How to move to

Antigua and Barbuda

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Apply For A Visa/Permit



Visas

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.


Short-stay visas

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.


Visa extensions

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.


Work Permits

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.


Residency

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.


Get Health Insurance


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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Rent Or Buy Property



Renting Property

A wide range of factors make accommodation rentals expensive in Antigua and Barbuda. You need to be realistic before jetting off for your new life in the Caribbean.

The entire territory of the nation is small, so there is a limit to the number of properties that can be built there. Antigua is just 280 square km in total, and Barbuda is even smaller at 161 square km, with over 90,000 residents to support.

The thriving tourist market brings in substantial numbers of additional people to the islands. Shortly before Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc in 2017, more than one million visitors arrived, mostly from the United States. This was the highest number of tourists ever received by this tiny nation. Many tourists want to stay in houses and apartments for a few days or weeks, and will pay significantly more to do so than local tenants can afford.

In addition, non-residents must have government permission to buy a home there. The lengthy process and bureaucratic hassle mean expats staying for the short to medium term will automatically turn to the rental market to find somewhere to live.

Mortgages too are difficult to obtain for many migrants, and there are taxes levied on the mortgage loans that are arranged, again driving expats to compete in the rental market.

Some areas are much more attractive to expats than others, which makes the rents more expensive. If you want to live in the popular communities of Jolly Harbour, St. James’s Club, Antigua Village, Jumby Bay, Northern St. John’s, Falmouth, English Harbour, Fryes Beach, Half Moon Bay, Browns Bay, Cedar Valley, Hodges Bay, Galley Bay or St. Mary’s South, expect to increase your rental budget accordingly.

Finally, unexpected events can impact the market overnight. In September 2017, properties across Antigua and Barbuda were devastated and destroyed by Hurricane Irma, closely followed by Hurricane Jose. As a result, almost half the nation’s residents found themselves homeless overnight, and everyone from Barbuda had to be evacuated.

Living Costs Are High

Imports of food and supplies come with a high price tag in Antigua and Barbuda. Such items must be transported great distances and are often subject to a variety of duty and import tax costs. You can buy your groceries more cheaply if you buy local produce, but that gives you a limited diet. In addition, there are no local alternatives if you need a new fridge freezer or laptop.

You might have to buy an extensive set of adaptors or even a whole new set of electrical items. Both the 100 and the 220 volt systems are used on the islands, and rented properties may use one or the other.

As a result of these additional costs, your outgoings will probably be the same or even higher than if you were living in the United States or Europe. If you are saving money on personal income tax and capital gains tax then it’s not a worry, but anyone moving to Antigua and Barbuda on a limited budget needs to plan carefully.

Don’t sign a rental agreement if you think it will be a stretch, as other costs will leave you vulnerable to financial disaster. Instead, find a property you can comfortably afford even if it means compromising from your dream home.

Real Estate Agents

A number of real estate agents can be found on Antigua and Barbuda. They can advise you about the types of areas that meet your budget, and arrange viewings.

Their websites generally give pictures and full descriptions of available properties. A visit in person is always recommended before agreeing to a tenancy. It is hard to get a sense of room proportions, spot structural issues and assess local noise levels unless you physically stand in a property yourself.

The agent will normally be paid to find you a rental property. They should give you details of their charges and additional costs before they do any work for you.

Signing A Rental Contract

A rental contract protects you and the landlord. Both parties understand what their rights and obligations are, and can use them to seek redress in the courts if necessary. They are in common use across Antigua and Barbuda and you should insist on signing one before moving in. Otherwise, the landlord can demand additional rent or costs at any time.

If you are seeking a long term rental, you will normally be offered between six months and a year. Remember that any verbal assurance about extending your tenancy is worthless, even if it is given directly to you by the landlord.

If one isn’t already present, you may wish to request a break clause in the contract. Expats can be called back home overnight by family illness or a change of business plans, or may realise their new country doesn’t fit in with their expectations. Always plan for the worst by allowing a three month notice period. That way you will pay three months’ rent instead of having to cover the full cost of rent until the very end of the tenancy period.

All charges should be clearly stated in writing, both those to be paid to the landlord and any due to other parties. For example, in an apartment complex there will be costs associated with maintaining the structure of the building, keeping the pool clean and tidying the gardens and communal areas

Getting Utilities Connected

Utility companies want to be sure of getting paid for the services they supply. This means that they will ask for proof of your identification and right to stay in the territory. You’ll be asked to sign a contract, and you might find that the initial deposit is rather large while you build up a credit history in the country. A trip to the local branch is normally the most straightforward way to get this sorted.

Electricity bills can be high because of the air conditioning. If you have arrived from a cooler climate, this could be an unexpected level of cost.

Signing up for a domestic water account will keep your taps flowing with clean drinking water. Landlords will often include water bills as part of the rent so it’s one less cost to worry about. However, many people prefer to drink bottled water or use a water filter at home

There’s no gas company to sign up with as only bottled gas appliances are used on Antigua and Barbuda.

Ask Advice From Other Expats

If you are looking for a rental property and want to know more about where to live, or a good real estate agent to contact, why not reach out to the expat community in Antigua and Barbuda who can give you the benefit of their experience?

The Expat Focus Forum and the Facebook Group for Expats In Antigua and Barbuda are great places to start.


Buying Property

Since Antigua and Barbuda won their independence from the British, the standard of expat housing on the islands has gone markedly upscale. It’s not unusual for luxury homes to have all modern conveniences including en-suite bathrooms for each bedroom, and to truly meet the definition of a dream home.

Naturally this is reflected in the price of property, especially for the areas popular with expats. The gated communities of Jolly Harbour, St. James’s Club and Antigua Village, the private island of Jumby Bay, as well as the residential areas of Northern St. John’s, Falmouth, English Harbour, Fryes Beach, Half Moon Bay, Browns Bay, Cedar Valley, Hodges Bay, Galley Bay and St. Mary’s South are top of many expat property hunting lists. As a result of this, properties in these areas command a premium price tag.

The global financial crisis of 2008 substantially affected house prices on Antigua and Barbuda, with a drop of almost 50 percent on many properties. A recovery has emerged, and anyone searching for cheap property to buy in Antigua and Barbuda will be disappointed. However, it is worth stopping to reflect that the value of luxury Caribbean homes aimed at the wealthy rely on migrants feeling financially secure enough to afford them.

Today, citizens from the United States represent roughly 45 percent of the expat buyers in the country, with British nationals close behind at 35 percent. French, Italian, Australian and Canadian purchasers are also found in good numbers.

Antigua and Barbuda is seen as a good place to buy property to live in or to hold as a holiday home. If you are looking at purchasing a home to rent out, the high purchase cost and low rental yields may mean other property markets will be more profitable.

Homes which are rented out as short term holiday lets do command higher rents, although property maintenance companies will normally charge up to 20 percent of the rental income to look after your investment in your absence. You will also be taxed on the rental income you receive.

Not Everyone Can Buy Property In Antigua And Barbuda

Any international buyer wishing to purchase property in Antigua and Barbuda must obtain an alien landholding license, which takes several weeks to be processed.

This licence is expensive, costing five percent of the property value. In addition, a foreign buyers’ tax of 2.5 percent is levied.

There is an alternative option available to those who qualify for the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP), which was introduced in 2014. If you purchase CIP-approved property worth at least US$400,000, invest at least US$1.5 million in local businesses or contribute a non-refundable sum of US$250,000 or more to Antigua’s national development fund, you and your family can obtain citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda.

This citizenship would also allow you to travel visa-free to most countries in the world. This is an attractive proposition for wealthy citizens of countries such as Russia or China, who currently have a number of visa restrictions to negotiate before they can travel freely

However, the procedure takes time and costs $50,000 per adult applicant plus additional fees.

Valuing A Property In Antigua And Barbados

In the United Kingdom, house price sales lodged with HM Land registry are downloaded monthly and made available to the general public through a number of websites. If a property is for sale, it is easy and free of charge to assess the asking price in light of the recent sales of other properties in the area.

Unfortunately, no such system exists in Antigua and Barbuda. As a consequence, it is much harder to judge whether the asking price of a property is reasonable or ambitious. If you fall in love with a potential new home, the last thing you want to do is wait for another buyer to make an offer.

You must therefore have your wits about you. If you have friends or colleagues who have recently bought a local property, ask them about the asking prices of properties you are going to view. Similarly, spend time looking at brochures, for-sale boards and property pages to work out the going rate for particular styles of property in different local areas.

You will probably be buying your new home through a real estate agent, for which you will pay a fee of between five and seven percent of the property purchase price. If your estate agent is professional and honest, they won’t encourage you to pay over the odds for your new home. However, given that they will get more commission the more you pay, you must be alert to the danger of paying too much.

It’s also a good idea to employ a structural engineer to complete a survey on the property you are trying to buy. If you are paying over the odds they will identify it, albeit possibly too late for you to do anything other than proceed. However, they will also highlight any issues you might have missed on your viewings, such as insect damage or damp, which are hard to spot but can cost significant sums to treat.

Mortgages

Expats often have problems accessing mortgages in countries before they have lived there for two years, and Antigua and Barbuda is no exception. Given the additional risk of default, a higher interest rate is often levied.

If you do obtain a mortgage to buy the property, you will have to pay a government tax of three percent of the loan value.

Other Fees

The legal fees for your property purchase are likely to be at least two percent of the price you are paying for your new home. In addition to the lawyer’s or notary’s professional fees, which also cover their extensive business costs, there are a number of disbursements to cover. These include the ECD20 registration fee and the ECD50 land certificate fee.

You will also be charged stamp duty on the transaction. Plus, don’t forget the other fees already discussed - the alien landholders license, the foreign buyers’ tax, the tax on mortgage loans and the real estate agents commission. Added together, these are a significant outlay.

Ongoing Costs To Consider

The majority of properties in Antigua and Barbuda are freehold. If you expect to be away from the property for long periods of time you could consider paying a maintenance or security company to check the property from time to time.

If you buy an apartment or a home in a gated community, you will have fees and charges to pay associated with the maintenance of the estate.

You can also expect to pay about two percent of the property value in annual insurance for building and contents cover.

Bringing Your Possessions To Antigua And Barbuda

It’s rare for someone to head to a new country and leave all their earthly possessions behind them. However, packing up your household and moving everything to the middle of the Caribbean Sea can be a daunting prospect.

Therefore we’ve set out some helpful tips in the ExpatFocus article How To Ship Your Belongings To Antigua And Barbuda

Many expats also want to bring their pets along - after all, cats and dogs are often loved as a member of the family. Our article An Expat Guide To Bringing Pets Into Antigua And Barbuda will help you negotiate this process.

Hiring Home Services In Antigua And Barbuda

You may need some help to keep your home clean and tidy. Many people employ gardeners. Perhaps you will need security to keep your home safe during your long visits abroad.

Recommendations from friends and work colleagues are a great starting point before you employ strangers to work in your home. The community in Antigua and Barbuda is small, so word gets around quickly if someone is a problem for employers or wider society. Don’t forget to obtain written references from reliable sources.

Ask Expats For Help

Other expats who have already been through the process of buying property on Antigua and Barbuda are usually more than happy to share their experiences, particularly if you have a specific question in mind. Why not reach out and ask for help?

The Expat Focus Forum and Facebook group for Antigua and Barbuda allow you to do just that. In addition to getting your question answered, you may also be meeting future friends in your new home.


Move Your Belongings


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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Register For Healthcare


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:
- Signed
- Dated
- 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.

Further Research

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.

If you are wondering which family doctor to register with, you can ask for recommendations on the Expat Focus forum or the Facebook group for expats in Antigua and Barbuda.


Open A Bank Account


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

If you want to ask other expats about their experiences with local banks, you can do so on the Expat Focus Forum or our Facebook Group for expats in Antigua and Barbuda.

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.


Transfer Money


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

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.

Save On Money Transfers

Compare quotes from leading foreign exchange currency brokers


Learn The Language


No other country now owns the island of Antigua or its smaller sibling to the north, Barbuda. For more than three centuries, the islands were a British colony. However, in 1981, the residents of Antigua and Barbuda gained independence and since then, they have run their small nation as a parliamentary democracy.

The independent country is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. By choice, the British Monarch is their head of state, represented in person by the Governor-General of Antigua and Barbuda. As a result of its history as a British colony, the country of Antigua and Barbuda uses English as its official and common language.

Antigua and Barbuda is not part of the United States. However, the combination of a warm climate, low levels of crime and an English-speaking environment brings huge numbers of US tourists to the country each year. Many of these people dream of coming back for a relaxing retirement. As we set out in the Visas section of this country guide, if you have adequate resources, the government can help you turn this dream into a reality.

Antiguan Creole

As expats often discover, what appears to be a simple situation can have many layers. This is certainly the case with the use of English on Antigua and Barbuda.

Whether you arrive from the UK or US, local people will typically understand what you are saying. There are some dialects which can cause a bit of confusion - strong Glaswegian or Geordie dialects can even test Londoners, never mind people who have lived in the Caribbean all their lives - but slowing down and speaking more clearly will resolve the situation.

There are more than four thousand miles between London and Antigua. With such a distance, even a colony composed entirely of English citizens would have developed its own accent, vocabulary and grammatical quirks over the centuries.

In fact, the majority of the population on Antigua from the 17th century until midnight on August 1, 1834, was made up of slaves who had been transported from a wide range of communities in Africa. The 32,000 emancipated slaves, who spent their first day of freedom in religious celebration, far outnumbered the island’s white community.

This had an impact on the use of English on Antigua before and after Britain’s Act of Emancipation. People of black and white heritages did not mix socially. Ann Hart Gilbert and Elizabeth Hart Thwaites, the freeborn daughters of a black slave-plantation owner and poet, may have educated hundreds of slaves in a schoolroom built by volunteers from the slave community in about 1815, but it was another 70 years before an official school opened for black people. Even then, the progressive Antigua Grammar School only accepted boys, and the modest fees would have been beyond most parents.

When Ann married her white husband John Gilbert, they had to leave Antigua to do so. His family was so incensed by the interracial engagement that they prevented everyone capable of performing the wedding ceremony on the island from doing so. Very few marriages like this occurred until recently.

It’s not surprising then, that the slaves’ Creole flourished on Antigua and became the dominant dialect on the island, evolving over the years to become what is now Antiguan Creole.

Spanish In Antigua And Barbuda

The Dominican Republic is located in the Caribbean Sea, to the west of Antigua and Barbuda. It’s a much larger territory and the island is shared with Haiti. Spanish is the dominant language there.

For a wide range of reasons, many stemming from financial need, huge numbers of the Dominican Republic’s citizens have moved abroad. Many of them came to Antigua and Barbuda. As a result, your chance of coming across a fluent Spanish speaker in Antigua and Barbuda is high.

The Same Language Does Not Mean The Same Culture

If you are an expat from an English speaking country and arrive in Antigua and Barbuda, you might assume the culture and values are the same.

However, the community of Antigua and Barbuda are conservative and religious. Wandering into a cafe in a bikini or loudly announcing your atheist beliefs in public will not go down well.

Whilst criminals have not been hanged since 1991, it was 2016 before the final death row prisoners were released, and the death penalty is still supported by many local people.

It is a strongly heterosexual society and sadly, homophobia is the norm. Certain sexual acts between same-sex couples are illegal and this prohibition is widely supported by the local community. People who reveal their LGBT status face discrimination, verbal abuse and even physical attacks. Activists are trying to change local attitudes, but this is proving a slow process.

It’s an offence for anyone, including children, to wear camouflage clothing even as a fashion statement.

You might believe that Antigua and Barbuda are relaxed about drugs, but this isn’t the case. Severe penalties exist and the local prison is not a place for a naive expat. There are very few places you are likely to be offered drugs, and they are usually in the neighbourhoods that are not safe to be in anyway.

Newspapers In Antigua And Barbuda

The AntiguaObserver.com website is the online presence of the Daily Observer. You can read the latest news and weather information as well as sports, lifestyle, business and entertainment articles plus opinion pieces there.

The website Antigua-Barbuda.com belongs to the Antigua and Barbuda High Commission. It essentially publishes press releases. Its audience is perhaps narrow, but you may find items of interest.

Caribbean 360 includes news about Antigua and is also a good site to read to catch up on the key events around the Caribbean.

Antigua Nice is essentially a site dedicated to selling real estate and promoting local businesses. However, it is well designed and makes it easy to track down the type of services or leisure destination you are interested in. You can even find a convenient beach or check the current opening times of your local restaurants.

Television

Cable and satellite television packages are purchased by almost every home and many businesses across Antigua and Barbuda.

The channels and sports events will depend on the supplier you choose and the package you select. If you want premium sporting events and great movie channels you will normally have to pay more.

Content from the Caribbean is popular. Expats will find it easy to keep up to date with news and entertainment from home, particularly with shows from the US.


Choose A School


All children living in Antigua and Barbuda must, by law, receive an education between the ages of five and 16.

It is up to parents to decide whether their children will receive an education from state schools, private schools or at home. Most children will attend primary school from the age of five until they are 12. They will then move to high school until they are 16.

Literacy rates in Antigua and Barbuda are the highest in the Caribbean, and it is unusual to come across someone who can’t read or write.

Girls are given equal access to education and are less likely to drop out than their male counterparts. Women dominate the teaching profession, with male teachers representing roughly a fifth of the workforce.

Although only 15 percent of young people go on to attend university in the country, twice as many women as men have enrolled for degree courses since the year 2009.

Children can attend kindergarten from the age of three, but this is not compulsory.

Homeschooling In Antigua And Barbuda

Parents have a legal right to homeschool, as set out in the education act of 2008.

However, this decision must be registered with the director of education every year. In addition, an educational plan is required and this will be scrutinised to ensure each homeschooled child will receive an adequate education delivered by appropriately skilled adults.

Moreover, the director of education will send out staff on a regular basis to check that the educational plan is being followed to an acceptable standard.

State Schools In Antigua And Barbuda

Like all countries in the world, the state schools in Antigua and Barbuda vary in their quality and outcomes.

Those located in middle class areas tend to have a good reputation and excellent exam results. The more disadvantaged the area, the poorer the school’s reputation for student behaviour and academic outcomes. As a result, there is a lot of competition to get children into the best schools.

Private Schools In Antigua And Barbuda

A number of private schools operate on the islands, educating almost four out of every 10 children living there. Fees and waiting lists vary, but some schools are willing to enroll pupils throughout the year if places are available.

The Island Academy International School is attended by local students as well as children from more than two dozen countries. This co-educational school offers the International Baccalaureate Diploma programme, and has done since 2009. It can be found at Buckleys Village in the centre of Antigua. Tuition fees increase with a child’s age, reflecting the difference in cost of educating a child from Kindergarten through to the end of Year 13.

There are no other International Schools based on the islands. The Antigua International School, which some websites include in their pages about schools in Antigua and Barbuda, is actually based in Guatemala!

School Uniforms

Antigua and Barbuda became an independent nation in 1981, but its education system reflects its British colonial past. One aspect of this is the school uniform.

Each school has a set uniform for boys and girls. This is typically a white shirt with short sleeves and a pair of black trousers for the boys. Girls wear a brightly coloured pinafore dress with a short-sleeved white shirt underneath. Black shoes and neat hair complete the uniform.

The School Year In Antigua And Barbuda

The school year opens in September. By the end of June all exams are over and the children look forward to a long summer break.

Christmas holidays used to be three weeks long, but were reduced to two weeks in 2016. Similarly, the Easter holidays were reduced from two weeks to one. To avoid increases in school costs, the summer break was lengthened from eight weeks to 10.

These changes were made to reflect the amount of work teachers needed to do with pupils at key exam preparation times. State schools and private schools have similar term dates.

At the end of Year 11, students sit the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate exams. These are regulated by the Caribbean Examinations Council, which was established in 1972.

Those students who stay on until the end of year 13 sit the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE). University entrance usually requires grades of I or II in at least six CAPE units, including two double-unit courses.

Lessons Are Taught In English

Reflecting the islands’ history as a British colony, the teaching environment in state and private schools is English.

The majority of teaching staff have been trained at the Antigua State College. They have to pass exams and practical assessments to gain qualified teacher status, which is a compulsory requirement for becoming a teacher.

Most children are taught a foreign language, which is usually Spanish.

University And College In Antigua And Barbuda

Those who can afford to do so, or who secure scholarships, often travel to universities in Europe or the United States. Students who continue their education on the islands have the choice of several colleges.

The University of Health Sciences in Antigua is a private college training tomorrow’s medical workforce, as is the American University of Antigua.

The University of the West Indies has its main campus sites on Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica. They also run ‘open campus’ facilities across 16 nations including Antigua and Barbuda.

The Antigua State College offers a wide range of tertiary courses. Subjects include teacher training, engineering, business management and pharmaceutical studies.

Finding The The Best School In Antigua And Barbuda

Choosing the right school for your family is one of the most important decisions you will make.

It’s often a deeply personal choice based on the aspirations you have for your child’s future, the types of qualifications you want them to achieve and the skills and personality traits you would like them to develop. And, of course, if you are considering private schooling then your budget will also be a key factor.

Other expats will have been through the same selection process and are often happy to share their experiences. You can reach out to them on the Expat Focus Forum or via the Facebook group

Do remember, though, to visit several schools in the area. What might not look like a strong contender on paper may in fact prove to be the perfect fit for your child.



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