Immigration laws of the Turks and Caicos Islands
By Gordon W. Kerr & Marsha Blanche
Whether you are a visitor to or wish to reside more permanently in the Turks and Caicos Islands (“TCIs”) you will be required to comply with the relevant statutes governing immigration and status. The two laws (Ordinances) that are applicable are the Immigration Ordinance 2015 and (for those that qualify) the Turks and Caicos Islander Status Ordinance 2015.
With the exception of persons travelling from countries that require a visa to enter the TCIs there is no restriction on visitors who wish to travel to the TCIs other than being in possession of a valid passport and a return ticket out of the islands. Visitors can apply to stay for up to 90 days before being required to leave the islands.
Persons who wish to reside for a longer period or to work in the TCIs may apply for a permit in a variety of categories. The Immigration Ordinance sets out the various categories of permits that can be applied for and the qualifications needed to obtain each of them. The Turks and Caicos Islander Status Ordinance sets out the pathway to obtaining Islander status (formerly Belongership) for those who may qualify.
Turks and Caicos Islander Status
Islander Status confers the right to work and live in the TCIs without restriction and the right to vote at General Elections. A person can now acquire status by way of right or by grant. There is no right to acquire economic citizenship in the TCIs by investment.
Acquisition by right applies if you can demonstrate that you fall into one of several qualifying categories and can prove that you have had uninterrupted voluntary presence in the TCIs during which the TCIs are regarded as your normal place of abode. The categories for qualifying for status as of right generally require that you are born or adopted in the islands to or by parents who already had Islander status.
Acquisition by grant applies if you can demonstrate that you fall into one of several categories that include being a British Overseas Territories or British Citizen or being married to an Islander or being the holder of or endorsed on a Permanent Residence Certificate. In each case a prolonged period of residence is required in addition to the other qualifications set out in the Ordinance.
The fees for applying for status by grant are $1,500 if application is by way of marriage and $5,000 for all other applications.
Residence and Working
If you wish to reside in the Islands but not work there are a variety of permits for which you can apply including:
- Temporary Residence Permit
These are issued for a minimum period of one year but may be issued for longer periods. The different categories of temporary residence permit are:
- Independent Means which requires the applicant to demonstrate that they own, rent or have available a house, condominium or apartment in the Islands.
- Medium Term Residence (MTRC) which requires the applicant to demonstrate that they have invested not less than $500,000 in a business or home on Providenciales or its outlying cays, or $250,000 elsewhere in TCI.
- Home Owners Permit which may be issued to persons who own a home in the TCIs but do not wish to apply for or do not qualify for a Permanent Residence Permit. These permits are renewable annually on proof of continued ownership of a home.
In all three cases the applicant must demonstrate that
- That they do not intend to engage in any gainful occupation; and
- They can maintain themselves and their dependents without engaging in any gainful occupation.
- Permanent Residence Certificate (without the right to work)
There are a variety of ways to qualify for this but by and large they require a significant investment in a property or business in the Islands and an intention to establish the Islands as your principle place of residence.
Working in the TCIs
There are a variety of permits that can be applied for which, once granted, will entitle the holder to engage in gainful occupation. Gainful occupation, for the purposes of the Ordinance includes a person who engages in an occupation in any capacity or in any profession, trade or business for or in the expectation of profit or reward. The Immigration Ordinance contains provisions that are designed to ensure Islander or Belonger preference. So an underlying requirement of obtaining a permit to work in the TCIs is that one must demonstrate that there is no Islander who is qualified and willing to fill the position that the permit is applied for.
Assuming one meets the requirement set out above, one can then apply for an employed person’s work permit; a self-employed work permit; a freelancers permit; a temporary permit and, with the right qualifications, a Permanent Residence Certificate with the right to work.
The fees for residence and work permits vary depending on the type of permit applied for and, in the case of a work permit, the type of employment that the applicant will engage in.
There are also general qualification standards that must be met for all permits, such as showing that the applicant is of good health, good character and will have the ability to support themselves and, if applicable, their family.
The foregoing provides a brief overview of the current Immigration laws of the Turks and Caicos Islands and is intended only as an introduction. The requirements for each different category of permit are more extensive than can be covered in an article such as this and any person who is considering residing or working in the TCI’s is recommended to consult with an immigration specialist.
Misick & Stanbrook
Gordon Kerr is originally from Glasgow, Scotland and has resided and worked in the Turks and Caicos Islands for over 30 years. He is a partner with the firm of Misick & Stanbrook and has primary responsibility for practice areas that include commercial and residential real estate, resort development, institutional financing and business development. Gordon is also the partner with primary oversight of the work of the firm’s Immigration consultant.
Marsha Blanche is a Turks and Caicos Islander who has been the Immigration Consultant for Misick & Stanbrook for 18 years. Marsha is responsible for providing advice and assistance to clients of Misick & Stanbrook who wish to apply for immigration status. She handles a high volume of applications for both private and institutional clients of the firm and is the most experienced Immigration consultant in the Islands.