While most countries are only just starting to reopen borders to international tourists, Barbados is asking you to move in, at least temporarily. On July 12, the Eastern Caribbean island officially launched its new 12-month Welcome Stamp visa program that encourages remote workers to turn their quick trip into an extended stay of up to a year.
With a large number of people around the world continuing to work from home due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Barbados decided to seize the unique opportunity to help boost their economy by inviting people to relocate their home office to “paradise.” Sundril Chatrani, Chairman of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI), says some of the benefits of working remotely from Barbados include flexible office space locations and “the fastest fiber internet and mobile services in the Caribbean,” while families can also expect a high education standard.
Applications for the Welcome Stamp visa are done entirely online and consist of a simple questionnaire asking for personal information like your name, citizenship, type of work, income, and marital status. Applicants will also need to upload two passport-size photographs and copies of the biodata page of their passport, birth certificate, and proof of relationship for any dependents that will be joining the applicant. The bad news? Upon approval, expect to pay a non-refundable fee of $2,000 per individual or $3,000 per family. The good news? Participants will be exempt from Barbados income tax. Visas are eligible for annual renewal.
Folks hoping to take advantage of the Welcome Stamp visa are advised that securing medical insurance is mandatory—and not included with the visa. Visitors entering Barbados under the new 12-month visa may be asked to show proof of insurance, though Eusi Skeete, Director USA (ag) at Barbados Tourism Marketing, Inc., suggests there may be an option for qualifying visitors, where applicable, to purchase medical insurance on the island.
Currently, there are no active cases of coronavirus on the island. Even with a population of more than 286,000, it only reported a total of 106 confirmed cases and seven deaths. The last date of a recorded case was on May 1. The island has been commended for its ongoing COVID-19 response and robust contact-tracing protocols. “We are proud to have the highest standard of healthcare in the Eastern Caribbean,” said Skeete. “We provide a variety of healthcare services that are easily accessible and well-equipped.”
Skeete also assures that Barbados has readied itself for the potentially large influx of long-stay foreigners coming in on the visa. “We have a wide range of accommodation offerings that will be available for extended stays,” he says. “This ranges from budget-friendly studios to beachfront luxury condos.” While there has been some criticism on how the program might affect daily life and costs for locals, Skeete states that the island is hoping that the program can be beneficial for locals, for example, by providing them with added income through owning and operating rental properties.
In a recent address to Parliament, and amidst confusion over whether LGBTQ applicants would be considered for the visa, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley was clear that no one should be deterred in applying. “As long as I am prime minister of this nation, we welcome all—everyone.” It’s worth noting that Barbados, like much of the Caribbean, has active anti-LGBTQ laws that criminalize “homosexual behavior.” However, these laws are currently under review, and it is widely known and accepted that they are rarely enforced on the island.
“COVID-19 has placed a severe strain on people’s mental wellness,” Mottley told Today’s WorldView in an interview. “The sunshine is powerful. The seawater is powerful. They’re both therapeutic in ways that are hard to explain. Why not share it?”