Buying Real Estate in the British Virgin Islands raises different challenges compared to buying in the US Virgin Islands. But, none of them are insurmountable and the prize of living or investing in the BVI is certainly worth it!
“Virgin Gorda and Anegada are still quaint and very laid back - more the Caribbean of old,” said Blue Sky’s Stephanie Hodge recently. “Yet, you still have access to the luxury amenities like spa, massage and great food.”
For investors, the vacation rental business is very robust, added Blue Sky’s Caryn Hodge. The BVI provide one of the few places in a day’s travel from the US mainland where you can truly disconnect and bask in the locale’s barefoot chic, low-tech appeal.
If you are interested in buying your own piece of this haven Check out our expert's guide to a successful BVI purchase!
To get you started in your discovery process, we have included a brief overview of common questions we receive regarding buying BVI property. Please note, this should not be considered legal advice and we recommend you have knowledgeable legal counsel when pursuing a BVI acquisition.
Am I able to own land in the BVI if I am a U.S. citizen?
Yes! But, there is a process to follow. Your first step is to secure the services of an attorney familiar with doing transactions in the BVI. He/she will help you understand the key concepts critical to a successful BVI acquisition. Major concepts include: the difference between Belongers and Non-Belongers; Freehold vs. Leasehold properties; and the important tax benefits and implications that go along with becoming a British Virgin Islands property owner.
What is Non-Belonger Land Holding License?
It is a prerequisite that Non-Belongers and Non-Belonger Companies receive a Non-
Belonger Land Holding Licence (NBLHL), in order to own land in the British Virgin Islands.
What are the steps to apply for a Non-Belonger Land Holding License?
Generally speaking, buying property in the British Virgin Islands follows a patter similar to transactions in other English Common Law jurisdictions.
Applicants must submit a completed application form together with the following supporting documents:
- Two personal references, for each individual or each shareholder and director. In the case of individual applicants, one reference must support the applicant’s ability to purchase and develop the property
- Two character references for each individual or each shareholder and director
- In the case of individuals, a financial report/statement from a financial institution evidencing a banking relationship for no less than one consecutive year is required
- A recent police certificate for each individual applicant or each shareholder and director
- One passport size photograph (coloured) of each applicant or shareholder and director
- A copy of the applicant’s Trade Licence (if self-employed) or a copy of the company’s Memorandum and Articles of Association, Certificate of Incorporation, current Certificate of Good Standing and Annual Summary of Members or a Certificate of Incumbency from a Registered Agent
- A recent valuation report of the property
- A non-refundable application fee of Two Hundred Dollars ($200) per person for individuals and Five Hundred Dollars ($500) in the case of a company
- A copy of the Agreement for Sale
- A copy of the record(s) reflecting existing ownership of the land
- A letter sized copy of the Cadastral Survey Plan
The applicable fee is Six Hundred Dollars ($600) for each individual, One Thousand Dollars ($1,000) for a company plus Six Hundred Dollars ($600) for each shareholder and director.
What is the difference between Freehold Property and Leasehold Property?
There are 2 different types of property titles in the BVI:
- Freehold - this acquisition results in an ownership status more like US property purchases. You own it the property outright. Available freehold property is very rare. Bluesky Real Estate has a listing for 14 acres of Waterfront Freehold property in Virgin Gorda - this is an exceptionally rare gem.
- Leasehold - the government owns the property and grants you a lease, often for plus or minus 99 years. The leases are not guaranteed to be renewed. They are transferrable. You do see leaseholds in the US, but it is more the exception than the rule.
Are there tax advantages to purchasing property in the BVIs?
Yes. There are several tax advantages to buying in the BVI. There are several advantages to choosing the BVI over other offshore financial centers, including:
- The U.S. dollar is the official currency in the BVI - therefore, by definition, there can be no currency controls and no artificial manipulation of money supply by the local government.
- BVI are a British Overseas Territory, which provides for an outstanding political stability. The country also maintains a low international profile and a clean reputation, thus avoiding the pitfalls experienced by some more publicized and less scrupulous offshore tax havens.
- BVI has an independent judicial system based on English Common Law. Laws and regulations are routinely developed in consultation with the private sector. Offshore financial services sector contributes a very significant part to the country's gross domestic product. Therefore, an inherent and pronounced interest exists both with the government and with the general public to maintain and develop the country's status as a competitive offshore financial center.
- BVI is an independent country with a fairly high standard of living. Therefore, it avoided entering any information-sharing agreements with foreign countries or organizations for exchange of financial aid. Client confidentiality is robustly enshrined in the BVI corporate and business legislation.
- BVI is easily accessible by sea and air, has modern telecommunications and is on US Eastern Standard Time (1 hour behind EST in winters).
What are the tax benefits of operating a BVI Business Company?
A BVI Business Company is exempt from the BVI income tax, the same exemption applies to all dividends, interest, rents, royalties, compensations and other amounts paid by a company, and all capital gains realised with respect to any shares, debt obligations or other securities of the company.
No estate, inheritance, succession or gift tax is payable with respect to any shares, debt obligations or other securities of a BVI BC. All transactions and instruments relating to transfers of any type of property of assets, shares, debt obligations or securities to or by a BVI BC are exempt from the stamp duty, with a sole exception for land-ownership transactions in the British Virgin Islands, in which case stamp duty remains payable.
Blue Sky Real Estate represents large and small Caribbean real estate properties located all over St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John, US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands. Whether you are interested in a luxury home, undeveloped land, condo, fix-upper, commercial property, a hilltop perch or a beachfront oasis, Blue Sky Real Estate can help.
Blue Sky Real Estate also offers property management services including screening applicants, paying bills, handing repairs, marketing online, checking inventory, assessing arrival/departure conditions, and staging property for maximum impact and income. Contact us to find out more.