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British Virgin Island Information


Columbus was not the first man to set eyes on the British Virgin Islands - Amerindians from South America were - some 2,500 years earlier. Recent archaeological studies have concluded that there were plenty of Indians living on these shores before the Europeans arrived. As many as 20,000 may have lived on the major islands, with large communities and artifacts suggesting they were, by the time Columbus arrived, a developed agrarian society with a complex set of farming & fishing techniques, house construction and cultural rituals. The arrival of Columbus on his second expedition in 1493 marked the beginning of the end for the Indians. The initial Spanish settlers brought with them disease and slavery - shipping many of the Indians off to what is now the Dominican Republic to work in the mines. Many died of European diseases - smallpox and flu were common killers - also from working inhumanly hard.

The Virgin Islands (both U.S. and British) were named by Columbus after the 11,000 beautiful virgin followers of St. Ursula - all of whom, apparently whilst on a rather innocent pilgrimage to Cologne, met their deaths at the hands of some over-zealous Huns. Ironically, the Virgin Islands attracted a wave of Renaissance thugs, called pirates. The numerous small islands (in the BVIs alone there are 33) were ideal for concealment and stashing booty. But the islands attracted all sorts actually - from the Honourable Sir Francis Drake to the rather less principled Blackbeard. The English, Dutch, French, Spanish and Danish all jostled for control of the islands for the next two hundred years; the final act seeing the English oust the Dutch and gaining a permanent foothold in Virgin Gorda and Tortola.

By the 1600's England ended up with the BVIs and the Dutch had the other Virgin Islands (St. John, St. Thomas, St. Croix). The BVIs were more strategic than anything else but were planted when economic conditions were particularly favourable. The Dutch decided in 1917 that it was best to sell their lot to the Americans for US$17 million. Economically, this appears to have worked out rather well. The US Virgin Islands (as they were then renamed) have become bustling, busy places with a clearly americanised commercial bent and feel. The BVIs have become, by comparison, the quiet neighbours.

With the advent of tourism in the Caribbean, the BVIs have developed as a centre for those cruising around in yachts - numerous marinas and marine-related businesses attest to this. A kind of understated, sophisticated charm, pervades the islands although the prosperity of the USVIs has seen a leaning in that direction with the US$ Dollar being the accepted currency. However the appeal of these islands is timeless: a wonderful climate, unspoiled, sheltered and ideally suited for exploration by boat. Today the same coves and bays that once saw the likes of Columbus, Sir Francis Drake and the infamous pirate Henry Morgan (aka Blackbeard) provide refuge to a flotilla of modern day explorers who have come to discover, once again, the British Virgin Islands.


The clear waters and unspoiled reefs provide ideal diving conditions, and qualified instructors are widely available. There are over 60 dive sites, many of which are within the Underwater National Park System. Night diving can be especially spectacular. Vertical walls, underwater pinnacles, coral reefs, caverns and wrecks, notably the RMS Rhone, which sank in 1867 off Salt Island, can all be visited. The marine life includes most Caribbean and Atlantic species of tropical fish and marine invertebrates. Humpback whales, dolphins, turtles and manta rays also make occasional appearances. Certification is necessary for equipment rental and air fills. When diving or swimming, it is important not to over-exert, especially if unused to swimming in sea conditions, if unfit, or if having consumed alcohol. There is, however, a Virgin Islands Search & Rescue (VISAR) to respond to emergencies. Coral reefs are very fragile and divers should take great care not to touch the reefs or remove anything, dead or alive, from the ecosystem.
This is extremely popular. There are numerous modern marinas, and the Yacht Club in Road Town, Tortola, organizes races and regattas and offers instruction in sailing and navigation. Yacht charter and one-day sailing trips are widely available. Day trips are also being offered on the Gli Gli, an authentic replica of a traditional Carib Indian dugout canoe. The highlight of the sail racing season in the British Virgin Islands is the BVI Spring Regatta, the largest regatta in the prestigious Caribbean Ocean Racing Triangle (CORT) series. The race and its shore-side activities and entertainment attract large crowds of spectators and party-goers.
Charters can be arranged for offshore fishing trips. Removing fish or other marine life is illegal for non-residents without a recreational fishing permit, obtainable from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labor (tel: 43701, ext 2147; fax: 4283
Outdoor pursuits
In spite of the steep terrain, hiking is growing in popularity. There is a trail up Sage Mountain on Tortola, as well as along Ridge Road, with its dramatic views. A route runs up Gorda Peak on Virgin Gorda, and a hiking trail has recently been established on Jost Van Dyke.
Horse riding can be arranged. On Tortola, tours to the Sage Mountain National Park and Cane Garden Bay begin near Meyers on the Ridge Road. Trips are also available through Virgin Gorda's unusual landscape. Cycling and mountain biking are possible, with bicycles for hire in most of the islands' resorts.

Jobs in BVI

In order for anyone who is not a BV Islander or Belonger to work in the territory, you must first apply for a work permit. Your immigration status must be changed to "seeking work."

Employers must advertise any position in a local newspaper for three consecutive weeks. It is preferred that any applying BV Islanders or Belongers are interviewed and offered the position if their qualifications are acceptable.

- New Work Permit applications: Documents Required
(1) One copy of a newspaper advertisement.
(2) Statement signed by the Employer or his Representative as to whether there were belonger applicants, and if so, the reason why none was offered employment.
(3) Copy of the letter to each unsuccessful belonger applicant, if applicable.
(4) Two photographs of applicants
(5) Qualifications of applicants: degree, diploma, certificate, resume, letter of reference, etc.
(6) Signed copy of contract between employer and applicant, where applicable or completed "Notice of Employment and Statement of Working Conditions form" provided by the Labour office, signed by the applicant and employer.

- Transfer Applications: All the above documents and information are required and in addition the following:

(1) Letter from the last employer in the BVI stating dates of engagement and termination and the type of work in which the applicant was employed.

- Where the employer is a new company or individual, the following documents may be applicable:

(1) Trade License
(2) Memorandum of Association
(3) Certificate of Incorporation

- Where the Employer recently purchased the business and the employees are continuing employment under a new employer, that new employer must provide evidence, to the satisfaction of the Labour Commissioner, to show that the matter of the employee's severance payment has been settled.

Renewal Work Permits: Documents Required

(1) Work Permit Card must be attached to document. No photos are necessary unless the card needs to be changed.
(2) Each form must be fully completed with all questions answered. Blank spaces or dashes are not acceptable.
(3) Where the employer is a compay, a stamp or seal must be printed on the application along with the signature of the Manager, or other responsible persons, providing the designation of the person is shown.
(4) If applicant is Self Employed, a copy of his/her trade licence should be attached to the application.

Work permits are valid for one year and a renewal application must be submitted four to six weeks prior to expiration.

*** A new Labour Code is currently under review. Check with the Labour Department for the latest information.

Department of Labour
Ashley Ritter Building
Road Town, Tortola
Tel: (284) 468-3701
Fax: (284) 494-3701
Visa/Entry Requirements
All visitors are welcomed in the British Virgin Islands and would be admitted, providing they meet the requirements for entry. Short stay visitors who are nationals of the U.S.A. or Canada can be admitted on proof of citizenship other than passport, providing that they can present an identification card with their photograph affixed. All other visitors should have a valid passport. Visitors should also be in possession of a return or onward ticket.

Guyanese, Nigerian, and Mozambique nationals require a visa. Visitors from certain other countries may also need a visa. All nationals who elect to reside in the territory, including Canadian and United States American nationals, must have a valid passport.

If in doubt, contact the Chief Immigration Officer, Government of the British Virgin Islands, Road Town, Tortola, Tel: (284) 494-3701 ext. 2539.

An International Vaccination Certificate is not mandatory in the BVI. Vaccinations against smallpox, yellow fever and cholera are required if the visitor is arriving from an endemic area.

Employment and Immigration - you must change your status Visa Purchase of a property in the BVI does not in itself establish resident status. However an identification card is available to a person who holds a Non-Belongers Land Holding License which will allow the holder to be granted leave to stay in the BVI for a period of up to six months.

A certificate of residence, entitling the holder to land or embark in the territory for an indefinite period, may be granted to a person who intends to reside permanently in the BVI.

Cost of living

The cost of living in the British Virgin Islands is very much the same as that of the UK. Accommodation is of excellent high standards, of a similar price to the UK but some with breathtaking views. Locally produced food is not only fresh but cheap whilst the imported goods tend to be more expensive. It goes without saying that the standard of living is excellent here with low unemployment and low crime rates.

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