal and corporate income tax, capital gains tax and personal death duties. Statutes such as the Agricultural Manufactories Act or the Hotels Encouragement Act give investors additional breaks including customs duties concessions.
The Bahamas has been catering to the needs of Canadian investors and business people for several decades. In recent years, given its convenient location and investor-friendly regulatory environment, more and more Canadians are finding The Bahamas an attractive alternative in which to establish residency.
Whether you choose The Bahamas as a place to live invest or play, you will find a wealth of opportunities at your disposal. OFC
by Kirkwood M. Seymour
Counsel and Attorney-at-Law
Seymour & Co.
Nassau, The Bahamas
Tel: (242) 356-0991
Fax: (242) 356-0993