Here in the Northeast, we are emerging from the other side of a polar vortex which brought about remarkably low temperatures and, for me personally, a slightly sore tailbone (from a tumble taken as I skated down my driveway, without actually wearing any skates!). Every year around this time, when the wind chill sends temperatures into what feels like a negative number territory, I dream of living in a Caribbean Island --- a dream punctuated by a casual dress code and dazzling blue seas.
Let’s suppose I decided to make this dream come true now and wanted to open an office in a Caribbean island. Maybe I would choose the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), an unincorporated U.S. territory advertised by the Virgin Islands Economic Development Commission (VIEDC) as “America's Business Paradise; a prime location for you to do business, save on business taxes and maximize your company's profits”. The VIEDC administers the U.S. Virgin Islands economic development program which provides tax exemption incentives for gross receipts tax, excise tax, property tax, customs duties and also a possible 90% income tax exemption. According to Democratic Governor John de Jongh, these generous tax breaks don’t render the Virgin Islands a corporate or offshore tax haven, like such well-known rivals as Bermuda or the Cayman Islands. That’s because the Virgin Islands’ tax benefits are legally sanctioned by the U.S. government, unlike regimes at overseas havens under pressure from a global regulatory crackdown.
Long List of Requirements for USVI Business License
Once an American entity qualifies to do business in the USVI, it must then apply for a business license, a requirement prior to operating a business in the USVI. Standard business licenses are applied for and acquired from the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs. The following will be needed:
- Completed business license application, which may be completed online within a login and password.
- Copy of the Certificate of Qualification from the Office of the Lieutenant Governor evidencing the registration and existence of the corporation in the USVI.
- Tax Clearance Letter from the USVI Bureau of Internal Revenue. If the company is an LLC, it is acceptable to have only one Member, Manager or Officer.
- Police records for the officers of the corporation (who are listed on the license application) from the USVI Records Bureau.
- Copies of valid government issued identification (driver’s license or passport) for the officers, as listed on the license application. If the company is an LLC and there is only one member, manager or officer, we will need to provide the copy of the ID for the sole individual.
- Clearance Certificate from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (zoning approval).
- Copy of the Certificate of Inspection from the Fire Department. With respect to this Certificate, there has been a change in the requirement when the entity does not have a physical office and is using the registered agent’s address as their registered address. Previously, the Fire Department would accept the certificate that was in the name of the corporate registered agent. However, it is now required that the clearance application be in the entity’s name.
In addition, the following listed professions must be certified by their respective board to practice in the USVI. (Exams are administered by the pertinent professional board at the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs.):
- Architects, Engineers and Land Surveyors
- Barbers, Beauticians and Manicurists
- Construction Contractors
- Public Accountants
- Real Estate Appraisers
- Real Estate Commissioners
- Social Workers
Also, be aware that some businesses will also need to submit to a review by the Department of Health depending on type of license requested (food related businesses, counseling practices, massage therapists, etc.).
Don’t Expect Fast Turnaround Time
Once all required documents and payments have been submitted, it may take 3 to 4 weeks (with no guarantees) to obtain the business license. There is no expedited service. Would you expect anything less when you live on island time?
Oh, how I look forward to never again skating down my icy driveway and, instead, feeling that warm island sun on my face in winter as I head to work!
This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered, or relied upon, as legal advice.