Dempsey & Company, Attorneys at Law, Turks & Caicos Islands

Turks and Caicos Attorneys - Dempsey & Company

 

Articles:

1. Getting a Residence Permit (A practical guide);

2. Purchasing a Condo in Turks & Caicos;

3. Living & Working in TCI (Immigration related)

 


GETTING A RESIDENCE PERMIT
A practical guide

Residence Permits holders have the right to reside in the islands for the duration of the permit (either 1 or 3 years). Residence Permits don’t give holders the right to work in the islands and are principally of interest to retirees or international clients who need a residence of convenience that they can point to. Getting a Residence Permit in the Turks & Caicos involves a bit more work than in times past. Immigration Department’s procedural requirements change without notice either to the general public or the professional businesses that assist with applications. The following sets out the current position and requirements.

The current Government fees:

Government fees have been increased. Because getting a residence permit takes time and effort if you expect to be resident in the islands for more than 3 years it is worthwhile applying for the 3 year permit.

(a) non-refundable administrative fee of US$50.00;

(b) prescribed fee ~ US$1,000.00 one year/US$3,000.00 ~ three years;

(c) accompanying dependants US$150.00 for spouse and US$50.00 per child (per annum - multiply accordingly for a 3 year permit).

Getting the blood test:

The blood test is essentially an aids test. The test must be carried out in the islands at an authorized clinic in advance of submitting the application. On Providenciales (the most accessible of the islands) this means dropping into Biomedical Services on airport Road, Providenciales. It takes about 15 minutes from start to finish and costs US$50 per test. It is advisable to ring ahead (# 649-946-4447) to make sure that the nurse will be in when you arrive.

In the past the results of the tests were sent directly to the Immigration Board and applications were submitted attaching the blood-test receipt only. Now the Certificates showing the results are made available for collection, typically on a same day basis.

Showing financial capacity:

Government need to know that residence permit holders will be able to support themselves for the duration of their stay without engaging in gainful employment. The current requirement is that applications enclose a reference from a bank in the islands, which means that applicants need to open a personal or corporate account before making the application. In our experience it is not necessary that the Turks & Caicos account hold a significant amount of money, providing that the applicant can produce a recent account statement from another bank showing a balance which satisfies the Board that the applicant will not run into financial difficulties while resident in the islands.

The main banks in the islands are First Caribbean International Bank (formerly Barclays Bank and CIBC); the Bank of Nova Scotia; Belize Bank and Turks & Caicos Banking Company. In circumstances where there is no prior banking relationship and an applicant would like to maintain a bank balance, initially at least, of less than US$10,000, First Caribbean and the Bank of Nova Scotia are usually the best option.

It saves time to decide on a bank at the front end so that you can organize your due diligence materials and start the process of opening an account when you visit the islands to take your blood test.

Remaining requirements:

The remaining requirements are unchanged. While certain requirements are not clearly spelt out in the legislation we recommend that applicants provide the following with their completed application forms:

1. Copy of passport - include ID page - also a copy of the page with the stamp showing the last date of entry.

2. Undertaking in writing that the applicant will not engage in any gainful occupation while resident in the Islands. The firm processing your application for you will in the usual course provide you with a format of letter that covers this point.

3. Passport photographs (x2);

4. Police clearance certificate or similar;

5. Character references (x3);

6. Notarized copy or original marriage certificate (if married) or other evidence of relationship (passport);

7. Copy birth certificates (for spouse and dependent children).

What you can expect from your attorney:

(a) to provide you with the application documentation which needs to be completed and provide guidance regarding what information is required and to answer necessary related questions;

(b) to assist you in opening with opening a Turks & Caicos bank account (if required) including helping you to select the right bank for your purposes; providing you with the bank’s due diligence requirements in advance; answering related queries; and introducing you to the bank personnel who will have responsibility for your account;

(c) to advise in relation to what evidence Government will accept as evidence of financial capacity, and what information should be omitted;

(d) to advise in relation to the amount of time a permit holder is required to reside in the islands and the nature of the obligations entered into as part of the application process;

(e) to assist you in arranging the blood test;

(f) to review and organize the completed application documentation and supporting information prior to submission;

(g) to submit the application on your behalf; liaise with the Immigration Department; and to collect the Permit for you when it is issued.

Dated: 14.10.03

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PURCHASING A CONDOMINIUM IN THE TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS

In recent years the condominium market in Providenciales has generated increasing interest and activity.  Completed developments have to date have been located along Grace Bay’s ten mile beach and include high quality developments such as the residential “Grand View on Grace Bay” and condominium resorts such as “Ocean Club”; “Ocean Club West”; “Pointe Grace” and “Royal West Indies Resort”,   While these figures indicate a buoyant market even in these uncertain times, a word of caution: buying a condominium can be much more complicated than buying a single family detached house. In essence, the purchase of a condominium unit is the purchase of (expensive) air space being the area between the inner surfaces of the floors, ceilings and walls their unit. The Strata Corporation, of which each purchaser will be a member, will own and be responsible for maintaining the rest of the building structure, including the walls, hallways, elevators, grounds, parking areas, plumbing, wiring and everything beyond the units inner surfaces.

On Providenciales, prospective purchasers are faced with a choice: whether to purchase a new condominium unit in a new development or purchase a resale unit in an existing development. There is no right or wrong answer to the question of whether to purchase a resale or a new condominium. While there are many advantages to purchasing a new condominium, purchasers of new condominiums should be aware that there are almost always construction issues. Naturally, these issues range in significance and are generally resolved without much difficulty however the attendant delays and occasional stress can dampen a purchaser’s initial enthusiasm for the condominium.

Perhaps the main advantage of a resale condominium is the benefit of speaking with existing owners about the development generally and obtaining from them an experienced perspective on the development and its operation. Prudent purchasers will make any offer to purchase contingent on their receipt and acceptance of a structural engineer’s report. The cost of the inspection and report will vary but will, according to Chris Conway of Civil Engineering Design Services, be in the region of US$750.00 and is generally paid by the purchaser.

To better inform themselves and to reduce the risk of buyer’s remorse, savvy purchasers will generally ask some or all of the following questions: 

1.         What are the monthly condominium fees and are they comparable with those of nearby developments? Are there any increases or special assessments planned by the Strata Corporation within the next twelve months?

2.         What is the financial condition of the Strata Corporation and does it have a replacement or reserve fund? What level of fire and liability insurance has the Strata Corporation purchased?

3.         Does the condominium development have professional management? If not, what is the reason for this? While smaller developments of two to six units usually cannot afford a professional management firm, larger developments should hire outside management. Typically, in the case of a new development, the management company will likely be associated with the developer; in the case of a resale unit, the management company may be more independent.

4.         Do the By Laws of the Strata Corporation impose any unusual restrictions or obligations upon owners? In particular, watch for unusual limitations, such as a prohibition of pets or a forced rental pool. While such restrictions may be an attraction for some purchasers it highlights the importance of purchasers satisfying themselves as to the nature of the development into which they will be investing.

5.         How many condominium owners own more then one condominium in the development? If the developer has retained and resides in one condominium, that’s excellent. However if the developer has retained a significant number of units and rents them to tenants, that’s bad. The reasoning in this latter respect being that should the developer default in the payment of its Strata Corporation fees, the Corporation could slip into financial trouble. Further, it is usually a good sign that a number of the owners own more than one unit in the development as it shows that they like the development and presumably believe that it to be a good investment.

6.         Are there any special contracts or sweetheart leases with the developer? If you learn that the developer retains title to part of the development, such as a recreation area or parking garage/area, and rents it to the Strata Corporation, this is not a good situation as the developer can unilaterally raise the rent. It is however quite common for developers to retain as “out parcels” portions of the development upon which they will place facilities such as shops, bars and restaurants.

The developer or real estate agent should be able to provide much of this information without difficulty and any offer to purchase should be contingent upon the purchaser’s approval (or their attorneys’ approval) all this information.

In this regard, should you hire an attorney to assist you in the purchase? The prudent answer must be: Yes: the value of obtaining independent legal advice from an attorney who represents your interests rather than those of the developer cannot be overstated. No investment is risk free but retaining an experienced attorney who can assist you in navigating the pitfalls that can befall an unwitting purchaser can reduce much of the risk associated with any property transaction. In circumstances where condominium prices continue to rise and the number of condominium developments increases apace in the Turks and Caicos Islands, the potential cost of not taking advice will rise also and, accordingly, the maxim caveat emptor is as true today as ever before.

Finally, do not be dissuaded: condominiums can be wonderful personal residences and excellent long-term investments. However, purchasers can’t ask too many questions before taking the plunge.

Paul Dempsey
July 2002

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LIVING & WORKING IN TCI

A strong US Dollar, no direct taxation and a better quality of life are three of the many reasons why people continue moving to the Turks & Caicos (“TCI”).  Those wishing to retire will need to familiarize themselves with residency requirements: those embarking on new careers will have to obtain work permits and where self employed, business licenses.

WORK PERMITS

Non-Turks & Caicos Islanders require work permits in order to work in the Islands[i].  The majority of work permits are issued on a year to year basis however it is possible to obtain permits for 3 years (employed persons) and 5 years (self-employed persons).  It tends to be easier to obtain permits in the self-employed category as applications of non-Belonger employees must demonstrate that the employer was not able to find a suitably qualified Belonger for the post.

Employees’ work permit applications are generally handled by the employer or through law firms or companies retained by the employer.  Organizing, submitting and pursuing a work permit application is an involved process and self-employed persons are best served retaining professional assistance with initial applications. 

Government work permit fees range from US$100 per annum in the farming category to US$7,000 for professionals and business managers.  The Immigration Regulations were amended twice in 2001 alone, increasing work permit fees significantly to bring TCI into line with neighboring jurisdictions.  More detailed information on the fees currently payable for work permits can be found at the firm's website.    

BUSINESS LICENSING

Businesses operating in the Islands are required to hold business licenses[ii].  Businesses engaging in activities in two or more categories must now pay for each license in full[iii].

Certain business categories are reserved for Belongers or Belonger owned businesses[iv] - (e.g. restaurant operations, real estate agency and retail sales) however, non-Belonger businesses may obtain licenses in reserved categories where it is established that there will be a substantial benefit to the community as a result.

Licensing fees vary depending upon the business category – e.g. a license to farm is free: a license to operate a hotel of more than 99 rooms costs US$10,000.  The categories of businesses and related fees can be found at the firm's website.     

RESIDENCY

Belongership carries with it the entitlement to vote at TCI general elections.  Acquisition of Belongership other than by birth is restricted to persons who have made a substantial contribution to the Islands.

Permanent Residency Certificates ("PRC’s") are granted for life providing security of tenure to retirees and investors in TCI.  PRC’s can also create residency related tax benefits.  The prerequisites to application vary depending upon the applicant’s situation, however, most PRC applications are based upon one of the following:

1. A qualifying investment in the islands - e.g. buying a home or business in Providenciales for US$500,000 or more, or on one of the less developed islands of more than US$125,000.  [“Investment/Retirement” PRCs do not come with the right to work in the islands (with limited exceptions).  The Government fee is US$15,000 on issuance]; or

2. Holding a work permit for 5 years.   The Government fee is US$50,000 for self-employed persons US$30,000 for skilled employees and US$8,000 for unskilled workers.  The prerequisites for PRC applications and corresponding fees have been added to the firm's website.

Residence Permits may be issued for up to three (3) years entitling the holders to remain in the islands for the duration of the permit otherwise than for the purpose of engaging in any gainful employment.  They cost US$1,000 per year.

CONCLUSIONS

Immigration, residency and work permits are complex and changing areas of law which are too broad to cover in this article.  Persons considering moving to the islands should seek specific professional advice in each case to ensure that all situation specific requirements are met.

 


 

[i] The Immigration Ordinance 1990, as amended

[ii] The Business Licensing Ordinance

[iii] Business Licensing (Amendment) Regulations 2001

[iv] A company is Belonger owned if the majority of the voting shares/stock is beneficially owned by a Belonger.

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Fax: (649) 946 4564

1 Caribbean Place, P.O. Box 97,
Leeward Highway, Providenciales,
Turks & Caicos Isl

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Real Property Law

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