Why invest in the BVI?
With a legal system based on English common law, tight control policies and modern legislation, the BVI is a secure and reliable yet suitably flexible finance location. There is no exchange control or restriction on the movement of funds into and out of the Territory or on their conversion into other currencies. The most significant sectors of the economy are financial services and tourism.
In 1959, the United States dollar was introduced as legal tender in the Territory and in 1967 was adopted as the sole legal currency.
Since the introduction of the International Business Companies Act in 1984, successive governments have made significant progress in developing the British Virgin Islands as an international financial services centre.
In 2007, the BVI approved a new Constitution which gives executive and legislative power to the Governor, the Cabinet and House of Assembly. The Governor is the representative of Her Majesty, the Queen under the Constitution, and is responsible for external affairs, defense, the judicial and legal departments of government, internal security and the civil service.
On other matters, the Governor is normally bound to act in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet, which comprises the Governor as Chairman, the Premier, four other ministers and the Attorney-General as an ex-officio member. The House of Assembly consists of thirteen elected members, one from each of nine electoral districts and four ‘at large’ members.
The population is approximately 23,000; the largest and most heavily populated Island is Tortola which has approximately 18,000 inhabitants. 90% of the inhabitants are of African descent, the balance being made up of European, Indian or mixed race.
The capital, Road Town, is on the southern shore near Sir Francis Drake Channel. A road bridge to Beef Island and the local airport connects Tortola.
In 1672, Britain claimed Tortola. Simultaneously, Denmark asserted her sovereignty over St. Thomas and St. John; then in 1773 Denmark purchased St. Croix from France. The Danish Islands were sold to the United States in 1917 for US$ 25 million. Relations between the United States and British Virgin Islands are good.
The British Virgin Islands are a UK overseas territory with self-government in most internal matters. Under the 1977 constitution, HM Queen Elizabeth II is represented by a governor responsible for external affairs, defense, internal security and the public service, with reserved legislative powers as necessary for the exercise of special responsibilities. On all other matters, the executive council has authority.
The executive council consists of the governor, the chief minister, the attorney-general and three other ministers appointed by the governor from the legislative council on the advice of the chief minister. The legislative council has a four year term and consists of a speaker, 13 directly elected members and the attorney-general.
The official currency of the British Virgin Islands is the US dollar.
The December 2001 enactment of the Financial Services Commission Act, 2001 established the British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission as an autonomous regulatory authority responsible for the regulation, supervision and inspection of all financial services in and from within the BVI. Such services include insurance, banking, trustee business, company management, mutual funds business as well as the registration of companies, limited partnerships, intellectual property and ships. As a result, the Commission now oversees all regulatory responsibilities previously handled by the government through the Financial Services Department. The Banking and Fiduciary Division ensures that all banks and corporate service providers operating in and from the BVI comply with international regulatory standards, established best business practices and relevant BVI laws.
The BVI has developed a modern financial infrastructure that handles the due diligence and business requirements of today’s banks and trust companies, starting with the Banks and Trust Companies Act of 1990 and continuing with amendments to the Act in 1995.
The Commission has also been tasked with new responsibilities including promoting public understanding of the financial system and its products, policing the perimeter of regulated activity, reducing financial crime and preventing market abuse.
The British Virgin Islands has one of the most sophisticated company law codes in the world. BVI companies are regulated by the BVI Business Companies Act, 2004. The BVI Business Companies Act is based largely on New Zealand company law, but has been modified to include many of the characteristic features of offshore financial centres.