On 1 August 2020, the Bermuda Government launched a one-year 'Work from Bermuda' residential certificate aimed at attracting "digital nomads" and anyone looking to work remotely in the sub-tropical sun, including university students. Once granted, applicants can spend up to 12 months working from Bermuda.
Interest has been high with over 200 applications submitted to date. With a slowing birth rate and 30% decrease in retail sales due to COVID, enticing residents to the island is one way to bridge the financial gap.
The Government has established a dedicated website through which interested parties can find out more about the initiative and submit an application. This online process has been designed to be user-friendly and efficient, with only 5 working days from submission to decision.
To be eligible, the applicant must be at least 18 years old with health insurance coverage extending to Bermuda. Proof of employment with a legitimate company, whether it be the applicant's own or another company operating outside of Bermuda, must be provided. In the case of a self-employed person, a letter outlining relevant details or a certificate of incorporation is sufficient. Interested students must provide evidence of enrolment in a tertiary education programme. All applicants must be able to prove that they are financially self-sufficient or have a steady source of annual income by which to support themselves while on island. They also must not have been convicted of a crime.
Immediate family members have also been given the opportunity to immigrate to Bermuda with the interested applicant. A separate form must be completed and a fee paid for each dependent; the fee for each application is $263. All applications must be submitted at the same time. Children are also able to continue their education in Bermuda at a private institution of their parent's choice. The Government's website also states that applicants can bring domestic workers with them, in an apparent modification of existing work permit policy.
Impact on Bermuda
The Government has confirmed on its website that remote workers will not be subject to payroll tax, as they are not considered to be working in Bermuda for the purposes of the relevant legislation. Remote workers also will not contribute to Government funds through annual company fees, as their employer must be located overseas. Instead, they will augment the island's economy indirectly, primarily through day-to-day living costs such as food, utilities and general household items. Taxis will need to be hired; scooters will need to be bought and domestic services such as landscaping and housekeeping will need to be contracted.
Remote workers will be encouraged to rent from our established shared co-working spaces, most of which are scattered throughout Hamilton and within walking distance of our restaurants, shops and bars.
The property sector will also benefit from a much needed boost as new residents will be able to rent houses or apartments for a year. Additionally certain classes of property can be bought, but applicants will need to follow the land licence process and restrictions that are already in place for international purchasers. Renting or buying will require a guiding hand from our legal and real estate sectors, driving fees their way.
While many insurance and technology professionals will already be familiar with Bermuda by virtue of its established reputation in those sectors, the 'Work from Bermuda' resident initiative is open to any sector and may attract workers from other industries. Social media influencers will be tempted to take advantage of our picturesque views and creatives making a living maximising on technology and talents will be given an affordable opportunity to do so in a virtually COVID-free environment. The local population can only benefit from the cross-pollination of ideas, networking opportunities and international exposure.
Once the 12-month period has expired, options are available to extend the stay. The remote worker can either reapply for another annual residential certificate, or apply for a longer certificate of 5 years. These applications will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and approval is not guaranteed.
Once workers are exposed to life in Bermuda, it is possible that companies may show interest in setting up shop here on a permanent basis. As a sophisticated jurisdiction with 30 years of success with international business, a move to Bermuda may be attractive. However, despite the 'Work from Bermuda' initiative, businesses interested in operating in Bermuda will still need to adhere to various legal and regulatory requirements to make a permanent base here, which will create work for local law firms, accountants and corporate service providers. Employees who work for business established in Bermuda, rather than overseas, will also still need a work permit. Certain work permits, such as the New Business or Fintech Work Permits, have been designed to help facilitate the establishment of certain business, with relatively short processing times and minimal requirements.
Bermuda is a highly regarded, well-regulated jurisdiction that hosts a diverse community of locals and non-Bermudians. The 'Work from Bermuda' Residential Certificate should inject additional financial support to our economy during these challenging, unprecedented times.
Originally published by The Bermuda Chamber Of Commerce Newsletter (Chamber Insider), September 2020
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