$1,375 Licence Needed: Locals Married to Expats

April 15, 2010

A new law targeting Bermudians who live with or are married to non-Bermudians comes into effect on June 22, 2010. Effective that date, property owning couples of whom one is non-Bermudian, must obtain licences costing $1,375.00.

As per the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2007, people in default of this law could end up being imprisoned or fined a substantial amount. The Act lists punishments for indictable offences as “a maximum fine of $1,000,000 or to imprisonment for five years, or to both“, and summary conviction offences as “a fine of $50,000 or imprisonment for 12 months, or to both”. It also states “In addition to any penalty imposed under subsection (1), the court may make an order of forfeiture“.

The Act had previously restricted couples with one foreign spouse from purchasing a multi unit dwelling, and also restricted them from multiple property purchases.

In a previous statement, Minister of Immigration Lt. Col. David Burch explained the rationale for this ruling:

This validation process is being undertaken to assist Government in making an accurate count of the land held by restricted persons in Bermuda so that we might ensure that no more than 400 acres are held under licence in any parish or 2,000 acres in total.

Minister Burch also drew reference to over 30 years ago, saying that in 1976 the then Minister of Labour and Immigration “acknowledged that this problem existed” saying:

During the past few years the members of the Immigration Board and I have become increasingly concerned at the amount of land and property that has been acquired from Bermudians by non-Bermudians.

An exhaustive investigation by Ministry of Labour and Immigration staff and officers of the Public Works Department showed that because of the inadequate records, previous to 1968, we would be unable to get an accurate count of land held by non-Bermudians. However, I concluded that there was a possibility that the 2,000 acres had been exceeded.

Minister Burch concluded with:

Mr. President, if that was the view some 32 years ago – you can imagine what the situation is like today and thus the need for registration of all property being held by non-Bermudians.

Banks are expected to forward details of couples whom this licence may apply, the relevant section of the Act is below:

A licensed bank or deposit company shall make a written report to the Minister respecting any transaction in which it participates, if the bank or company knows, or has reasonable grounds to suspect, that a licence required under this Part in relation to the transaction, or an aspect of the transaction, has not been obtained.

(2) Any person who knows, or has reasonable grounds to suspect, that a transaction or an aspect of a transaction in which the person participates is part of a scheme referred to in section 81(1) shall make a written report to the Minister.

(3) The report shall include a description of the land, the names and addresses of the parties to the transaction or scheme and the particulars of the knowledge, or the grounds for the suspicion, referred to in subsection (1).

(4) Notwithstanding any duty of confidentiality, fiduciary duty or duty arising under any law or contract, no civil proceedings may be commenced against a bank, company or person referred to in subsection (1) or (2) for giving information to the Minister, even if the information is not required to be given under that subsection and even if the Minister does not request it

Speaking with two couples in this position, neither felt the ruling was fair, both pointing out they are “regular” people, and this puts additional financial stress on them.

One Bermudian with a non-Bermudian husband told us she feels the focus should be on reducing crime levels, particularly shootings, saying “The Government seems intent on focusing on foreigners instead of crime. If the shootings continue, the Government won’t have to worry about foreigners being here, they’ll leave.

This follows other legislation focused on non-Bermudians including:

  • Effective April 1,1010 guest workers in certain categories must be proficient in English or face deportation [link]
  • Effective May 01, 2010, nationals of Panama, Philippines and the Dominican Republic will have new visas requirements due to reports of ‘sham marriages’ and prostitution [link]

There is a Facebook group in relation to this matter, which states:

The effect of this law, is that BERMUDIANS and their families are disadvantaged when compared to the Bermudian married to another Bermudian. The law is unnecessarily harsh and discriminatory.

You can view or download the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2007 here [36 page PDF]

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Comments (1)

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  1. Lily Rogers says:

    …is this property only bought in Bermuda? Or other countries as well. thank you.