1 Legal framework
1.1 Which legislative and regulatory provisions govern corporate immigration in your jurisdiction?
The Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 (BIPA) is the primary statute that governs corporate immigration in Bermuda. BIPA is supported by a Work Permit Policy which provides guidance on how the Department of Immigration and Board of Immigration is meant to administer BIPA.
1.2 Do any special regimes apply in specific sectors?
There are categories of job which are either:
- ‘restricted' (ie, work permits are limited to one year and subject to enhanced consideration of Bermudian applicants); or
- ‘closed' (work permit applications not accepted for specific roles).
There are also certain job categories (including childcare giver and family support roles) which have special conditions, and employers must ensure that applicants meet the additional requirements in order to be eligible for a work permit.
The Work Permit Policy contains an extensive list of which jobs fall into the ‘restricted' and ‘closed' categories. For example, the job categories which are currently:
- ‘closed' include:
- residential/commercial cleaner;
- bank teller; and
- general bartender; and
- ‘restricted' include:
- landscape gardener (entry level);
- plumber; and
- general mason.
The Bermuda government can and does extend the list of affected jobs from time to time, to reflect Bermuda's job market and economic conditions.
1.3 Which government entities regulate immigration in your jurisdiction? What powers do they have?
The Department of Immigration is responsible for regulating and administering BIPA and the Work Permit Policy through the Board of Immigration led by the minister of labour or chairman of the Board of Immigration. The ultimate regulator of immigration matters is the minister.
The minister has very broad discretion either to withhold permission or to grant permission, subject to any duration, condition or limitation, without assigning any reason to that decision. In addition, the minister may extend, revoke, vary or modify the terms of any such permission.
1.4 What is the government's general approach to immigration in your jurisdiction?
The government's general approach to immigration is to encourage business immigration where there is an economic benefit to Bermuda and a commitment to provide opportunities for Bermudians, spouses of Bermudians and permanent resident certificate holders.
2 Business travel
2.1 Do business visitors need a visa to visit your jurisdiction? What restrictions and exemptions apply in this regard?
Generally, business visitors do not require permission to visit Bermuda, provided that the following criteria are complied with:
- The business visitor is in possession of a return ticket (as well as a valid multi re-entry visa (MRV) if the business visitor is a visa controlled national);
- The total length of stay does not exceed 21 consecutive days (subject to applying for an extension for up to a further 21 days); and
- The activities undertaken by the business visitor are specified in the Work Permit Policy and include, but are not limited to:
- broker meetings;
- director meetings;
- shareholders' meetings; and
- general business meetings with employees of an organisation where the visitor is not being remunerated by the Bermuda-based organisation (including external examination boards).
If the proposed business activities do not fall within those permitted to be undertaken, then another option is a short-term work permit or a periodic work permit.
The countries that require an MRV are as follows:
- Congo (Brazaville);
- Congo (Kinsasha);
- Cote d'Ivoire;
- Cyprus, Republic of (northern part of);
- Macedonia (Former Yugoslav Republic of);
- Guinea, Republic of;
- Kosovo (Serbia/Albania);
- Moldova, Republic of;
- Montenegro, Republic of;
- Myanmar (Burma);
- Palestinian Authorities;
- Serbia, Republic of;
- Sierra Leone;
- South Africa;
- Sri Lanka;
- Vietnam; and
2.2 Do the requirements vary depending on sector or purpose?
The requirements are the same; but only the activities set out the Work Permit Policy are permitted, some of which relate to specific sectors.
2.3 What is the maximum stay allowed for business visitors?
Twenty-one consecutive days (subject to applying for an extension for an additional 21 days).
2.4 What activities are business visitors allowed to conduct while visiting your jurisdiction?
The permitted activities for business visitors are set out in the Work Permit Policy and some common examples are set out in question 2.1.
2.5 Is authorisation required for business visitors to provide or receive short-term training?
Business visitors can enter Bermuda for training in techniques and work practices, provided that:
- the training is conducted by a company affiliated by an ownership relationship; and
- the training is limited to observation, familiarisation and classroom instruction.
Anything beyond this requires a work permit issued by the Department of Immigration.
3 Work permits
3.1 What are the main types of work permit in your jurisdiction? What restrictions and exemptions apply in this regard?
There are various types of work permits available in Bermuda, specifically:
- short-term work permits;
- global work permits;
- new business work permits;
- global entrepreneur work permits;
- standard work permits;
- fintech business work permits; and
- periodic work permits.
In practice, the vast majority of work permits issued are either standard work permits, short-term work permits or periodic work permits:
- Standard work permits: Available to employers for all roles that are open, special or restricted categories under the Work Permit Policy. Advertising is required in most circumstances.
- Short-term work permits: Available to employers for all roles that are open, special or restricted categories. Advertising is required in most circumstances.
- Periodic work permits: Available to non-resident individuals who work in Bermuda for periods of time. Advertising is not required.
3.2 What is the maximum stay allowed under each type of work permit? Can this be extended?
- Standard work permits can be issued for periods of up to five years. If the employer wishes to extend upon expiry, it must apply for a new standard work permit (of up to five years).
- Short-term work permits can be issued for periods of up to six months and can be extended for a further six months.
- Periodic work permits can be issued for periods of up to five years – but trips to Bermuda are limited to 30 days at one time and no more than 180 days per annum.
3.3 What criteria must be satisfied to obtain each kind of permit?
The specific criteria for each type of work permit are referred to in question 3.1. Generally, the Department of Immigration will grant a work permit to an expatriate only if no qualified Bermudians, spouses of Bermudians or permanent resident certificate (PRC) holders apply to any ads for the role.
If there is a statutory body which regulates the relevant profession in Bermuda (eg, Chartered Professional Accountants of Bermuda), approval must be obtained in advance of submitting the work permit application. These statutory bodies are expected to review the qualifications and experience of the applicant and determine eligibility to work in Bermuda.
3.4 Do any language requirements apply for each kind of permit?
Any individuals coming to work in Bermuda under the Portuguese Accord as well as those employed in the construction industry must have a working knowledge of the English language.
3.5 Are any work permits subject to quotas?
3.6 Do any specific rules apply with regard to the following:
(a) Work in specific sectors?
(b) Shortage occupations?
(c) Highly skilled workers?
(d) Investors and high-net worth individuals?
(a) Work in specific sectors?
Yes. Some job categories are specified in the Work Permit Policy as ‘closed' to work permit applications; while others are ‘restricted' or have special conditions attached.
(b) Shortage occupations?
The minister has a high degree of discretion and can waive specific policies upon request or justification for the same. This discretion can specifically apply where there is a known shortage of Bermudians, spouses of Bermudians or PRC holders for particular specialised roles.
(c) Highly skilled workers?
There is an automatic waiver of the requirement to advertise the role for senior C-suite positions such as CEO or any other chief officer.
(d) Investors and high-net worth individuals?
The new Economic Investment Certificate (EIC) Policy (March 2021) is aimed at attracting investors and high-net-worth individuals to Bermuda. It provides for automatic work permit approval for any such individual to work for the business in which he or she has invested, subject to the satisfaction of certain criteria on a continuing basis, including:
- fulfilling minimum annual residency requirements; and
- continuing to hold a ‘qualifying investment' – defined as, among other things:
- a direct or indirect equity investment of at least $2.5 million into an existing Bermuda-based business, including Bermuda Stock Exchange listed entities (but excluding where the investment is limited to holding listed securities in exempt undertakings); or
- an investment in a new Bermuda-based business.
After holding an EIC for five years, the individual will be eligible to apply for a PRC, allowing him or her to reside in Bermuda indefinitely and continue to work for the business in which he or she has made a qualifying investment.
3.7 What are the formal and documentary requirements for obtaining each kind of permit?
Each type of work permit has a specific application form that must be completed by the employer. In addition, a first-time applicant must submit the following documents:
- a police certificate from his or her last place of residence;
- an employment reference letter;
- two character reference letters;
- certified copies of any relevant qualifications;
- three passport-sized photographs;
- a certified copy of his or her passport;
- a certified copy of his or her marriage certificate;
- his or her CV; and
- a chest x-ray and medical certificate (only if the applicant has lived in specific high-risk countries at any time in his or her life for three months or longer)
If the applicant is married and his or her spouse wishes to work, an application to reside and seek work should be made as part of the work permit application and copies of the above documents in relation to the spouse included at the same time.
3.8 What fees are payable to obtain each kind of permit?
- Standard and periodic work permits: $966 to $6,200 (increases each year up to a maximum of five years).
- Short-term permits: $672.00 - $1,019 (increases each month up to a maximum of six months)
An additional government fee is payable of $168 per person attached to the permit application for the printing of work permit/travel cards.
3.9 What is the process for obtaining a permit? How long does this typically take?
The completed work permit application together with the supporting documentation must be submitted in hard copy to the Department of Immigration and the relevant application fee paid by wire transfer before the application will be considered.
The Work Permit Policy provides for the following service level guidelines:
- Standard work permits should be processed within 20 working days of submission; and
- All other work permits should be processed within 10 working days of submission.
However, in practice, work permit applications (of all types) regularly take between 12 and 16 weeks from submission to receipt of the new work permit.
3.10 Once a work permit has been obtained, what are the rights and obligations of the permit holder? What are the penalties in case of breach?
The individual has the right to reside and work in Bermuda for the employer named on the work permit in the designated role for the duration of the work permit. As an employee working wholly or mainly in Bermuda, the work permit holder will benefit from the rights and protections afforded to all employees under Bermuda law (including the Employment Act 2000 and the Human Rights Act 1981).
When the work permit expires, the employer is responsible for (subject to the parties agreeing otherwise in writing) the costs of repatriating the employee and any qualifying dependants (those named on the work permit) back to their country of origin. Upon termination of the work permit, an individual has 90 days to settle his or her affairs in Bermuda. In certain circumstances, it is possible to apply for an extension of time and/or request permission to reside and seek alternative employment.
If a work permit holder breaches the terms of his or her work permit by undertaking work outside of the remit of the work permit or otherwise, the minister can:
- revoke, modify or vary the terms of the work permit upon written notice; and
- invite the work permit holder to make representations within 14 days of such notice.
If the employer is found to have breached the Immigration and Protection Act following an investigation, the chief immigration officer has the power to impose a civil penalty of up to $10,000 on both the employer and the employee.
4.1 What are the criteria for obtaining settlement in your jurisdiction? What restrictions apply in this regard?
There is no direct pathway for foreign nationals to obtain Bermuda status. However, foreign nationals can apply for a permanent resident certificate (PRC) in certain circumstances. PRC holders obtain certain benefits, such as the right to reside and work in Bermuda without having to obtain a work permit. Dependants and spouses of PRC holders can also make subsequent applications for PRCs if certain criteria are met.
An application for a PRC can be made pursuant to the Economic Development Act 1968 for certain senior executives who are considered ‘job makers'. In order for a senior executive to be eligible, his or her employer must apply for designation as a company whose senior executives are eligible to apply for an exemption from needing a work permit.
4.2 Do any specific rules apply to foreign citizens with ancestral connections?
There are no specific rules for foreign citizens with ancestral connections. Under the Immigration and Protection Act, individuals who are ‘deemed' Bermudian have the right to reside and work in Bermuda without the need for a work permit. However, in certain circumstances, individuals who have Bermudian grandparents may be able to apply for Bermuda status if certain criteria are met.
4.3 What are the formal and documentary requirements for obtaining settlement?
See question 4.1
4.4 What fees are payable to obtain settlement?
The ‘job makers' process referenced in question 4.1 is a three-step process ending with a PRC and the total government fees are $70,000 per person for all three steps.
4.5 What is the process for obtaining settlement? How long does this typically take?
See question 4.1
4.6 Is the settlement process the same for EU citizens?
See question 4.1.
5.1 What are the criteria to qualify as a dependant? What restrictions apply in this regard?
A ‘dependant' includes:
- the spouse of a permanent resident certificate (PRC) holder or work permit holder;
- the partner of a Bermudian, PRC holder or work permit holder (who can demonstrate a genuine and subsisting relationship via sworn affidavit); and
- dependent children of a PRC holder or work permit holder (ie, under the age of 18 or between the ages of 18 and 26 and still in full-time education).
A work permit holder that wishes to apply for permission for dependants to reside in Bermuda must evidence that he or she meets the total household remuneration thresholds of $60,000 (two persons) to $125,000 (four persons) per annum.
5.2 What rights do dependants enjoy once admitted as such?
Dependants can reside in Bermuda, and in most instances the work permit holder will apply for permission for his or her dependants to reside in Bermuda at the same time as applying for his or her own work permit.
5.3 How are civil/unmarried partners and same-sex partners treated in this regard?
Long-term partners (whether civil/unmarried or same-sex) will be classed as dependants, provided that they sign a sworn affidavit attesting to their genuine and subsisting relationship.
6 Intra-company transfers
6.1 Is there a specific regime for the transfer of employees from an overseas branch of a multinational to your jurisdiction?
Yes. The global work permit allows a person already employed by a global company (ie, a company in Bermuda that employs people in jurisdictions outside Bermuda, but not franchise businesses) in another jurisdiction to transfer to that company's Bermuda office without any need to advertise the role.
An employer may also apply to the Department of Immigration for permission to establish an exchange internship programme or a graduate training programme in Bermuda where participants from an overseas office can opt to work in the Bermuda office for a period of time. Bermudians, spouses of Bermudians and permanent resident certificate holders should be given equal opportunity to participate in the graduate training programme to work in an overseas office outside of Bermuda, which may allow the transfer of qualifying employees to Bermuda on a temporary basis.
6.2 What is the maximum stay allowed under this regime? Can this be extended?
Global work permits can be granted for a period of up to five years.
For the internship programme and the graduate training programme, there is no prescribed maximum stay limit provided; but a short-term work permit is required, which is limited as per question 3.2.
6.3 What criteria must the employer satisfy to obtain a permit under this regime?
For the global work permit, the employer must show that the individual is not being transferred to fill a pre-existing position in Bermuda. The application will be automatically approved for individuals with greater than one year's service earning more than $125,000 per annum. If an applicant does not meet this criterion, the application will be considered on a case-by-case basis and must show that the applicant will add value to Bermuda. This is not available for job categories listed as ‘closed' or ‘restricted' under the Work Permit Policy.
For the graduate training or intern programme, the employer must submit:
- confirmation of the identity of the foreign graduate or intern who will be coming to Bermuda;
- confirmation of the job category and length of training or internship in Bermuda for the graduate or foreign intern;
- confirmation of the job category and length of internship of the Bermudian counterpart;
- a short-term work permit application;
- a copy of the foreign graduate or intern's employment agreement; and
- confirmation that the graduate or intern has medical insurance valid for Bermuda for the duration of his or her stay in Bermuda.
6.4 What are the formal and documentary requirements to obtain a permit under this regime?
For the global work permit, see question 3.7.
For the graduate training and intern programmes, the same documents as referred to in question 6.3 must be submitted.
6.5 What fees are payable to obtain a permit under this regime?
See question 3.6.
6.6 What is the process for obtaining a permit? How long does this typically take?
See question 3.9.
7 New hires
7.1 Are employers in your jurisdiction bound by labour market testing requirements before hiring from overseas? Do any exemptions apply in this regard?
There are no labour market testing requirements under Bermuda law other than the requirement to advertise roles as referenced in question 3.3.
7.2 If labour market testing requirements apply, how are these satisfied and what best practices should employers follow in this regard?
There are no labour market testing requirements under Bermuda law other than the requirement to advertise roles referenced in question 3.3.
7.3 Which work permits are primarily used for new hires? What is the process for obtaining them and what fees are applicable, for both employer and employee?
Primarily, standard work permits are used for new hires. The fees and application process are as set out under questions 3.8 and 3.9.
7.4 Is labour market testing required if the new hire is to extend his or her residence?
No, other than the requirement to advertise the position.
7.5 Can new hires apply for permanent residence?
No, new hires cannot apply for permanent residence.
8.1 Are any licences or authorisations required to sponsor foreign nationals? What other criteria apply in this regard?
There is no concept of sponsorship of foreign nationals under Bermuda law.
8.2 What obligations do sponsoring employers have to ensure continued immigration compliance?
8.3 Are sponsoring employers subject to any local training requirements?
8.4 How is compliance with the sponsorship regime monitored? What are the penalties for non-compliance?
9 Trends and predictions
9.1 How would you describe the current immigration landscape and prevailing trends in your jurisdiction? Are any new developments anticipated in the next 12 months, including any proposed legislative reforms?
The Bermuda government is currently seeking to reform its immigration practices and make the jurisdiction more accessible and attractive for individuals who want to invest in Bermuda and create opportunities for Bermudians. It recently introduced the economic investment certificate (March 2021) and the Work from Bermuda residential certificate initiative targeting ‘digital nomads' (which is now in its second year). The Bermuda government has recently enacted immigration reforms to provide a new framework to obtain permanent residency for long-term residents of Bermuda with the ability to apply for a permanent resident certificate (PRC), offering security to work and reside in Bermuda without the need for a work permit. The new framework is effective as of 1 December 2021 and the Department of Immigration will be accepting applications for PRCs under the new framework as of 1 January 2022.
10 Tips and traps
10.1 What are your top tips for businesses seeking to recruit talent from abroad and what potential sticking points would you highlight?
Businesses should be cognisant of Bermuda's firm immigration requirements under the Immigration and Protection Act. However, Bermuda has implemented certain initiatives to attract international business to Bermuda, such as its ‘job makers' policy and the introduction of the new economic investment certificate. From a work permit perspective, it is key to draft comprehensive and accurate employment ads to ensure a smooth process with the Department of Immigration.
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