The Bahamas’ reputation as an idyllic refuge for those seeking luxury homes, private islands or a relaxing holiday is well known throughout the world, but the island chain, located just off the coast of Florida, also offers unparalleled opportunities to mix business and pleasure.
In addition to the advantages of great weather, The Bahamas provides an excellent business environment for advisors and their clients. Alternatively, it has many attractive features for those who may wish to relocate permanently or have a second home. So while the benefits of a Bahamas trust, foundation or SMART Fund may point one in the direction of The Bahamas, it is often the personal and lifestyle aspects that may actually convince an advisor or a client of the wisdom of this selection.
##Living and Working in The Bahamas##
It is easy to enter or live and work in The Bahamas. While The Bahamas does not sell passports, the Government maintains a flexible immigration policy suited to the needs of international firms, individuals and families.
As a developing country, The Bahamas seeks to provide increased employment opportunities for Bahamians and to employ school and university graduates in increasingly diverse economic sectors. At the same time the Government welcomes non-Bahamians with specialised skills and expertise which are not otherwise locally available. Normally, such persons will be involved in business enterprises which create employment opportunities for Bahamians, such as the financial services industry.
The cost of a Work Permit varies from $350.00 for a farm worker to $12,500 for a senior professional person. Work Permits are usually granted for one year in the first instance for lower skilled works and for periods up to three years for senior personnel.
Permanent Residence bestows a statutory right to reside in The Bahamas and, as such, allows the holder to pass freely through Immigration hassle free. Persons with permanent residence are for all intents and purposes treated like Bahamians except for the right to vote. There is no physical requirement that you need to be in The Bahamas a minimum or maximum number of days, and spouses and children may be endorsed on the permit which attracts a one time government fee of $10,000.00. Acceleration of the permanent residence application is also available for persons who spend a minimum of $500,000 on a residence.
Permanent residents also have a “right to work” in their own business. The right to work in one’s own business is utilized often by the individual with a family office or who simply wants to manage investments or a business that doesn’t interact with the Bahamian economy.
There is also a category known as “annual residence” which, as the name suggests, is renewed annually. There is also the ability to apply for a “homeowners resident card”, a final category that, while not conferring any of the privileges of a permanent resident, does assist the holder to move freely through Immigration at any port of entry.
Individuals can also bring in their own personal assistants or household staff subject to the clearance of the Director of Immigration and the issuance of a work permit.
Educational facilities always are a big concern to families that are looking at a new location. The Bahamas has a number of excellent private schools in New Providence and Freeport, some of which have been internationally accredited by ECIS and NAIS, the two bodies that accredit the leading European and North American schools. In the past years Bahamian students have consistently ranked with some of the best results and routinely matriculate on to the best universities in the United States (US), Canada and Europe. This environment is founded on the commitment by The Bahamas to the development of its human resources. A sizeable portion of the National Budget is allocated to education.
There are two major hospitals in New Providence and one in Grand Bahama with United States, European and University of the West Indies trained doctors on staff. With ready access to air ambulance services, residents are also within 45 minutes from some of the best medical facilities in Florida.
Commercial airlines offer direct daily flights from London – and scheduled flights from Paris and Düsseldorf. From North America there are daily and frequent flights to Miami, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Boston and many other US cities and Toronto.
There is also an excellent private FBO in New Providence, catering to those who travel by private jet with all of the usual supporting amenities. In total The Bahamas has 14 international airports located in New Providence, Grand Bahama Island and a number of Family Islands.
The Bahamas also has a large number of marinas able to accommodate mega yachts and numerous ports of entry.
There is no distinction between Bahamians and non-Bahamians, creating an environment in which international persons receive the same benefits that Bahamians do. This includes:
• The Bahamas commitment to a tax neutral platform in which there are no income, capital gains and inheritance taxes;
• No stamp duty on security transactions;
• A 10 per cent Government stamp tax at the purchase of a new home;
• Attractive real property tax rates; and,
• A modest monthly national insurance payment of less than $200 for employees.
##Housing and Second Home Development ##
Second home ownership is one of the fastest growing sectors in the real estate industry. Development companies are strengthening their position in the tourism market by developing communities for the second-home market in key tourist destinations – where higher standards of service and a people-friendly culture combined with comfortable climates already exist.
The magic of gated, waterfront communities packed with lifestyle amenities from golf and tennis to marinas is attracting more and more second and third-home buyers from North and South America, Europe and the Far East. From Nassau and Paradise Island, and Grand Bahama to private islands, from grand estates to hideaways on once-slumbering Family islands, the choices are plentiful and prices range from under $100,000 to multi-millions, with one island recently changing hands at more than $45 million.
One of the newest and most popular investment vehicles is the condotel, a condominium or single family residence that converts into fully-furnished, upscale accommodations, managed by a resort company and rented when not owner occupied to earn revenue for the investor, and provide an alternative to the traditional hotel for visitors. Such offerings are available on Paradise Island and on several Family Islands, including Exuma and Eleuthera.
In The Bahamas, there are many conveyancing attorneys who are skilled in property transactions of all kinds. It is not difficult to purchase in The Bahamas although clients will have to comply with the regulations of the Bahamas Government to “know the customer”, and investor prior approval is required in some cases (the standard closing time on most transactions is 90 days).
The Bahamas is a service economy accustomed to providing concierge residential management services for homeowners who are not in residence.
It is also worth noting that most high-end residential developments provide full clubs membership with all of the usual golf course, tennis and water sports amenities.
Full banking services are available with global currency capability, structured products and personalized service. The country’s wide range of companies and advisory services have established The Bahamas as an ideal domicile for the management of personal wealth for both individuals and families. There is also a comprehensive array of opportunities to plan, protect and transfer wealth through trusts, including purpose trusts, foundations, investment funds, particularly the SMART© fund, companies and partnerships.
##An Established, Progressive and Welcoming home for Investors##
In the global marketplace, The Bahamas is also well positioned with its location at the crossroads of the Americas and its traditional ties to Europe to facilitate investment into major centres. A half hour flight from South Florida, The Bahamas has English as its official language, currency that is on a par with the US dollar, a stable government and reliable infrastructure.
Most importantly, investors will find a warm welcome when they come to The Bahamas as the country is committed to creating an environment that is attractive to business and the enjoyment of life.