Can a person start a business on an extended visitor’s visa? My husband and I plan to come on visitor’s visas and request extensions. He wants to work while we are there. Will we be allowed to get a business license (we’re thinking of a food cart) on extended visitor’s visas?
Thanks for your question. It is a good one. In order to work in the BVI you will need a work permit. You cannot live and work in the BVI based on immigration status alone, you’ll need both a permit and immigration stamp. In some cases, the immigration department requires proof that a visitor can afford to be in the BVI without working here in order to be granted an extension. There have even been cases where they have even gone so far as to request a recent bank statement from visitors who are pursuing extensions.
There are also limitations for people who move here and seek work. It is simply not allowed unless approved by immigration beforehand. If your plan is to start a small business and work without a permit, your BVI experience will be short lived and you will most likely be caught, deported and denied any future entry.
Your best option is to come down here, meet people and explore what the island already has to offer. If you meet the right people you could pursue a trade license with a local partner. The odds of approval are higher and the processes are often faster when a BVIslander is on the license. You would still need to go through the entire BVI Work Permit process and vacate the territory until it is approved. At least this way you will be allowed back in.
What is important to remember when pursuing a BVI Trade License is that BVI Labour Department’s purpose is to create jobs for their nationals. With that said, the type of business you would have the best chance of getting approval for would be something the average resident wouldn’t have a knowledge of. There are a lot of BVI food carts already established because of the ease of start up and relatively low overhead.
Don’t get discouraged though. The BVI is full of entrepreneurs who can help you on your path. It takes some time meeting the right people and following the rules along the way. If you have a solid business plan, you could even find yourself a silent partner locally. The effort would be worthwhile and you might meet some friends along the way.
Good luck on your journey, wherever it takes you.