Settling into a new life in the Bahamas is a dream that many share, but few have made real. This comes as a surprise, as many global investors eying a slice of paradise in this Caribbean nation quickly find that government in the Bahamas is remarkably welcoming. However, the Bahamian government still expects residents, whether seasonal or permanent, to educate themselves on life in the area.
Below, we'll cover some of the major questions future-Bahamians raise raise when considering the prospect of life in paradise.
Bahamian Civics 101
Technically known as the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, the Bahamian government manages more than 700 islands and cays throughout the Caribbean. Located on the island of New Providence, the capital of Nassau is the center of government, tasked with administering over 180,000 square miles of sea.
The Bahamas became an independent commonwealth of England in 1973, and maintains a parliamentary system of government to this day. It is currently the third wealthiest country in the Americas (after the U.S. and Canada), enjoys a well-developed civic and justice system, and a modernized military courtesy of the Royal Bahamian Defense Force.
If you are interested in pursuing Bahamian residency, it is good to know that the Bahamas makes the process fairly simple and accommodating. For annual residency, requiring yearly renewal with the government, your vacation home must cost at least $250,000 USD. Typically, the government also requests verification of employment or a similar proof of income.
Even better, for investments over $500,000, the Bahamian government allows a permanent residency request, dispensing with any requirement for renewal, employment verification or work permits, and a variety of other red tape.
In response to an unfortunate (and, as we've covered elsewhere, unwarranted) reputation for danger in the media in previous years, the Bahamian government maintains a well-equipped police force to uphold public safety around the islands.
Bahamian police are trained similar to American patrolmen, and are well-schooled in encounters with travelers, tourists, and expatriates settling in the Bahamas. Most travelers find Bahamian law enforcement professional and courteous to deal with, and, exercising the same common sense and responsibility as back home, rarely encounter issues.
An upside to life in the Bahamas is that the government's tax code is quite friendly to residents and property owners. While the Bahamian government does rely on real estate taxes for a significant portion of its revenues, vacation homeowners planning to spend significant portions of the year in the Caribbean should be happy to know that the first $250,000 of your home is exempt from taxes, assuming you reside in the home enough to satisfy the exemption requirements.
Like back home, insurance is required by the Bahamian government for certain property. Automobiles and homes are the big ones. If you plan to drive in the Bahamas, make sure your auto insurance meets the government's standards; expats are often shocked at how affordable coverage is.
More importantly, when insuring your vacation home investment, consider some of the potential hazards of Caribbean living. Hurricanes, floods, and similar disasters would be a good idea to include in the policy.
Unfortunately, with such a devout tourist economy, this means taxes and duties on moving personal effects in and out of the country. Thankfully, many family goods such as books, computers, and infant supplies are duty free. However, planning to outfit your vacation home with common household gifts from the U.S. like wi-fi routers, clothing, linens, and televisions can result in some hefty duties. Consider how important importing a particular item will be, and whether it would be a better financial move to just buy new once in-country.
These are just some of the questions future visitors to the Bahamas often ask. Whether as a traveler, part-time resident, or seasoned ex-pat, guests to this island nation will be greeted with a rich history, vibrant Caribbean culture, and responsible government welcoming to foreign visitors.
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