BVI News

Expats struggle to survive while awaiting work permit transfers

Persons outside the Immigration Department in Road Town.

Expatriate workers throughout the territory are being faced with yet another challenge — surviving without a salary as they await their work permit transfer.

Hundreds of expats were left jobless after last year’s hurricanes ravaged the territory. But, under BVI law, they are not allowed to work while a request for a work permit transfer is being processed.

Persons who have held work permits for more than three years are allowed to remain in the territory for at least three months while seeking employment alternative sectors such as construction.

Mouths to feed

However, some expats who spoke to our news centre admitted they have no other choice but to work under the shadows; taking up odd jobs to survive as they await their work permit transfer.

One expatriate worker told BVI News he cannot sit and wait because he has bills to pay and three children to care for.

He said his monthly bills usually amount to $1,500. He further told BVI News that he has been dipping into his savings to cope while his permit is processed.

“It [hurricanes] caused many of us to be jobless, even though we find a little part-time job in construction,” he lamented yesterday.

According to another source, the challenges being faced at the Labour and Immigration Department have made life increasingly difficult.

“It’s really hard. I don’t mean the construction is hard, but to find a job, to go to Labour and Immigration, I don’t know why it got like that.”

The St Vincent and the Grenadines national revealed that before the hurricanes forced him into the construction sector, he was a novice in construction

He jokingly noted the foul language he has had to hear while ‘learning the ropes’. He also noted the non-life threatening injuries he sustained in the past few months on the construction site.

Like many, he has to ‘hustle’ to make ends meet.

Meanwhile, Premier Dr D Orlando Smith recently announced that the Immigration Department would be implementing an online application process for entry permits.

The change is being rolled out to improve the Immigration process which has been described as cumbersome.


Copyright 2023 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.


Disclaimer: BVI News and its affiliated companies are not responsible for the content of comments posted or for anything arising out of use of the comments below or other interaction among the users.

  1. watcher says:

    The BVI system of tying a work permit to a specific employer is akin to the “ indentured” system that arose after slavery was abolished and was itself later banned in the civilised countries of the world.

    The treatment of its guest workers by the BVI is a national embarassment of which all involved should be ashamed. It is also the main reason why major corporations will not locate here and the major obstacle to greater economic prosperity for all who live here.

    • Calvin says:

      If I respond to that post, it will never make the site, but stop writing nonsense. It seems like expats want the BVI to have no laws and just let them come into the territory at free will.

    • Bizzy Bee says:

      Too true!

    • So are other Countries says:

      The USA is the same way when a foreign worker is sponsored by the company they work for. This is the case for fortune 500s and government contractors, farms etc, ask all those Indians who work in Silicon Valley California. So stop biting the hands that feed you. BVI get a lot of things wrong, but not this one….they are like every other civilized country where a company imports labor.

      • Consultant says:

        But, don’t you think that getting it “right” under these extraordinary circumstances is hampering much needed progress? There are many cases at sea where a smaller vessel at sea yields to a larger vessel despite having right of way simply because it is safer to avoid a collision than to be dead right.

    • Poison. says:

      Please have u ever travelled, apart from the BVI. Have you ever worked in the USA/Europe. Do you understand what’s involved with a aquiring a work permit BVI’s procedure is minuscule compared to the rigorous procedures in uk, Europe or the USA. USA is worst though so keep commenting. For the record I’m an exphat as well and I understand these circumstances are unusual but think about what just occurred last September and what the people are faced with. Power isn’t even fully restored and modern BVI hasn’t seen so much damage on this scale so I would advise if you don’t like the rules in place leave. If this happened in another country some/most of you more Than likely would have been asked to leave while the place rebuilds. But it’s BVI so everyone feeling so sorry and not wanting to put anyone out. Think before you make these comments.

      • Reader says:

        Well said…

      • watcher says:

        If you are asking me the answer is extensively. i have never been anywhere with a harsher system than BVI. In all cases including BVI foreign workers are allowed in because they have wanted skills or want to do a job that locals dont want to do.

        It s the people arguing that BVI is no different that havent been anywhere else. It is very different

        This is the USA

        If you are applying based on 5 years as a Permanent Resident or 3 years as a Permanent Resident married to a U.S. citizen, you may file for naturalization up to 90 days before you meet the “continuous residence” requirement.

    • Dodge City Resident says:

      To those saying it is the same everywhere

      UK govt but the same througout the EU

      To qualify for naturalisation if you are not married to a British Citizen, you must: Have been in the UK for the last five years and hold ILR for at least the last 12 months. Have been present in the UK on the date five years prior to the application being received by the Nationality Directorate.

  2. stepping Razord says:

    Experts leave that island!!!!

    • Richard Morrison says:

      You need to leave the island and go back to school so you can learn how to put a coherent sentence together.

    • Goodness me says:

      Experts have to stay to teach you to learn to read and write. You not too bright. Which school you go?

      • AHHH says:

        Expats do not HAVE to stay. They make a choice to stay. It is or should be understood when they came that an expat is not to rely on the BVI for sustenance should they become destitute. At a time like this, common sense should kick in and expat with no financial means of support should do so quietly or be assisted with proper deportation to wherever they originated.

        • watcher says:

          but they pay the vast majority of the social security payments and the tax. So why are they entitled to nothing?

          • AHHH says:

            Because that is the way it is and they signed on and agreed . It is no different in America or elsewhere. Their taxes contribute to the needs of their temporary home for all, They get a fat paycheck and is able to boost the economy at home
            Build homes start businesses and much more, The taxes which is a pittance is a priveledged contribution to the BVI…Remember too their children with free schooling in the BVI and those expats and prison costing upwards of 35 grand yearly. The cost for additional police immigration personnel lawyers judges etc, Expats are high maintenance for the BVI. They benefit more than the BVI which has been seriously degraded as a result.

          • @watcher says:

            Just wondering who the keep down in order to achieve those contributions

          • Poison. says:

            I understand but there is a system in place and some form of compensation can be agreed if they are eligible for it. Same rules applied all over the world. Example do you get you get back your tax when you visit the USA to shop? No in the uk can can as the system exist but not for everything.

    • Father Time says:

      Don’t be an arse. And it’s Expats* fooking idiot.

  3. Hmmmmmm!! says:

    I don’t see why immigration is being blame when clearly most of them is so dam forward about how back home is better than the BVI. but then can’t stay home, a lot of them who went back after Irmaria sure came not sure of a job no where to live and the BVI government have to help them some way or an other. some of them so bad mine it ain’t funny

  4. Sam the man says:

    The clear message that the “No Direction Party” is sending out by standing back for years refusing to improve the archaic and inefficient system is – we don’t respect or care about expats and will continue to allow things to be made difficult for you to obtain work permits as to be honest you are not welcome….

    • Reader says:

      I don’t agree. There are a lot of expats employed here in BVI, while many experienced BVIslander job-seekers are out of a job…this is not to say that we should not hire non-BVIslanders. They are free to live and work where they choose.

  5. strupes says:

    Why cant they go back home if there’s no jobs?

    • confusion says:

      that’s about right. Those in tourism and finance don’t expect to arrive here without a job a studiously follow the flawed systems. I am not sure why those in construction and “hospitality” get a free ride. How was the murderer from DR here with no job? Most expats would agree with this concern, for society but also because they have gone through the system as it was designed; coming here to fulfill a need that there isn’t enough local population to fulfill and also to further their careers and make a life.

      First up, and maybe this is what is being done in the revamp, the system needs to swift and courteous for those who are needed and come here with all the correct information provided, and courteous and grateful, not just in the Government interface but in society. Pretty much every significant employer outside of Government has been started by and depended upon people not born here. BVI’s livelihood and future also depends on it.

      For all of the other areas, that ought to be where the focus of deeper review is. That’s where the questionable practice lies.

    • Love my bvi says:

      Go back home? What or where is home? These are expats that have called the BVI home. They invested their time, work, efforts, to make a home here.

      So you want them to back? To what? There is no house or job waiting for them “back home.” How ignorant a statement this is.

      We have got to stop this idiotic and senseless “us versus them” attitude. We will never pull the BVI out of this mess and emerge stronger if we point fingers and shame others for problems.

      We MUST work together.

    • Hmm. says:

      There are jobs. Many jobs. Do you work. My rent pays your salary boo.

  6. Unconvenient truth says:

    Let’s do a bit of math:

    Let’s say the BVI has at least 30,000 people. and a bit of research shows 61% are expats. therefore, 30000 x 0.61 = 18300 Expats.

    And every year this 18,300 expats needs their work permit, immigration etc. renewed. But we only have 225 working days in a year, and only 7 working hours a day.

    Therefore we need 18300 / 225 = 81.33 persons per day or 11.6 persons per hour to be process for renewal.

    So the minimum, is to serve at least one(1) person every 5 minutes and 27 seconds to be exact.

    Hope this helps.

    note: this is just an estimate, others such as tourist, volunteers etc. were not included.

    • Electric Shock! says:

      Your math is highly flawed. If the population was/is 30,000–a good percentage will be made up of children, teens and old people. So in other words, the work force number would have been less than the 30,000.

      Thank you

  7. Observer says:

    Not all expat workers require work permit

  8. watcher says:

    There are many sad stories . This is one of them.

    A lady came here 20 years ago from a poorer island. She worked hard for almost 20 years with the same employer. After 20 years she has no other place to call home. Her children were born here and know no other home. Due to damage from Irma her employer was forced by the labour department to make her redundant because the employer does not have full time work for her until the business can be rebuilt. This will probably be several months hence.

    She now has no full time job and hence no work permit and hence no right to stay. She is just surviving with a part time job.

    She is , if labour and immigration have their way , to be deported back to where she came from where she knows no one , has no family and no means of support.

    I am certain her story is repeated many times. I cannot understand how the people of this country and its government can be so inhumane and heartless.

    • Intl says:

      This is the life. It is a chosen way of life that is repeated globally. An expat does not change status by osmosis. It is a process initiated by the expat at some point, The BVI is no different. BvIslanders are and have been expat in many places globally and has had to return home too after umpteen years. She has no means of support in the BVI but does have citizenship elsewhere and a right to receive sustenance and assistance . Her country is larger and has more resources than the BVI. BVI has little and barely enough for their own. She and others like her have a country.What they don’t have is a heart. Taking from BVI at this time is heartless and inhumane.

      • Dodge City Resident says:

        It is not repeated globally as many argue. The EU and USA abide to international rules and protocols that allow non citizen workers to become citizens after 5 years. In the EU it is illegal to tie workers to a single employer by any means.

    • Jesse says:

      What is heartless and inhumane are these expat who would take the last crumb fromthe BVI and leave BVIslanders with nothing. These expat have a country to which they can return and claim food and shelter as a right.

    • Hmmmmmm!! says:

      In a situation like those that have ben working on the Island for 20 or more years with children born on BVI soil I can understand. but those that is less than that what just come in the last shower of rain needs to go back home. You can clearly see who is loyal and who is not, as they get paid them run to money gram and western union to send home their money they don’t to build up which I personally don’t have a problem with but gosh man some don’t ever give back at all, you don’t see them making no deposit in any banks in the BVI, and like I said in previous comment some are real bad mind, and make sure that some of you who reads these comments see I’ve said SOME and not all cause there is some real heartless locals!!!!!!

      • Just sayin says:

        It’s chicken and egg: if you are made to feel even after decades that the country does not need or want you, why should you ‘give back’ to it. If you treat someone like a second class citizen for years should you really be surprised when they are not loyal to you?

    • Insider says:

      Ur lying.

  9. Anegadian says:

    The core of the current labor law was made for a different time. The BVI has moved beyond that and the law needs to be changed so that it supports the current time and benefits the territory instead of hindering it.

  10. Draw on SS says:

    I’m hoping to soon apply and collect benefit from of all those Social Security payments I made while working as an expat for nearly a decade in the BVI. I would have liked to have become a citizen and remained in the the BVI but my job was made redundant post Irma and I had to return to the country that was no longer my home. Surely as expats we’re treatez equally and eligible for retirement benefits at 65 like all contributors. I can’t recall being told the contributions were a gift tax to the BVI. Anyone?

  11. Insider says:

    If one is NOT deemed to Belong to the Virgin Islands, they can be removed if they cannot maintain themselves and their families whether children were born here or not. That is the law of the land whether anyone likes it or understand.

Leave a Comment