The International Persons Landholding Act, 1993
The repeal on the 1st January, 1994 of The Immovable Property (Acquisition by Foreign Persons) Act drew a sigh of relief from many attorneys and real estate agents. For years, these professionals had complained that the Act made the acquisition of land in The Bahamas by foreign persons cumbersome and that it acted as a deterrent to legitimate investment.
The International Persons Landholding Act 1993 encourages foreigners or companies owned by them to purchase a second home in The Bahamas as this area was thought to have the most significant potential. If a foreigner acquires a single family dwelling or vacant land to be used in the construction of such a dwelling then he no longer need obtain a permit from the Government (specifically the Investments Board) prior to the purchase. He need only register the acquisition subsequently with the Investments Board.
Permanent residents of The Bahamas and foreigners who inherit property in the Bahamas are now treated more kindly. In neither case are they to obtain a permit before acquiring land but must merely register subsequently.
The foreigner will require a permit however if (1) the property is undeveloped land and of five acres in size or larger, or (2) the property is not a private residence, or it is not intended for development as such.
Failure to obtain a permit will render the acquisition null and void but the foreigner will be entitled to recover all monies paid in consideration of the acquisition less any legitimate deductions. If a permit has been granted for the acquisition of land and the intended usage changes then the permit must be varied by the Board otherwise it will be invalid.
A registration certificate or permit must be included along with title documents to be recorded in the Registrar General’s Office otherwise the recording will be null and void.
The new act is not intended to be a stumbling block for legitimate credit transactions. It provides that licensed banks, trust and insurance companies who acquire an interest in or take possession of property under a Court Order must register that acquisition or fact of possession. Acquisition by way of foreclosure under a mortgage or of land acquired by an authorized foreign state will not require a permit but must be registered.
Foreigners are not required to obtain permits, register leases or letting agreements unless they are for trade or business purposes and the term can exceed 21 years.
In line with its policy of actively encouraging foreign investment, the government has included in this Act a provision that a foreigner no longer pays a double rate of stamp duty. He now pays the same single rate as a Bahamian.
Furthermore, a foreigner who owns a home in the Bahamas may now obtain an annual home owner resident card upon application and payment of a fee to the Director of Immigration. The Card authorizes the entry of the holder and his immediate family. Their stay in the Bahamas is authorized provided there are no restrictions for policy reasons or under the Immigration Act.
Schedule of Fees
Application for registration – $25.00
Application for permit – $25.00
Certificate of registration:
(a) the value of the property is $50,000 or less – $50.00
(b) the value of the property is over $50,000 but under $101,000 – $75.00
(c) the value of the property is $101,000 and over – $100.00
Home owner resident card – $500.00
What You Need To Know About Immigration
Bahamian immigration rules are designed with the view that everyone wants to immigrate to the tiny Bahamas – which, if this were to occur, would sink under the weight. Consequently, while tourism and investment are encouraged, true immigration is possible but tightly controlled. Visas, work permits and residency permits are available.
Everyone entering The Bahamas MUST fill out an embarkation-disembarkation card usually provided by the travel agent, airline or ship. Non-residents surrender the specified part when departing.
All persons entering the Bahamas are required to have a valid passport.
The following persons are not required to have visas when entering the Bahamas:
· British Commonwealth citizens and landed immigrants of Canada, for visits not exceeding 30 days if in possession of Form 100.
· US Citizens entering as visitors for a stay not exceeding eight months.
· Alien residents of the US who, upon arrival, are in possession of their national passports and US alien registration cards and work or residence permits for visits not exceeding 30 days.
· Nationals of a variety of countries whose visits do not exceed three months (check with the Department of Immigration for this extensive list).
· Persons in possession of a valid residence or work permit issued by the Director of Immigration (provided a visa is not required by departing country).
· Persons in transit, including stateless persons in possession of a valid refugee or stateless person’s travel document, provided they are in possession of valid passports and tickets to some destination outside the Bahamas and that their stay, while awaiting onward passage on the first available ship or aircraft, does not exceed three days. This exemption does not apply to Haitian or Dominican Republic citizens, who must possess visas even in direct transit by air.
All other persons require visas. If in doubt, check with the Bahamas Department of Immigration. Persons seeking visas to enter the Bahamas should contact the nearest Bahamian consular office.
CITIZENSHIP, RESIDENCY & WORK PERMITS
The Bahamas Constitution and the Bahamas Nationality Act, 1973, detail the acquisition and loss of citizenship. Persons born in The Bahamas before July 10, 1973, or outside The Bahamas to a Bahamian father became Bahamian Citizens on Independence Day, July 10, 1973, as did most persons registered as a citizen of The Bahamas under the British Nationality Act of 1948. Persons born in The Bahamas after Independence are citizens if either parent is a Bahamian citizen and are entitled to register as a citizen if born here, subject to interests of national security or public policy, by making application within 12 months after his or her 18th birthday. Persons born legitimately outside The Bahamas after July 9, 1973 to a Bahamian mother and illegitimate children born outside The Bahamas to Bahamian women are entitled to apply between the ages of 18 and 21 years subject to interests of national security or public policy. Any woman married to a Bahamian is entitled to be registered as a citizen upon application provided she is still married to that person and subject to interests of national security or public policy.
Others who are not entitled to be registered or naturalized by virtue of an existing status may apply for citizenship under the Nationality Act. Residence for a period, English proficiency and the intention to make The Bahamas a permanent home are among the qualifications.
Spouses or dependents of work permit holders, resident homeowners, spouses or dependents of citizens, and independent economic residents, may apply for annual residency status. Applicants for annual residency status must show evidence of financial support, in addition to submitting other documentation as required by the Department of Immigration. Fees vary, with spouses of Bahamians paying a onetime fee of $250 ( no charge for dependents) , for a spousal permit to reside and work, to $500 per year for the annual residence permit for a non-Bahamian second home owner.
Those who wish to settle in The Bahamas by investing in property, retiring here or opening a business usually apply for this status. Accelerated consideration for Permanent Residency can be obtained with a minimum property investment of $750,000. Applicants must be of good character, show evidence of financial support, and say in writing that they wish to live permanently in The Bahamas. Wives and dependent children (under age 18) usually resident in a household can be endorsed on the certificate when the original application is made or later, subject to conditions which may be made by the Immigration Board.
Persons with this status prior to the Immigration Act (1975) continue to hold the status automatically. Spouses of Bahamians can receive a Certificate of Permanent Residence with the right to engage in gainful employment at any time for females and after five years of marriage for males. Permanent residency can be revoked for cause including divorce. Cost of Permanent Residence is $10,000 before issuance, with endorsements free.
The Bahamas Government tries to ensure that Bahamians are given fair consideration for employment. A work permit application is not considered if a suitably qualified Bahamian is available or if the prospective employee is already in the country and entered as a visitor. If the Immigration Board considers the prospective non-Bahamian employee will be an asset to the Bahamas it reviews the application, but only after the prospective employer advertises and interviews locally and obtains a certificate from the Labour Exchange stating there is no qualified Bahamian registered who could fill the post. Permits for longer than one year may be given for key personnel on contract, often with an endorsement that the employee will be replaced by a Bahamian or will train a Bahamian to perform the job in a specified time.
Each work permit is for a specified person and job. Work permit fees range from $500 to $12,500 depending on the job category.