Antigua and Barbuda is an attractive destination to many expats. For citizens of many countries, including the UK, the USA, Canada, the Commonwealth, and all EU members, no visa is required for stays there of up to six months. Multiple-entry visas are also available if you will be making regular trips. If you wish to work or to retire there, work and residence permits are required, and to obtain these, you will need to be able to fulfil certain conditions. However, the documentation required is straightforward in most cases, and, although there are fees to pay, they are not prohibitive. There is also a scheme for citizenship by investment for foreign nationals. Any dependants who are named on your residence application also gain residence when your application is approved.
Citizens of countries who do not need a short-stay visa
Visitors and business travellers from over a hundred countries do not need to apply for a visa for visits of up to six months. You must, however, have a valid passport, with at least six months to run, a return or onward ticket, and proof of accommodation within Antigua and Barbuda. If asked, you must also be able to show evidence that you can support yourself while in the country. A full list of countries whose citizens do not require visas for such visits can be found on the website of the Antiguan and Barbudan consulates in your home country. In addition, cruise visitors and passengers in transit do not require a visa, as long as they do not stay in Antigua and Barbuda overnight and have proof of their onward journey.
If you do require a visa, you must apply online, using the visa application form found on the website of the Antiguan and Barbudan consulate. You must support your application with a valid passport or official identification document, which has at least six months to run, confirmation of travel in the form of a return or onward ticket, and two colour passport-size photographs. Citizens of certain countries may be asked for further documentation; you will be asked for this after completing your visa application form. You must also pay a fee – at time of writing, this is US$100/ £76/€90 – which is not refundable. Everyone travelling, including dependent children, must have their own visa. If you intend to make multiple trips within a year, you can apply for a multiple-entry visa using the same form and with the same supporting documentation. These are valid for one or two years. Fees start at US$200/£152/€180. The processing time for a short-stay visa is usually around 10 days.
Visas can be extended by application to the Chief Immigration Officer. You must apply in person, and must provide a valid passport, proof you can support yourself, a valid airline ticket, a passport-size photograph, the relevant application form, and a visa fee of (at present) $300/£228/€270. You may also be asked to supply proof of accommodation, proof of health insurance coverage, proof of income or, if you have bought property locally, of investment, and a sponsorship form or work permit. Extensions are granted for 90 days or the duration of a work permit.
Employers in Antigua and Barbuda are required by law to employ locals wherever possible. If you are offered a job, your employer must be able to prove that no Antiguan and Barbudan is available to fulfil that role and that the role was advertised widely within the country. They must then apply for a work permit for you, and pay a large fee, which is non-refundable. As the potential employee, you must supply identification in the form of a valid passport, with at least six months to run and two blank pages, proof that you are in good health and do not have a criminal record, proof of accommodation, and proof of your future employment.
If you have been resident in Antigua and Barbuda for four years, or have been married to a citizen for at least one year and living in the country, you can apply for residency. This allows you and any dependants named in the application to remain in the country and apply for work without a work permit. You may also be eligible to apply for residence if you have, and can prove you have, independent means, and have lived in the country for two years, or are an entrepreneur or investor who has held a work permit for two years. Documentation varies according to the type of residency. In all cases, you must supply:
• Your passport
• A medical certificate proving you are in good health
• A police certificate proving you have no criminal convictions or history
• Proof of insurance
If you are married to a citizen, your spouse must accompany you when you apply, and you must additionally supply:
• Your marriage certificate
• Your spouse’s passport
• Proof of your spouse’s citizenship
If you hold a work permit, you must have resided in the country for four years, and must additionally supply:
• Your work permit
• Proof you have paid taxes locally
• A return ticket
If you are an entrepreneur or investor, you must have resided in the country for two years. You must additionally supply:
• An official business registration certificate
• Proof you have paid taxes locally
If you have independent means, you must have resided in the country for two years. You must additionally supply:
• Proof you can support yourself financially
• Proof of property ownership
• Proof you have paid taxes locally
Residence is granted initially for one to three years.
Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.
When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.
Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.
Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.
Important questions to ask the insurance provider:
1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?
2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?
3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.
4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?
5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.
6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.
7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.
8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?
9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.
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Property prices in Antigua and Barbuda can be high. This is down to the amount of demand from the booming tourism industry, and to the size of the islands – only so many properties can be built on them. There is no way to compare or assess property prices, or whether they are reasonable, because there is no public central repository of property data. Therefore, when it comes to prices in Antigua and Barbuda, you have to pay what you feel the property is worth.
Antigua and Barbuda is an island nation. The island of Antigua is divided into six parishes: St George, St John, St Mary, St Peter, St Paul, and St Philip. Barbuda island and Rodonda island are called dependencies.
There is no specific area that houses the expat community on Antigua and Barbuda. Instead, you will find that the most popular places for foreign nationals to reside are as follows:
Falmouth and the English Harbour are the most popular places in this area and, whilst property prices can fluctuate, you can expect to pay the following:
For rentals: between $900 and $1300 per month for a two-bedroom apartment, or between $2,000 and $5,000 per month for a three-bedroom house.
For purchases: between $365,000 and $700,000 for a two-bedroom property.
Jolly Harbour and Fryes Beach are the most popular places in this area and, whilst property prices can fluctuate, you can expect to pay the following:
For rentals: between $1,500 and $2,000 per month for a two-bedroom apartment, or between $1,500 and $3,000 per month for a two-bedroom house.
For purchases: between $240,000 and $800,000 for a three-bedroom property.
Half Moon Bay and Browns Bay are the most popular places in this area and, whilst property prices can fluctuate, you can expect to pay the following:
For rentals: between $7,000 and $10,000 per month for a four- to six-bedroom house.
For purchases: between $700,000 and $2,000,000 for a four-bedroom property.
Cedar Valley, Hodges Bay and Galley Bay are the most popular places in this area and, whilst property prices can fluctuate, you can expect to pay the following:
For rentals: between $1,000 and $3,000 per month for a two-bedroom apartment, or between $2,000 and $5,000 per month for a three-bedroom house.
For purchases: between $450,000 and $900,000 for a three-bedroom property.
Once you have found a property you like, you will need to complete some paperwork. Due to the nature of the tourism industry, you may find that properties have flexible rental terms, and so there are numerous things you should find out from your letting agent, before you sign on the dotted line. For example:
• Does the property operate with weekly or monthly pricing?
• When is rent due and who is it payable to?
• Does the rent include the cost of maintenance, such as cleaning or gardening?
• Who is responsible for the payment of utilities?
• What is your notice period?
You will also want to discover how much is due as a security deposit. Typically this will be priced between one and three months’ rent for long-term stays.
There are no limitations on foreign residents buying property in Antigua and Barbuda, but you must follow a different process to the one for renting. If you are investing over $400,000 and are not planning to sell the property for five years, you may be eligible for the citizen by investment programme. However, this programme requires a large investment (the property cost, plus $30,000 in fees for a family of four or less). As a result, it is not always the most suitable option.
As a foreign national, you may be able to get a mortgage, but these are often hard to obtain, and so it may be a more suitable option to get one from an overseas lender. If you are looking into mortgage options, we recommend you get advice on whether you pre-qualify, and how much for, before you begin your property search.
Once you have secured your funds and have found a property you are interested in purchasing, it is time to make an offer. From there, you will need to apply for a Non-citizens Landholding License. The Alien Landholding License (ALHL) can take around four months to be approved, and it will cost you 5% of the property’s sale price.
Once have your license, you will simply need to action your attorney and pay the required taxes. It is important to note that there may be additional fees, including:
• Stamp duty: 10% of the property’s value (7.5% of this is paid by the seller, and the remaining 2.5% is paid by the buyer)
• Legal fees: these are negotiable, but will often set you back around 1% to 2% of the property price; in addition, there are assorted fees, such as the registration costs for the ECD20 and the ECD50 Land Certificate fee
• Estate agent commission: this fee will vary depending upon who your realtor is, but typical prices for this range from 4% to 7% of the property cost
Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.
Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.
If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.
The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).
Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.
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QUICK LINK: Antigua and Barbuda health insurance
The websites Travel Health Pro and Fit For Travel set out the basic core of vaccinations you would ideally receive before arriving in Antigua and Barbuda. Fortunately, effective government action means most residents in the country have received these vaccinations, but you should take personal action to minimise the risk to yourself and others.
If you haven’t received one of these vaccinations or are unsure about your vaccination record, visit your family doctor between four and six weeks before leaving home.
A little more than two percent of the population of Antigua and Barbuda have been diagnosed as living with HIV. This highly infection disease is passed on through contact with bodily fluids, and if left untreated leads to the potentially life-threatening infections of AIDS. Always use a condom during sex and take care not to come into contact with blood.
Bringing Medicines Into Antigua And Barbuda
Nations around the world vary in their regulation of medicines. What is legal to be prescribed or sold over the counter in one country may well be illegal in another. Sometimes this is because a pharmaceutical company does not anticipate generating enough income from a territory to justify the regulation costs, while at other times this is due to a national attitude towards certain categories of drugs.
When heading off to Antigua and Barbuda, you may be worried about access to a prescribed medication you rely on and so decide to bring a good stock of it along with you. However, if you want to avoid arrest, awkward questions and the possibility of a conviction for drug trafficking, you must obey the rules.
• Keep all medications in the original, labelled container
• Bring a letter from your family doctor which is:
– Describes your medical condition
– Lists the medication you have been prescribed
You will be asked to pay for this letter in your home country, even from an NHS-supported medical practice in the UK, but it is essential to obtain it if you are bringing medicines into Antigua and Barbuda.
Health Risks Posed By The Environment
Antigua and Barbuda get hot and the sun rarely isn’t shining. It’s easy to overlook the risks this can pose, but sunburn can lead to aggressive forms of skin cancer which are difficult to treat, and sunstroke can kill a healthy person in hours.
To be sun smart in Antigua and Barbuda, you should:
• Wear sunscreen, even on rainy days
• Always have access to bottled water, and drink from it regularly
• Wear a hat when outside, preferably one with a wide brim
• Cover your shoulders and other easily burnt areas of your body
The beautiful azure waters of the Caribbean sea can also be deceptive. The main cause of coastal deaths are rip currents, so you need to learn how to spot them. Swimming only on beaches which employ a lifeguard means you have a better chance of survival if you get into difficulty in the water.
Insect bites can be a real problem and are difficult to prevent, especially from late afternoon on. People have contracted Dengue fever and Chikungunya virus from infected mosquitos, which also pose the risk of the Zika virus, so the problem should not be ignored.
Wear insect spray – you may wish to try different brands to see which one you prefer. Covering your arms and legs with long clothing gives the insects less skin to target. A light scarf around the neck and a hat will do the same. It’s possible to do this and look stylish for an evening out at an open air restaurant.
Smoking In Antigua And Barbuda
Back in 2010, the government of Antigua and Barbuda banned smoking in all government buildings. It was an early adopter of smoking bans in the Caribbean, although there were no restrictions in other public places.
For the next seven years, the law did not change. May hotels implemented their own bans, preventing customers from smoking on the premises including hotel rooms and balconies. However, smoking continued in most public spaces.
The tobacco control bill of 2017 has changed that, by making it illegal to smoke in a wide range of locations.
The law now stipulates:
(1) A person shall not smoke a tobacco product in any enclosed public place, enclosed workplace, or on a public conveyance, including, but in no way limited to, any place listed in part 2.
(2) A person shall not smoke a tobacco product in any of the following outdoor public or work spaces:
(a) any outdoor space that is designated as a no-smoking area by the person responsible for the premises;
(b) within 30 meters of any doorway, operable window, or air intake mechanism;
(c) within 30 meters of any waiting area or queue, including but not limited to public transport stops;
(d) the premises of any child care facility or educational facility at any level of instruction;
(e) the premises of any health care facility;
(f) a playground, amusement park, plaza, or public park;
(g) a stadium, arena, or any kind of sports, music, arts or other performance space;
(h) a space for the service or consumption of food or drink; and
(i) any other outdoor public or work space as may be specified in regulations.
Calling The Emergency Services In Antigua And Barbuda
Call 911 or 999 if you need an ambulance. Remember, these are for medical emergencies and are not a taxi service.
If you have an injury or ailment which is not potentially life threatening, either see your family doctor or get a taxi to the hospital.
Healthcare Services In Antigua and Barbuda
The healthcare services in Antigua and Barbuda deliver effective primary care to their local patients. Vaccination services mean almost full coverage for the population. Family doctors and primary healthcare clinics treat minor accidents and illnesses. Emergency rooms are able to save lives when serious accidents and illnesses occur, and an intensive care unit provides round the clock care and treatment for critically ill patients. Elderly people no longer able to look after themselves can be cared for in a nursing home.
The Mount St. Johns Medical Centre has a good reputation, as does the private Adelin Medical Centre in St. John’s.
Going Abroad For Treatment
Specialist treatment and complicated surgery are often sought overseas by those who can afford it. With roughly 90,000 people living in the country, the doctors of Antigua and Barbuda rarely have the experience or the facilities to undertake complex treatments. The United States is a popular choice for expats to head to, along with Barbados and Trinidad.
Your health insurance cover should be arranged according to what you would wish to happen in any medical situation. If you want to head to the United States for every treatment, no matter how minor, then purchase a medical evacuation insurance policy which allows you to go to the hospital of your choice. However, if you are happy for local services to cover most of the potential treatments you may need, you can buy a cheaper policy. This type of decision is a matter of personal choice for what is right for you and your family.
Making sure you have adequate healthcare when you need it is an important part of preparing to live in a new country. An Expat Guide To Healthcare In Antigua & Barbuda is a great place to start.
Many people see Antigua and Barbuda as a tax haven as its residents are free from capital gains tax, inheritance tax and, since April 2016, personal income tax.
Instead, the government earns its income from stamp duty and other taxes on property purchases, including the property charge. Business and corporate taxes as well as the Revenue Recovery Charge (RCC) and the Antigua and Barbuda Sales Tax (ABST) are also key sources of income for the government.
The nation also benefits from long term support, expertise and financial help from overseas countries and charities. In addition, Hurricanes Irma and Maria, natural disasters which caused breathtaking damage to island properties and hardship to local communities, led to several countries donating millions of dollars of aid for emergency relief and reconstruction.
If you want to see detailed information about the country’s tax schedules, the Deloitte International Tax: Antigua And Barbuda Highlights is a useful resource.
Why Antigua And Barbuda Refute The Term Tax Haven
The term ‘tax haven’ is seen as by many as having immoral and stigmatised overtones; and indeed, there are many living on the islands of Antigua and Barbuda who object to the term.
In 2016, the state of Illinois in the United States included Antigua and Barbuda in a legislative list of 11 Caribbean tax havens. Diplomatic correspondence objecting to this action highlighted Antigua and Barbuda as a 2015 signatory to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) common reporting standard.
The nation had held the Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) with the United States since February 2003, and in February 2014, the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force stated that Antigua and Barbuda was fully compliant and cooperative with their international standards. In addition, the United States and Antigua and Barbuda concluded an agreement facilitating implementation of the provisions of the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance ACT (FATCA).
Later that year, Antigua and Barbuda enacted the automatic exchange of financial account information bill 2016 without debate or objection. The act facilitates the implementation and enforcement of the OECD common reporting standard.
Millions of leaked files in the collections known as the Panama Papers (2016) and the Paradise Papers (2017) exposed the extent to which money could be hidden offshore, with many company structures not identifying the beneficiaries – and the possibility that money laundering and other criminal activity was being facilitated. In response, the European Union Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) published a ‘tax haven blacklist’ in December 2017. It was updated in March 2018 to include Antigua and Barbuda in Annex II, known as the ‘grey list’. This means the nation has not been identified as a non-cooperative territory for tax purposes, but that commitments to ongoing change will be monitored.
However, that list has its critics. Aurore Chardonnet, Oxfam’s EU policy adviser on inequality and tax, was concerned about the focus on small nations. “Urgent tax reforms are also needed inside the EU. If the EU were to apply its own criteria to member states, even four EU countries would be blacklisted.”
How To Become A Resident Of Antigua And Barbuda For Tax Purposes
With no personal income tax or capital gains tax to pay, and an absence of inheritance tax, Antigua and Barbuda is an attractive country for those wishing to minimise their tax bills.
In order to have your tax and financial affairs fall under the Antigua and Barbuda Inland Revenue regime, you must be physically present in the country for a minimum of 183 days in any year so that you can claim you were resident for tax purposes.
The government is actively encouraging people of wealth to settle in Antigua and Barbuda through the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP). In addition to obtaining citizenship and the right to enter more than a hundred countries without a visa, you can become a taxpayer on Antigua and Barbuda with only five days of residence per year for five years.
You can find out more about CIP, and other ways to legally stay and settle in Antigua and Barbuda, by reading the Visas section in this country guide.
Is It Safe To Keep Your Money In Antigua And Barbuda?
Under the 1981 constitution, Antigua and Barbuda is a parliamentary democracy. Local citizens vote in free elections to determine the members of the house of representatives, who sit for five years. Members of the senate are selected by appointment.
The nation is part of the Commonwealth, and the British monarch remains head of state, represented by a governor general. The judicial system operates according to the principles and processes of English common law.
Whilst allegations of corruption and crime do regularly surface, these are not serious enough to undermine the general security which exists in Antigua and Barbuda. Fraud will be reported on where it comes to light, even – or perhaps especially – if it involves political connections.
Since independence, there have been no occasions in which the financial environment of Antigua and Barbuda would put an investor’s money seriously at risk. Property prices were badly affected by the global economic crisis of 2008, while the murder of a British honeymoon couple the same year affected the tourism market, and Hurricane Irma and Maria caused devastation to homes, businesses and local communities in 2017. However, at no stage has the government been known to seize assets, default on loans or experience a collapse of the local currency, the Eastern Caribbean dollar.
Obviously any investment made in Antigua and Barbuda, as with all other countries in the world, needs to be subject to due diligence to ensure it is legitimate, not beyond your chosen risk level and held in a stable environment.
Opening A Bank Account In Antigua And Barbuda
The Expat Focus article Starting A Bank Account In Antigua: What You Want To Know comprehensively sets out the arrangements for opening a bank account in Antigua and Barbuda, along with details of bank branch opening hours.
The same article lists with the names and addresses of eight prominent banks on the islands. Which one is best for you will depend on where you live and the service charges that work out best for transactions you do most often.
Asking Other Expats For Recommendations
However, please do exercise caution by keeping the discussion at a general level. Disclosing your personal wealth or financial affairs online is never a good idea. If someone online offers you an investment that is too good to be true, do not take the bait.
Having said that, reliable customer service and convenient arrangements are important factors when choosing a bank, and expats are in a good position to share their local knowledge.
There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.
International Bank Transfers
For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.
Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.
You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.
When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.
As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.
As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.
Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals
Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.
You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.
Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.
Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.
A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:
1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.
2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.
3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.
Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.
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The islands of Antigua and Barbuda, and several smaller dependent islands, form an independent country towards the eastern extent of the West Indies.
The overall population is just under 100,000, almost all living on Antigua, especially since Hurricane Irma destroyed most of Barbuda’s buildings and infrastructure in 2017, rendering the island uninhabitable until it can be rebuilt.
Antigua is a hugely popular high-end tourist destination, and tourism accounts for half of the annual GDP, with over 250,000 visitors per annum, one third of those from the US. Much of the rest of the GDP is generated via international banking, economic citizenship (encouragement of foreign investors), and the three medical schools, mainly for foreign students, which all contribute to the economy. Agriculture is limited to feeding the local population, and is perpetually short of labour given higher wages which attract locals to the construction and tourism industries.
There is a fairly sizeable expat community, with many Britons and Americans choosing to live on Antigua, either retired or working, again mainly in the banking and tourism sectors.
The official language in Antigua and Barbuda is British English, although around 10% of the population speaks Spanish. There is also the Antiguan Creole patois, which has been widely discouraged in the education system in favour of English, but many terms survive in the local slang, and certain words and phrases have their roots in African languages.
Expats need to be aware that the strong and lyrical West Indian accent, which varies considerably from island to island, and the associated slang (in both English and Spanish) can take some getting used to.
If English is not your native tongue, then learning or improving it will help you to communicate and integrate better, and it will be vital in the workplace. Learning facilities for English on the islands are very limited, therefore it is essential to possess a level of confidence and proficiency in English before you arrive. A working knowledge of the sport of cricket will also go a long way to making conversation!
You may need to consider enrolling in an online course in English, or attending an international school, either in a nearby Latin American country or in your home country. This is especially important if you need occupation-specific proficiency, for example in banking or finance, or the medical sector.
There are many courses in English available on the internet catering for all levels. Some will be free to a certain level.
All daily commerce and general conversation on the islands will be in English, but these daily interactions will improve your level of proficiency fairly quickly, as you will be immersed in the language and culture. You should also be able to find locals willing to coach you or encourage you by engaging in conversation over a coffee or a beer.
It is much the same story in general for the Spanish language. If you need to communicate with the 10,000-strong Spanish speaking population, or indeed visit nearby Latin American countries, which apart from Brazil are all Spanish speaking, you will need some degree of proficiency in that language.
Spanish is the third largest language per capita in the world, spoken by almost half a billion people worldwide, and the Caribbean is flanked by many Spanish speaking countries. If required, you will find many international schools in Latin America with courses in the Spanish language to suit all levels and requirements.
Linguistic experts recommend an immersive learning experience as the quickest and most reliable method to acquire or consolidate a new language. If you need to improve your English, this should be a matter of going about and engaging with the local population, reading English books or newspapers, and watching English-language TV or films without subtitles.
Similarly for learning or improving your abilities in Spanish, immersing yourself in Spanish language television and newspapers is a good plan. Expat learners report that Latin American teaching standards are generally very good, but there are few opportunities to be taught Spanish on Antigua itself, unless you find willing locals to assist you.
For Spanish conversation or practice, rely on your own knowledge and a good phrasebook rather than digital translation: although the islands have a good standard of internet connection, even in adverse weather conditions, island wifi is sometimes slow and you may not be able to access your phone at all times.
Surprisingly for an island with such a small population, employment opportunities do exist, but there are very few outside the tourist industry, where experienced and qualified watersports specialists may be required seasonally with private clubs. A high standard of English will be expected.
Most other jobs would be classified as semi-skilled, and you would be competing with locals. Again proficiency in English is an absolute requirement.
Antigua and Barbuda are situated in the Eastern Caribbean, and are independent parts of the British Commonwealth, with ongoing close ties to the UK. The population is approaching 100,000, more than 90% of whom are of African origin, and 25% of whom live in urban conditions. There is an active expat community.
Barbuda is the smaller satellite island, which normally houses up to 3,000 people, but it is currently more or less uninhabitable at least until the latest hurricane damage is put to rights – the entire population of Barbuda had to be rehomed on Antigua.
Education in Antigua is compulsory and free for all children aged 5-16. It is organised and controlled by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. Education is recognized as one of the ways that Antigua can improve its economy.
If you are lucky enough to be coming to Antigua, you will find it unique in many ways, but the education system will be familiar to UK citizens, being based on the British educational system. It is taught in English, with the school year beginning in September and ending with exams in June. A second language is taught in most schools as part of the general curriculum. This would usually be Spanish, given the proximity of so many Spanish-speaking nations.
Antigua boasts well over 90% adult literacy. Despite a reduction of expenditure on education, Antigua still spends almost 4% of GDP on education, numbers bolstered by the private sector and international education. There are around 20,000 schoolchildren in total in Antigua, and while teaching is generally of a high standard, choices are limited given the size of the pool. Results are published, but you should compare them locally once you are there. Schools achieving higher results will naturally be a more popular choice for expats, but they may also be oversubscribed.
There are about 35 state primary schools in Antigua (and a similar number of private facilities), and just over a dozen secondary schools, again with a matching number of privately run schools. More than one third of all pupils are enrolled in private education. Fees and waiting lists will vary considerably, and need to be checked locally. School curriculums may differ too in some aspects, but the emphasis is on a well-rounded, multicultural, and multilingual education.
Homeschooling is another possible option. The procedure is relatively simple if you choose this route for your child’s education. You must register your decision to homeschool annually with the director of education, and full educational plans must then be put before the education authorities. Home visits from the authorities will be regularly carried out to ensure your child is being homeschooled adequately.
However, almost all children in Antigua, local or foreign, will attend primary school from age 5. The system prepares all children for the Antiguan and Barbudan national assessments at age 16.
Additionally, there is an independently run international school, The Island Academy, with 300 pupils from almost two dozen nations. It is an accredited International Baccalaureate school, and while it caters specifically for expat children, it also offers opportunities to financially disadvantaged local children through its bursary scheme. Part of its mission statement is unity in diversity, and the curriculum reflects this. The core secondary curriculum is geared to providing all students with a broad education, and aimed at successful completion of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP), with compulsory subjects, – English, Maths, Biology, Spanish and IT, and a number of elective subjects. Pass rates for both the IBDP and the Regional Caribbean Examinations Council exams (CXC) are excellent, reflecting the quality of teaching. Fees are relatively high, and must be established with the school itself.
Further education opportunities in Antigua start with the Antigua State College, based in Golden Grove, St John’s, which offers a wide range of courses and diplomas in teaching, industrial technology, business, liberal arts and pharmacy. About 1,000 students are enrolled at this level.
Other higher education facilities in Antigua & Barbuda include the University of Health Sciences and the American University of Antigua, both with excellent reputations, offering training in medicine up to MD level, with the first two years being taught directly on campus, and the subsequent two years clinical clerkship seconded to medical facilities in the UK, US, Puerto Rico and China.
The University of the West Indies (UWI) has also established an Open Campus in St Johns, with a varied reach out programme, with emphasis on Professional development.
Even with all these choices, the likelihood is that many Antiguan and international students will want to continue their higher education elsewhere, and the system in general is set up for their academic achievements to be recognised, and to enable them to fit in wherever they go.