Who among us hasn’t dreamed of one day living on a tropical island, spending their days sipping pina coladas on the beach while gazing out to sea under a clear, blue sky? The Bahamas can make it happen. And while many of the foreign nationals and property owners tend to belong to the “super rich club”, it isn’t their exclusive domain. Living and working on this gorgeous Caribbean island nation is possible for everyone...with a few simple caveats. So, how do you relocate to the Bahamas? Read on.
A Bit of Background
The Bahamas achieved its independence from the United Kingdom in 1973, and it has functioned as a parliamentary constitutional monarchy since then. It’s a member of the British Commonwealth, with Queen Elizabeth II still recognized as the Queen of the Bahamas. Due to its ties with the United Kingdom over the centuries, the official language of the country is English, and many Brits still visit or reside there. And while the country consists of dozens (or hundreds, depending on how you define “island”) of islands, nearly 75% of the nations 320,000 citizens live on the main one, New Providence Island. Likewise, the population distribution is unevenly distributed, with only two (and arguably one) large cities. The capital, Nassau, has a population of 240,000, while Freeport comes in a distant second with 47,000. The next largest town has fewer than 10,000, and it continues down from there.
There is no personal income tax in the Bahamas, but everyone does pay national insurance premiums (3.4-3.9% by individual and 5.4-5.9% by their employer).
Visas and Immigration
Getting a tourist visas is very easy. Citizens of the US, Canada, and the UK don’t need a visa, and can stay for up to eight months (but are not permitted to work). Citizens of other locations need only check the official Visitor Visa web portal for an application form and list of supporting documents.
Work permits are a bit trickier, and potential employers have to prove that you have a specialized skill set not found on the island. If you’re moving to the Bahamas to live and work for a period greater than 90 days require a Long-Term Work Permit. Your employer will assist you with this. The tourism and financial industries are your best bet at landing one.
A third category, the much-sought-after Permanent Residence visa, is available to eligible individuals. If you are married to a Bahamian citizen, or a financially independent property owner, or you’ve spent 20 consecutive years working there, or belong to a handful of specialized groups, you could qualify and stay permanently.
Buying property is open to everyone, and owning an oceanfront villa is certainly the best way to experience island life. There is a property tax exemption on property valued up to $250,000, a 0.75% tax on property from that up to $500,000, and 1% for anything valued at greater than $500,000. Special consideration is given for property owners as relates to visas and residency. There are a number of reputable and international real estate firms working on the islands, including Coldwell Banker Real Estate and Bahamas Realty. And while they focus on individuals looking to buy, most can assist if you’re only looking to lease or rent as well. Prices will vary widely depending on location, and proximity to the water and beach. Coldwell Banker has a convenient Buyer’s Guide available online.
Tropical, Caribbean paradise? Check. The Bahamas has never had a recorded incident of frost or sub-zero temperatures. The winter months average between 17 and 22’C, while the summers clock in at 24-28’C. Of course, warmer and cooler temperatures are possible, but the overwhelming majority of the year is sunny and warm (if not hot and humid). The Bahamas boasts over 3000 hours of sunlight annually. How nice would that be?!
As with virtually every country in the world now, the Bahamas has a number of excellent schools, offering national and international curriculums. St. Andrew’s School is perhaps the best of the bunch, with Lyford Cay International School also providing quality education for students on the islands.
Sun. Sand. And water. And plenty of it. The Bahamas is a beach bunny or water baby’s dream. Swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, scuba diving, wind sailing, fishing, boating, sailing...you name it. The national sport of the country is sloop sailing, with basketball, American football, and baseball all popular pastimes as well. Get out and enjoy the sunshine and gorgeous weather.
Internet is readily available, and it is possible to get satellite television because of the nation’s proximity to the United States. But buyer beware...the satellite channels are often illegal pirated signals, and you may experience frequent blackouts (or lose it entirely). There is English-language programming on national cable if you absolutely must have it.
The Bahamas has plenty going for it. English as the official language. Blue skies and warm temperatures year round. Stunning natural scenery. Beautiful beaches. Friendly citizenry. And it’s close to the US and Canada for those hailing from those countries. If you work in either tourism or finance (or possess some highly specialized skill set), you have a good chance of being able to procure a work permit...and that would make you the envy of, well, absolutely everyone as you head off to start your Caribbean island adventure.
Just a few useful links if you are seriously considering eloping to this topical paradise.