If you are a citizen of the USA, Canada, an EU country, the UK, most commonwealth countries, Australia, or many Latin American countries, you may visit the Bahamas for three months without a visa for either business or tourist purposes. You must have a valid passport with at least six months to run from the date you arrive in the Bahamas, a return or onward ticket, evidence of local accommodation, and sufficient funds to support yourself during your trip. Citizens from countries who do not have the appropriate arrangements with the government of the Bahamas will need to apply for a visa before they travel. You should check with your local consulate or mission to find out if you will need one. For longer stays, or if you wish to work or retire in the Bahamas, you will need to apply for a work or residence permit.
It takes between two days and six weeks for visitor visas to be processed, so it is best to apply at least a month before you intend to travel. You can obtain a visa application form online from the website of the Bahamian consulate or mission in your country, or by visiting in person. You must support your application by supplying:
• Your passport – this must be valid for at least another six months and must have at least one blank page
• Two passport-size photographs of yourself – these should be no more than three months old
• A letter that includes the dates and purpose of your visit, as well as your home address
• A confirmed e-ticket, showing either return or onward travel, with the dates you intend to arrive and depart; or a confirmed voucher for a cruise
• Proof that you have the right to return to your country of residence
• Any necessary transit visas for your trip
• Current financial statement, for a bank account or credit card, confirming you have sufficient funds for your trip; or the equivalent in cash or travellers cheques
• Proof that you are in employment, in education or retired
• Confirmed hotel booking or a letter of invitation from a host in the Bahamas, with details of the length of your stay and the address and telephone number of your hotel or host
Citizens from some countries will also be required to have a Yellow Fever vaccination 10 days before they travel. To check whether this applies to you, visit the visa requirements page of your local consulate or mission.
At the time of writing, the fee for a single-entry visitor visa is 100 Bahamian dollars (US$100/£77), and a multiple-entry visa costs BS$110 (US$109/£84). Visas last for three months, though longer multiple-entry visas are available at higher fees.
Both short-term and long-term work permits are available for the Bahamas, with short-term permits lasting for up to 90 days. Anyone can apply for a short-term work visa, but you will need to find a prospective employer first. Jobs in the Bahamas are advertised on a wide variety of websites, including GlassDoor. Be aware, however, that for long-term and permanent jobs, your employer must be able to prove that no suitably qualified Bahamian is available to fill the position, before they can make a job offer to a foreigner.
Once you have a potential job, you can download the relevant visa application form from the website of the Government of the Bahamas.
For a short-term permit, you will need to supply the following, alongside your visa application form:
• A letter of request from your potential employer, giving the reasons for the application, the length of time you will be employed, and details of the job
• A copy of the bio-data page from your passport (which must have at least six months left to run)
• Two identical colour passport-size photographs, with your name printed on the back
• A non-refundable fee of BS$100 (US$100/£77), payable in cash or by a certified bankers’ cheque
The application must be made before you arrive in the Bahamas, and takes around seven working days to process.
For any employment lasting longer than 90 days, you will need a long-term work permit. The process for acquiring one of these can be slow, so you should take care that all your documentation is correctly prepared and submitted, to minimise delays. You must complete your long-term visa application form in the correct fashion, and then notarise it and attach a BS$10 stamp. You will need to supply the following supporting documents:
• A letter of request from your proposed employer, describing the job and the duration of the position, and giving the reasons for the application
• A copy of the bio-data page of your passport
• Two identical passport-size photographs, with your name printed on the back
• A certificate from the police, covering five years’ residence in the Bahamas – this must have been issued within the six months prior to your application
• A medical certificate, granted no more than 30 days earlier
• Copies of educational and professional qualifications relevant to your potential job and named in your job application
• Up to two written references from previous employers
• Copies of the job advertisement from local Bahamian newspapers, with replies and details of interviews (if relevant)
• A certificate from the Bahamian Department of Labour, including the Notification of Vacancy, which confirms no Bahamian was available to fill the role
• A processing fee of BS$100 (US$100/£77)
You will need to follow up your application three to four weeks after it is submitted, by telephoning the Enquiries Unit for an update.
Residence permits and permanent residence
Unless you have a valid work permit and are already working in the Bahamas, you will need to apply for either a residence permit, from the Department of Immigration, or permanent residence.
Residence permits last for a year at a time. Dependants of foreign nationals working legally in the Bahamas must have their own residence permits. Residence permits of this kind are available only for dependants of people working in the Bahamas – i.e. their spouse or children (under 18) – and to full-term students at a school, university or college in the Bahamas.
Permanent residence is available only to a limited range of people, and does not confer the right to vote. It is specific to an individual and ends at their death. You may apply for permanent residence if:
• You have been married to and cohabiting with a Bahamian citizen for five years
• Your mother was a Bahamian citizen
• You are financially independent and own a property in the Bahamas (owners of property worth BS$1.5 million or more are fast-tracked)
• You have been employed in the Bahamian government service as a police or prison officer for at least 10 years
• You have been employed in government service or by a religious or charitable institution as a nurse or a teacher for at least 10 years
• You have been employed as a priest, a minister of religion or a medical doctor for at least 20 years
• You have held a valid work or residence permit for more than 20 consecutive years
There are special arrangements for citizens of Haiti.
If you are eligible to apply for permanent residence, you will need to complete the relevant application form and support it with the same documentation as for a long-term work permit (apart from the job-specific elements). You must also supply:
• Your original birth certificate (plus a notarised and stamped translation into English, if necessary)
• Two character references from Bahamians who have known you for at least five years
• Your parents’ birth certificates
• Your parents’ marriage certificate
• Your marriage certificate, divorce decree, or spouse’s death certificate, if relevant
• A financial statement from your bank or financial institution confirming your economic worth
There is no stated time for how long applications take to be processed, and you should follow up with the Department of Immigration after three to four weeks. A fee of BS$100 (US$100/£77) is payable.
For more information about moving to the Bahamas, you can visit their government website.