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The Final BVI Property Guide Tips

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BVI Property Forum – Some significant FAQs about buying and selling property in the British Virgin Islands

Words and photography courtesy of Bonnie Dougall, Principal – Dougall Real Estate BVI

For an introduction to this forum, please see Dec 14/Jan 15 issue of Virgin Islands Property and Yacht or log on to bvipropertyyacht.com, and visit the VI Property Advice section under the Property tab on the homepage. Any queries, please contact [email protected] or the editor directly [email protected]

Requirements to reside annually in the British Virgin Islands

All foreigners wishing to reside long term in the Territory must ask permission. The government will allow people to stay for various reasons listed below. In all cases, permission must be acquired before residing long term or arriving in the BVI to live. At all ports, 30-day visas are issued by Immigration for visitors to the Territory. These can be renewed, usually for another 30 days to allow visitors to sort out applications, but in some cases such as for Work Permits, applicants must not be in the BVI until permission is granted.

  • Working in the BVI

Work Permit – if applicants are going to be employed in the Territory


In the case of the Work Permit, a copy of the job letter must accompany the applicant when they arrive in the BVI as well as medical examination documents, police records, birth certificates, passports and where the person will be staying while in the Territory. These documents are usually acquired by their future employer.

  • Opening a Business in the BVI

Trade License – if applicants have been approved for a Trade License to operate a new business in the Territory

A Trade License application must be acquired from the Trade Department. Once filled in and submitted, approval times vary greatly. A number of different business categories will only be approved through partnership with a local Belonger. It is best to contact the Trade Department directly (call Government 284-494-3701 and ask for the Trade Department) to discuss what you wish to apply for. It is also wise to come to the Territory and discuss your plans in person. Applicants will also have to apply for a Work Permit before starting operation of their new business in the Territory.

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  • Buying a Property in the BVI

Non-Belonger Land Holder’s License – if applicants have purchased a property in the BVI

This Non-Belonger’s Land Holder License grants up to 6 months residency in the Territory annually. Purchasers of a home must first find a suitable piece of property and negotiate an acceptable offer to the Seller. The property is then advertised for 4 weeks in a local paper to see if a Belonger wishes to match the price and terms of the offer. If a Belonger comes forward, they are entitled to buy the property. If no Belonger emerges, it is normal to work with a local BVI Lawyer to prepare the Non-Belonger Land Holder’s Permit. Currently, approvals are taking 4-6 months once the papers are submitted to Natural Resources (at the writing of this article). Once approved, the buyer usually has about 30 days to complete the sale of the property.

  • Right to Reside Annually in the BVI but Not Seek Employment

This is a possibility for foreigners wishing to reside in the Territory who have the resources to support themselves without working, exemplified in the spouses and children of Work Permit authorised foreigners–these individuals must also apply for a right to reside long term.

The Right to Reside approval usually takes 3-4 weeks after receipt and submission of a signed request to the Chief Immigration Officer, proof of financial support (bank statements, bank financial references, or 2 weeks/months of current pay slips), copy of the bio-page of the passport, Birth Certificate, and contact information.

The approval letter will spell out any additional medical examination documents and police records to bring along with originals of birth certificates, passports, and where the person will be staying while in the Territory. These must be presented in person to Immigration. Each person staying in the Territory will also be required to post a $1000 bond as surety which will be returned when the individual leaves the Territory for good.

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Can I get bank loans and financing in the BVI? What are the general terms offered by BVI banks?

There are a number of International and Local Banks operating in the BVI. Loans can be secured for car, house, and land purchase as well as personal or business loans. The larger banks are First Bank out of Puerto Rico, Banco Popular, First Caribbean (CIBC), Scotiabank, BVI National Bank, and VP Bank.

Each bank has their own terms, rates, and approval process. Generally however at the time of the writing of this article, loans are being offered from between 5.5%-8%. Terms vary anywhere from five years to 30-year fixed, most loans being fully open and able to be paid down. Banks will vary widely in the percentage they will lend based on an applicant’s strength of credit as well as whether they reside in the BVI annually, or are foreigners. Most Banks will lend 75%-80% of the purchase price, with some assets even qualifying for 90% financing such as land purchase.

All banks charge a 1.5%-2% arranging fee as well as an additional 1-1.5% for lawyer fees. In addition, the applicant will have to pay for the property appraisal (usually $750-$850), an As Built Survey ($1500) plus an applicant fee usually around $150.

Rental income is usually considered although not at full value, ranging between 50%-75% of the value credited towards income.

Erin Paviour-Smith

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