Introduction

The government has enacted a measure which exempts various categories of people from the need to obtain work permits. In particular, the exemption for directors visiting the British Virgin Islands for board meetings supports the territory's position as the leading corporate domicile in the global economy.

Following the Statutory Rates, Fees and Charges (Amendment of Schedule) (No 2) Order 2017, which changed the fees payable for work permits, including a new fee for temporary work permits (for further details please see "Legislation to change work permit fee calculation enacted"), the Labour Code (Work Permit Exemption) Order 2017 excludes certain categories of people from the need to obtain work permits.

Exempted categories

Exempt from the need for a work permit for seven days in the first instance – with extensions based on request – are:

  • directors and other officers of companies (whether incorporated in the British Virgin Islands or elsewhere) visiting the British Virgin Islands for the sole purpose of participating in meetings of the board of directors of such companies;
  • persons visiting BVI business persons for business deals and negotiations (this does not include foreign lawyers not admitted to practise in or holding a valid practising certificate in the British Virgin Islands);
  • persons attending business-related events (eg, meetings and conferences) put on by BVI entities – whether government or private – including paying participants, as well as the persons putting on the conference;
  • persons making purchases from BVI businesses;
  • persons receiving training and work coaching, including internships, from BVI entities;
  • persons conducting research with the permission of the requisite government agency;
  • persons participating in amateur sporting activities; and
  • students attending institutions of learning for short-term training and educational activities.

Exempt from the need for a work permit for 60 days in the first instance – with extensions based on request – are:

  • persons conducting or otherwise participating in arbitration or mediation proceedings, excluding court litigation; and
  • persons acting as expert witnesses in both court and arbitration proceedings.

Invitation letter

For all of the above, the relevant BVI entity must produce an invitation letter stating:

  • the person's work title;
  • the date of expected arrival;
  • the duration of his or her stay and the purpose of the visit; and
  • a statement of the fees charged or to be paid to anyone to be exempted.

This letter must be presented to the immigration officer at the port of entry.

The BVI entity must also collect and pay any tax payable on such fees. Where large groups of persons are exempted (eg, at a conference), notification of the activity and a list of persons exempted is acceptable, instead of individual letters.

The order came into force on July 21 2017. The act states that it will come into force only on such date as may be appointed by the relevant minister by notice in the BVI Official Gazette, and that the cabinet may make regulations to give effect to the provisions of the act.

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For further information on this topic please contact Sheila George or Johann Henry at Harneys by telephone (+1 284 494 2233) or email (sheila.george@harneys.com or johann.henry@harneys.com). The Harneys website can be accessed at www.harneys.com.