About the British Virgin Islands

BVI Facts

The British Virgin Islands (BVI) are a collection of about 50 islands, cays and rocks forming the northern extremity of the Leeward Islands in the eastern Caribbean.

Located 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of Puerto Rico these islands have a balmy, subtropical climate. Temperatures average about 85 degrees Fahrenheit. At night the temperatures drop about ten degrees.

The islands of the BVI form almost an oval around Tortola, the largest island. They are volcanic in origin, with the exception of Anegada which is formed of coral and limestone and is the lowest lying. On land, the BVI is endowed with fine mountain ranges, small valleys and little flat fertile agriculture land.

For most of the recorded history, since at least the 17th century, the BVI have been a crown colony of the United Kingdom. The government has been a British Overseas Territory since 1672. The Head of State is HM Queen Elizabeth II, represented locally by Governor David Pearey. The Head of Government is Premier Ralph T. O'Neal. The language spoken is English.

Lifestyle

Our experience in the Caribbean region has shown that the area continues to attract investors tending to adopt different investment guidelines than normally imposed in their home countries. Having accumulated wealth, these individuals tend to place funds in an area where they can indulge their business acumen while enjoying a relaxed lifestyle. Such individuals are not short of funds and there are a number of examples of this caliber of investor in the Caribbean and in the BVI, ie Guana Island, Necker Island, Peter Island, Biras Creek, Valley Trunk Bay, Little Thatch, Buck Island and Norman Island.

Currency and Taxation

The BVI has a favorable tax regime with the US Dollar as the legal tender. The BVI levies corporate tax at 15% and personal income tax on a sliding scale to a maximum of 20%. There are no death duties, capital gains or estate taxes levied under existing legislation. The phenomenal growth of the BVI as an off-shore tax haven, particularly after the introduction of the I.B.C. legislation, has also contributed to the attraction of the BVI as an area for real estate investment.

Political Status

The British Government has recently taken a closer interest in the six remaining Overseas Territories in the Caribbean; Cayman Islands, Turks & Caicos, Anguilla, Montserrat, BVI and Bermuda. Over the past decade, other countries have also influenced the pattern of development, the USA with their Caribbean Base Initiative and the ingenuous 936 funding concept, the French with tax incentives and the Dutch with their laissez faire approach to external investment, particularly casinos. Unfortunately the Dutch experiment has resulted in over development, congestion, an increase in the crime rate and a loss of identity of the indigenous population. The stability created by close links with a major power, together with the funding available from the EU, has not been over looked by local politicians. The recent offer by the British Government to allow nationals of the Overseas Territories to have UK passports can only strengthen the investment market.

Standard of Living

The BVI has the benefit of a low population and a rising standard of living. The GDP per capita ranks the BVI third in the Caribbean basin behind only Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. The estimated total population in 2003 for the BVI was 22,187 (July 2004 est.) This represents an estimated 18% increase in population for the Territory as a whole since the 1991 official census. With an average annual growth rate of 2.3% and a relatively low population density of 127.71 per sq. km., the BVI enjoys a standard of living well above average for the region with almost no unemployment (3% 2004).

Unions

There are no unions in the BVI. Any attempt to organise labour has been defeated by the work force and supported by Government. The effect that unions have had on operating costs in the resort sector in such countries as Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados and until recently Puerto Rico provides an additional incentive for investors choosing the BVI.

Security

Compared with competitive destinations, the BVI has a low crime rate with practically no serious crime. Security is increasingly a factor in the investment equation. As a comparison, homicides in the USVI totaled 29 in 2003 while in the BVI homicides totaled 5 in 2003.

Banking

The BVI is one of the few Territories outside U.S. jurisdiction that can provide long term mortgages based on the US mainland format. Typically, a purchaser, subject to status, can obtain a 15 or 20 year mortgage on a residential property based on 80% of the appraised value or selling price, which ever is the lower. With interest rates falling in the major commercial markets, banks in the BVI are becoming more competitive with LIBOR rates available for qualified investors.

Getting to the BVI

In 2003 the airport runway was extended to allow the American Eagle Super ATR (70 seats) to fly into the BVI which considerably eased congestion for the 300,000 passengers expected in 2004. There are also smaller airports based at Virgin Gorda and Anegada. Most travelers connect to the BVI through Puerto Rico (from the US) and Antigua (from Europe).

Tourism

Early in its development, the Territory was fortunate in attracting a number of wealthy investors, i.e. Rockefeller, Cripps and the Norwegians, who were prepared to invest considerable sums in quality investments of a high architectural order, without seeking an immediate return. These individuals were followed by the expansion of the yacht charter fleet which in hindsight saved the BVI from the "egg box" developments which plagued other islands in the 1960s. The historic problems in Panama have also contributed towards the growth of the BVI as an off-shore financial centre. As a result of these events, the BVI has been recognised as an unspoilt group of islands attracting the discriminating traveler. The latest statistics indicate a growing tourism industry with tourist arrivals generally increasing over the past five years.