British Virgin Islands: BVI Positioning For International, Direct Investment

Last Updated: 12 October 2018
Article by Jenelle Archer

A One Stop Shop Solution for Investors

The BVI is already the world's leading jurisdiction for company incorporations, home to over 350,000 registered international business companies (IBCs) that carry on businesses as diverse as green technology, mobile device cases, Styrofoam manufacture, financial products, hedge fund management, food production and distribution, charter services, real estate management, captive insurance, and blockchain-based assets. The jurisdiction is the home port for Fortune 500 companies and others listed on US-based major international stock exchanges. This rich diversity is a strength of the BVI and offering a perfect platform for the jurisdiction to attract major foreign direct investment by providing incentives for global investors to set up or expand operations in the Territory.

INVESTMENT PROMOTION AGENCY

In May 2018, Junior Minister for Trade and Investment Promotion Hon. Marlon Penn announced plans for the BVI to establish an Investment Promotion Agency (IPA), designed explicitly for facilitating foreign investment. He said, "The agency [will] deal with every investment in this territory. It deals with it from the beginning to the end and the whole aftercare of the investment, where that investor deals with one department (the IPA) and the IPA serves as a central hub or 'One Stop Shop,' that deals with all the different processes."

Ongoing efforts since then include policies designed with significant benefits for companies establishing or acquiring assets in the jurisdiction or for entering into joint ventures with existing companies or BVI startups. Plans encourage innovation, leveraging BVI natural assets in environment and green-tech, and build on the excellent international business infrastructure in its financial services sector, positioning technology as a key driver of investment and growth.

DIRECT INVESTMENT

The impact of the September 2017 hurricanes sharpened the BVI's focus on direct investment. The financial services sector was able to weather the storm thanks to effective business continuity programs and the cooperation of the BVI regulator who authorised the transaction of business from other jurisdictions, temporarily. Infrastructure services have been restored, and tourism is bouncing back with the yachting sector back to over 50 percent of its pre-hurricane level.

The BVI has used the recovery process as an opportunity to rebuild a stronger, greener, better and more resilient BVI. The Territory has embraced the opportunity and has cast a bold new vision for the future, inviting investors to come on board to help it fulfill its vision. In addition to tourism, the Territory is seeking investment in infrastructure, fishing, agriculture, small-scale manufacturing, information, communication technology, green-tech, and other areas of innovation. The Territory's main revenue earner, financial services, is also an area seeking investment.

Plans for creating a business-friendly investment environment, with the IPA as a central feature, position the BVI as a prime jurisdiction. With a One Stop Shop approach to direct investment, BVI will simplify the number of steps required to start doing business in the BVI. Under the Investment Policy, an investor will not need to make separate applications to each government agency but will submit all documentation to the IPA. A central hub will handle the following matters on behalf of the investor:

  • Development agreements
  • Trade licenses
  • Social Security registration
  • Inland Revenue Department registration
  • Work permits
  • Visas
  • Immigration clearance

In addition, many formation structures are available, which provide flexibility for businesses of varying needs and sizes. These include BVI Business Companies limited by shares or by guarantee, Segregated Portfolio Companies, General Partnerships, Limited Partnerships, and Micro-Business Companies.

INCENTIVES FOR BUSINESSES

The One Stop Shop solution is not a stand-alone advantage for investors but is a welcome feature complementing the jurisdiction's many other incentives for doing business. The BVI has a stable and efficient legal system. A significant advantage is the jurisdiction's flagship Commercial Court, a dedicated tribunal for the resolution of commercial disputes. Its legal system is based on English common law like many leading developed nations so that investors will find the environment familiar. The BVI also boasts the only International Arbitration Center in the sub-region, which "was established to meet the demands of the international business community for a neutral, impartial, efficient and reliable dispute resolution institution in the Caribbean, Latin America and beyond." A team of internationally renowned experts leads the BVI International Arbitration Center.

The IPA now enhances this critical and responsive environment, with plans to facilitate investment in an efficient and business-friendly manner. The launch of the IPA as the single point of contact, or One Stop Shop, provides a further significant benefit for investors seeking to do business in the BVI.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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