Barbados > Moving

How To Move To Barbados - The Definitive Guide

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Apply For A Visa
Find A Job
Rent Property
Buy Property
Register For Healthcare
Open A Bank Account
Learn The Language
Choose A School



Apply For A Visa

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There is a lot of paperwork involved in moving to Barbados and it will take time as well as costing you money. In order to stay in Barbados you will need a visa. Temporary permits are available for visitors and last up to six months. If you wish to stay longer than this then it will be necessary to obtain another visa which must be in duplicate and accompanied by 2 passport sized photographs. The fees payable for this vary as there are single and multiple access visas available.

In order to work in Barbados you will need a work permit. Work is usually reserved for native Barbadians unless there are no applicants with the necessary skills for the position. It is advisable to apply for permits before arriving on the island because of the time involved in getting them issued. The average wait for a work permit is 6 – 8 weeks, while study permits can take up to 6 weeks. A visitor permit takes an average of 2 weeks to be issued.

Permits can be obtained from Consulates. The cost of applying for a work permit is US$100 and obtaining the relevant permissions to work will cost US$400. Whilst staying on the island it will be necessary to provide evidence that you are able to support yourself.

Once the 6 month visa has expired it is necessary to apply for an extension which can be done at the immigration department. This requires a valid passport, a passport-sized photograph and the relevant application fee. Without a valid permit you are not permitted to enter employment during your stay.

When applying for residency it is necessary to have a police certificate from either your home town or if you have been in Barbados for 6 months from the police there. Those already on the island you will need a passport, birth certificate and the relevant fee. Those who are not yet in Barbados will need proof of name and address, valid passport and a set of fingerprints which have been officially obtained. There is also a small fee.

People travelling on British passports need to ensure that the passports have at least six months to run so it may be necessary to renew them early. Information on all aspects of emigrating to Barbados can be found on the Barbados Government web site as well as expat sites which are able to deal with a number of frequently asked questions regarding day to day living.


Find A Job

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Applying for a job in Barbados requires a certain amount of paperwork. In order to apply for a work permit you will need a form C1, available from the website of the Barbados embassy. If the position you have applied for is to last longer than six months – much of the work on the island is seasonal – you will need form C3 which has to be provided by the prospective employee with the appropriate information on form C2. With the exception of some specific positions foreigners will not be employed where there is a Barbadian who is qualified to do the job.

The C1 form must contain all the usual information about the prospective employee such as their age and work history, as well as where they intend to live. They must provide details on the position they have applied for and also give information on any specific equipment that they will require to do the job. As some expats will be travelling with a family it will also be necessary to provide their details. Copies of birth and marriage certificates will be required and must all be provided in English. A medical certificate must also be supplied to certify that the candidate has good general health.

Working conditions are good and there is a strong tradition of consultation between the employer and the trade unions. There is little or no child labour and the current rate of unemployment is 10%. The minimum wage is BD$5 per hour although most workers earn above this. Wage levels are relatively high and there are regulated employment conditions.

Some of the skills that are currently in demand include accountancy and police officers and working in these industries may make it easier to find employment. Casual work is usually not an option for an expat as most bar, hotel and agricultural jobs are given to locals.

The language in Barbados is English and is the only language spoken so is necessary for all employees. Workers enjoy 11 days of public holiday each year in Barbados.

Maternity leave is 12 weeks at 100% pay but at present there is no paid paternity leave. The current retirement age is 65.5 as this is the earliest you are able to receive a pension, but this age is due to rise to 67 by January 1st 2018. Only permanent citizens of the country are able to claim unemployment benefit from the social security system.


Rent Property

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When you first move to Barbados it is often easier to rent before buying – there are agents who deal in both long and short term rentals. These may be expensive as many of them are aimed at the tourist market but many places will offer lower prices to tenants who wish to rent for a longer term.

There are a large number of advertisements on the internet for rental agencies as well as estate agents so finding property should not be too difficult. Local newspapers are also a good source of advertisements for property. There is also usually plenty of choice as to whether to rent furnished, part furnished or unfurnished. It is also not normally too difficult to find the type of property you want as they range from small flats or villas equipped with swimming pools. Many of the properties available are near to the beach if not actually on it but be aware that the nearer to the beach they are the more expensive the rent will be.

When renting you will usually be expected to pay the first and last months rent as a deposit as well as approximately $800 to cover utilities. It is a good idea to ask for the last 12 months electricity bills as you need to have some idea of how much your air conditioning will cost you as electricity tariffs are expensive.

Many of the apartments are in blocks and have the advantage of having a laundry on site. Leases are easily extended and most furnished apartments seem to have a good quality of furnishings supplied. If it is required there are also apartments and villas that have facilities for the disabled such as wheelchair ramps.

Having domestic help is the norm in Barbados and it is not difficult to get this help although it is necessary to find someone who you can get on with. If you have help you need to know that should they work more than 15 hours per week you will need to register with the Exchange Control Authority of Barbados so that they are eligible for welfare payments.

Recycling is still at an early stage in Barbados although there is some done, glass bottles, plastic bottles, aluminium cans, car batteries and cooking oil and newspaper can be recycled although you may have to take the items to the points of collection. Recycling is not yet compulsory for tenants.


Buy Property

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If you are thinking of relocating to Barbados you will need to make an application to the immigration department and be able to prove that you are able to support yourself financially.

When buying a property there is no property tax for the buyer and legal fees are approximately 1.5% of the purchase price plus 15% VAT. A mortgage deposit is usually 10% of the purchase price. Repayments are up to 30 years or until buyer reaches the age of 65. Interest rates will vary from bank to bank. There is a commitment and negotiation fee of 0.5% - 3%. Land tax is payable but is zero rated on the first $150,000. The next $250,000 is a 10% payment and the next $600,000 is 45%.

For non nationals the money to buy a property has to be sent to a Barbadian bank in foreign currency registered with the Exchange Control Authority of Barbados. This ensures repatriation of the funds if the property is sold. You will need a registered Barbadian attorney to do the searches and draw up the contracts and this usually takes between 2 and 3 months.

Having a house built can be arranged easily. There are plenty of architects to be found and it is possible to buy pre fabricated houses (there are some available that will withstand hurricanes). There is always the possibility of problems and it is always advisable to either be present during construction or have someone as a supervisor to make sure that the schedule is being followed.

Once you have found a property you may wish to hire a housekeeper. It is not difficult to find domestic staff although it is a good idea to find someone who is recommended by another. If you employ staff for more than 15 hours per week it will be necessary to join the Barbados National Insurance scheme in case of illness or unemployment. If you have a garden or pool it may also be an idea to employ a gardener or landscape company.

Air conditioning is essential in Barbados and most existing homes will have it fitted. An alternative is ceiling fans although these will not be as effective. Water is mainly heated by solar panels which are ideal for the climate. Security is essential and any windows and doors will need to be secured firmly at night or when you are out of the house.

There are many types of property for sale on the island ranging from villas with pools to one bedroom apartments and many of the expats choose to live on the South side of Barbados close to the beach.


Register For Healthcare

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QUICK LINK: Barbados health insurance

The phone number to call for an ambulance in the case of a medical emergency is 511 but it is important to be aware that you may have to wait some time for it to arrive. There are two main hospitals on the island.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital is quite large and has a good range of services and specialties. Treatment is not free and it is necessary to either have medical insurance or ensure that you have sufficient money with you when you go as treatment will have to be paid for before you are dealt with. Bayview hospital is a private facility which although small also deals with a lot of different types of illnesses as well as having a very busy maternity unit. Again, the fees can either be covered by insurance or paid in cash by the patient or their family. There are also some smaller clinics and many doctors on the island. There is also a psychiatric hospital.

Medical insurance is important and it is well worth checking before you arrive in Barbados that your insurance will cover any expenses incurred. Before travelling to Barbados it is necessary to have been vaccinated against yellow fever and to have a certificate of proof. Travellers should also routinely have been vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria and tetanus. Another problem could be dengue fever and it is wise to protect yourself with a mosquito repellent containing Deet.

Normal hygiene procedures should be enough to keep you healthy in Barbados but there are some dangers such as the sea urchins in the sand that can cause intense pain and would leave you needing medical treatment. It is advisable to be careful when catching fish and eating them unless you know what you are doing, as some fish can cause health problems. The water can be a problem for people with delicate stomachs as the chlorination process required to comply with the WHO regulations can cause stomach upsets. Visitors are advised to stick to bottled water.

It would seem that if you need a doctor or dentist then you just find one and visit them. As you have to pay it may be a good idea to ask for advice from workmates or friends and keep trying until you find medical practitioners that you trust. Barbados’ health care has been rated as 31 out of 151 countries in the world.


Open A Bank Account

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A bank account is essential if you are living and working in Barbados. Opening an account with one of the many banks available is relatively easy. Expats will need to take along two different types of ID and one of these must be a passport. The other can be a driver’s license or copy of visa documentation. There is always a small amount that must be deposited in the account when it is opened, but this amount will vary from bank to bank and it is worth shopping around to find out the differences between the accounts.

This applies to both current accounts and savings accounts. Current account holders will be issued with a debit card and a cheque book. Debit cards can be used in most ATMs, although it is worth checking to find out if your bank charges for using the ATM of another bank. Most machines will also take cards that have been issued in your home country, but you are likely to be charged for this too. It is also possible for a person with a foreign issued card to withdraw money inside the bank.

Savings account holders will be issued with a book and a card. There are several different savings options available and the most popular is a basic savings account which offers a lot more interest than a current account. These allow users to withdraw funds as they need, but there are also fixed term accounts which limit withdrawals but may offer a little more interest. Other financial services that banks can offer include advice on pensions and investments if you are looking to deposit your money long term or remain in the country for at least several years. Most branches will have advisors that can assist with these and all other enquiries.

Credit facilities can be made available if needed, though if you have not been in the country very long you may have to have a face to face meeting with your bank manager to request the facility and if you have no proof of income it is likely to be declined. Taking the time to build a good credit rating and a good relationship with your bank is likely to work in your favour.

Banks in Barbados are generally open between 8 am and 3 pm from Monday to Thursday, although are open 8 am to 5 pm on a Friday. Some banks do have longer opening hours on different days and different branches of the same bank may have different hours. This will depend greatly on their exact location and the local demand. There are two branches of the Mutual Bank of the Caribbean that open until 7 pm in the evening and are open until 2 pm on a Saturday. Most banks will also have a customer service department that can be contacted by telephone and these may have additional working hours to the branch’s opening times.

Online banking facilities are offered by most banks and these are ideal for those who cannot regularly get to the branch. Bills can be paid by cheque, direct debit or standing orders and deposits to the account can be made by cheque, cash or bank transfer. Most banks are able to handle international transfers of funds although these will incur charges for the transfer and the currency conversion. These charges will vary from bank to bank.

ATM machines can be found outside most banks and in the main shopping areas, although some parts of the island will have fewer machines due to the lower population and lack of demand. ATM machines do have withdrawal limits and your own limit will be set by the bank and based on your own personal circumstances.

Foreign banks such as Citibank have a presence in the country and it is always worth checking with your current bank to see if they can help you to set up an account in the country before you arrive. You are still subject to the same procedures, but this can save you time when you first get there. Not all banks will be able to do this for you but at the very least they can offer advice.


Learn The Language

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The official language of Barbados is English, which is spoken by everyone. It is the language used on television and radio as well as in schools and it is also the primary language for business. All legal matters and matters of government are also carried out in English.

It is therefore no problem for people whose native language is English to adapt to life in Barbados. There is a local dialect that is also spoken that is a mixture of British English and a Barbadian dialect which is called Bajan. This patois is similar to that spoken on other Caribbean islands and is based on an Irish or Scottish pronunciation.

Bajan is a language similar to Creole that was originally created by West African slaves who were forced to speak English with a West African accent. They used it to avoid being understood by the slave owners. The word bajan is a contraction of the word Barbadian which with a Bajan accent sounded more like ‘Bar- bayd-ion’ and was a derogatory term for uneducated or illiterate slaves who had been brought to Barbados after the 1800’s. This is no longer the way that the word is used. Bajan is more widely used for music and social commentary than for formal situations and is used purely as a spoken dialect – writing it produces too many variations of spelling.

It is not impossible to learn Bajan but it cannot be done the same way you would learn any other foreign language as there is no written form. Spending time with Bajan speakers should make it easier to pick up a few phrases. Speakers also run letters together and pronounce them as one, for example with ‘th’ in ‘think’, which is pronounced ‘t’. This can be confusing as ‘th’ in ‘them’ is pronounced ‘d’. The Bajan patois includes some African words, although it is estimated that there are probably only about twenty.

For those who do not have English as a first language it is possible to learn in Barbados as there are several language schools based there now. Tuition ranges from individual private lessons to group classes and intensive courses. It is unlikely that somebody who does not speak at least some English will be able to get by and it will be even more unlikely that they would be able to find a job. Some of these language schools also offer courses in other languages which may be useful for those who wish to gain extra skills.


Choose A School

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Barbadian schools are all English speaking and so children of expats have no problems with the language. Primary education begins at age 5 and secondary is from 11 to 16 years of age. Education is administered by the Ministry of Education and is free in Government schools. There are 93 primary schools and 22 secondary schools which are run by the government.

The examination system in schools is basically the same as the ones that apply in UK schools. There is an entrance exam at 11 for secondary schools and then exams at 16 that are held in a wide variety of subjects. This can lead to University either in Barbados itself or the UK or USA or skill based vocational studies. The high rate of literacy proves that the system is successful.

Scholarships are awarded for pupils to study in the United Kingdom and Caribbean institutions. The Barbados branch of the University of the West Indies is situated at Cave Hill and the government pays the fees of Barbadian students who are enrolled there. There is also the Barbados Community college.

In 1995 the adult literacy rate was approximately 2.6% and there are also adult education facilities at the extramural centre of the University of the West Indies. In addition there is a teacher training college and the Samuel Jackman Prescod polytechnic.

Barbados also has special schools for the deaf, blind and mentally handicapped and this includes two residential institutions for the disabled. There are also facilities to integrate special needs children into main stream schools.

The school year is divided into three terms which run from September to December, January to April and April to July. Education is broken down into 4 levels. From the ages of three to five, children are in nursery education, from the ages of 5 – 11 they are in primary education and from the ages of 11-16 they are in secondary education although they have the option to continue beyond the age of 16.

Even at primary level students learn the usual range of subjects as well as Spanish, social studies, moral and religious education and visual arts. Government schools provide meals at low cost and also provide children with free textbooks on loan.

Barbados also has a small number of private primary schools. There are 15 assisted private secondary schools and 7 senior schools for children between the ages of 14 and 16. There are also several private nurseries for pre-school children. Private schools can be expensive and prices range from BBD$13,850 to BBD$27,500 on top of which there are registration fees as well as administration and screening fees. Costs are cheaper for Barbadians than for foreigners although there are some provisions for special cases.



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