LIVING & WORKING IN TCI
A strong US Dollar, no direct taxation and a better quality of life are three of the many reasons why people continue moving to the Turks & Caicos (“TCI”). Those wishing to retire will need to familiarize themselves with residency requirements: those embarking on new careers will have to obtain work permits and where self employed, business licenses.
Non-Turks & Caicos Islanders require work permits in order to work in the Islands[i]. The majority of work permits are issued on a year to year basis however it is possible to obtain permits for 3 years (employed persons) and 5 years (self-employed persons). It tends to be easier to obtain permits in the self-employed category as applications of non-Belonger employees must demonstrate that the employer was not able to find a suitably qualified Belonger for the post.
Employees’ work permit applications are generally handled by the employer or through law firms or companies retained by the employer. Organizing, submitting and pursuing a work permit application is an involved process and self-employed persons are best served retaining professional assistance with initial applications.
Government work permit fees range from US$100 per annum in the farming category to US$7,000 for professionals and business managers. The Immigration Regulations were amended twice in 2001 alone, increasing work permit fees significantly to bring TCI into line with neighboring jurisdictions. More detailed information on the fees currently payable for work permits can be found at the firm’s website.
Businesses operating in the Islands are required to hold business licenses[ii]. Businesses engaging in activities in two or more categories must now pay for each license in full[iii].
Certain business categories are reserved for Belongers or Belonger owned businesses[iv] – (e.g. restaurant operations, real estate agency and retail sales) however, non-Belonger businesses may obtain licenses in reserved categories where it is established that there will be a substantial benefit to the community as a result.
Licensing fees vary depending upon the business category – e.g. a license to farm is free: a license to operate a hotel of more than 99 rooms costs US$10,000. The categories of businesses and related fees can be found at the firm’s website.
Belongership carries with it the entitlement to vote at TCI general elections. Acquisition of Belongership other than by birth is restricted to persons who have made a substantial contribution to the Islands.
Permanent Residency Certificates (“PRC’s”) are granted for life providing security of tenure to retirees and investors in TCI. PRC’s can also create residency related tax benefits. The prerequisites to application vary depending upon the applicant’s situation, however, most PRC applications are based upon one of the following:
1. A qualifying investment in the islands – e.g. buying a home or business in Providenciales for US$500,000 or more, or on one of the less developed islands of more than US$125,000. [“Investment/Retirement” PRCs do not come with the right to work in the islands (with limited exceptions). The Government fee is US$15,000 on issuance]; or
2. Holding a work permit for 5 years. The Government fee is US$50,000 for self-employed persons US$30,000 for skilled employees and US$8,000 for unskilled workers. The prerequisites for PRC applications and corresponding fees have been added to the firm’s website.
Residence Permits may be issued for up to three (3) years entitling the holders to remain in the islands for the duration of the permit otherwise than for the purpose of engaging in any gainful employment. They cost US$1,000 per year.
Immigration, residency and work permits are complex and changing areas of law which are too broad to cover in this article. Persons considering moving to the islands should seek specific professional advice in each case to ensure that all situation specific requirements are met.
[i] The Immigration Ordinance 1990, as amended
[ii] The Business Licensing Ordinance
[iii] Business Licensing (Amendment) Regulations 2001
[iv] A company is Belonger owned if the majority of the voting shares/stock is beneficially owned by a Belonger.