Most people working in the Bahamas are employed in the tourism or banking sector. Both are the major driving forces behind the Bahamian economy. In fact, tourism, and construction and manufacturing related to the tourism sector, make up about 60% of the national GDP. The financial sector is the second most important source of income. The country has the reputation of being a major off-shore banking destination. In order to comply with requirements from OECD countries and the United States, the Bahamas have passed laws to prevent money laundering and signed numerous taxation agreements.
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. About 112,000 people fit for working in the Bahamas received unemployment benefits in late 2009. In addition, the country struggles with rising employment demands and dealing with the ever-increasing level of government debt. As the Bahamas maintain close economic links to the United States, the US economy is also a matter of concern.
Aside from the tourism and the financial sector, which we have mentioned above, the Bahamas is also home to a few industrial firms, such as the pharmaceutical company PFC Bahamas or the BORCO oil facility. Additionally, the Bahamian Brewery and the Commonwealth Brewery provide employment to a lot of people working in the Bahamas. Other industries include salt production, rum, aragonite, pharmaceuticals, and spiral-welded steel pipe. However, sun-dried sea salt from Great Inagua, and aragonite mined from the sea floor at Ocean Cay only contribute a small percentage to the national GDP.
The relief from corporate as well as income taxes is one of the main reasons for investors and expats interested in working in the Bahamas to choose the Caribbean archipelago. The Bahamian government has taken measures to support foreign investors and makes an effort to ease the process of opening a business in the Bahamas. This is particularly the case when investments generate new employment.
However, foreign investments also raise local concerns about foreign competition which are taken very seriously. Thus, you may also encounter difficulties if your prospective business poses too much of a competition to local companies working in the Bahamas.
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 has to do with the Bahamian government protecting its citizens and striving to decrease unemployment among its own population. The best way for expats is to be transferred to a branch office by their employer abroad. In that case, your employer has to arrange and pay for your work permit. This is common practice with bank and insurance company employees who prove to 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 almost impossible 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. Another option, of course, is to marry a Bahamian citizen in order to acquire Permanent Residency Status. Either way, you should expect an uphill battle when looking for work in the Bahamas.
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