Working in the Bahamas?
Working in the Bahamas
A Tourism-Based Economy
Most people working in the Bahamas are employed in the tourism or international banking sector, and these industries are the major driving forces behind the economy. In fact, tourism (as well as construction and manufacturing related to the tourism sector) makes up about 80%of the national GDP. The financial sector is the second most important source of income (contributing 15% of the GDP), as the country has a reputation as a major off-shore banking destination. In order to comply with requirements from OECD countries and especially the United States, the Bahamas have passed laws to prevent money laundering and signed numerous taxation agreements. Other, smaller industries are agriculture and general manufacturing, both of which contribute only a small percentage of the GDP.
Although the country’s economy seems quite strong at first glance, expats should know that the Bahamas were hit hard by the global financial crisis in 2008. As a result of the global recession, the number of tourists visiting the Bahamas dropped significantly and many people lost their jobs. However, the unemployment rate has declined from 14.2% back in 2009 to 11.6% at the end of 2016, so there are signs of improvement. In addition, the country struggles with growing competition for jobs and dealing with the ever-increasing level of government debt. As the Bahamas maintain close economic links to the United States and depend on them for both international trade and tourism, the state of the US economy is also a matter of concern.
All That Foreign Investors Could Wish for — Or Not?
The exemption from both corporate and income taxes is one of the main draws for investors and expats interested in working in the Bahamas. The Bahamian government has taken measures to support foreign investors and has attempted to ease the process of opening a business, particularly if it is going to generate new employment.
However, foreign investments also raise local concerns about foreign competition, and these worries are taken very seriously. You may encounter difficulties if your prospective business poses too much of a competition to local companies.
Finding Employment: It’s Difficult
While the Bahamas are more or less the place to be for foreign investors, expats who dream about working in the Bahamas have a hard time finding employment. This is due to the Bahamian government protecting its citizens and attempting to decrease unemployment among its own population. The easiest way for expats to find work is to be transferred to a branch office by their employer abroad, in which case, your employer has to arrange and pay for your work permit. This is common practice with bank and insurance company employees who have special skills and qualifications.
Work permits are usually issued for one year and can be renewed. However, after working in the Bahamas for five years or more, it is hard to get a renewal. To learn more about visa requirements and work permits, please have a look at our article on moving to the Bahamas or contact the nearest Bahamian embassy or consulate.
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