Island Living in the Turks and Caicos Islands
If you find yourself wondering what it would be like to wake up every day to sun, sand and crystal clear turquoise water you may also be curious about what is involved in owning or building a home in paradise.
Consisting of two groups of islands, the Turks and Caicos include 40 islands and cays, eight of which are inhabited. Constant easterly breezes and relatively low humidity keep life comfortable here, even in the hottest months. The temperature averages in the high 70’s in the winter and the low 90’s in the late summer days. These islands boast one of the lowest crime rates and highest detection rates in the Caribbean; confrontation and violent crimes are rare.
There are a few direct taxes in the TCI. Those who are employed pay a small percentage of their salary for mandatory social insurance (NIS) and also mandatory health insurance (NHIB). Self employed persons pay a slightly larger percentage.
There is a one time property tax, payable by the purchaser at the time of purchase, which is referred to as the stamp tax. The rate varies based on thevalue of the land and on which island the property is located.
Other 'taxes' include the duty on imported items, and a 7% customs processing fee for all items, whether duty free or not.
There is no sales tax or annual property tax at this time.
Residing in Paradise
In order to reside in the Turks & Caicos Islands you must have one of the following documents which, on approval, are granted by the Department of Immigration: a Temporary Residence Certificate, a Work Permit, or a Permanent Residence Certificate (PRC).
Temporary Residence Certificates are renewed annually for $1,000 plus $150 for a spouse and $50 for each child residing with you. It is required that you do not work, are of good health and character and able to support yourself and family.
In order to participate in any gainful employment in the Turks & Caicos Islands you are required to first have a Work Permit, which your employer will obtain for you. Fees vary and most work permits are renewable annually. In order to start a business you must first have a Business License and then a Work Permit. A business manager work permit fee costs $7,000.00 per year.
Persons wishing to retire or live here long term might consider obtaining a Permanent Residence Certificate. A PRC grants the holder permission to reside here for their lifetime. Making an investment in real estate or a business in which you are not working, may qualify for a PRC. The minimum investment required is $500,000.00 on Providenciales and $125,000.00 on our other islands.
Building with Professionals
The development laws of the Turks and Caicos Islands are based on those of Great Britain (The Physical Planning Ordinance). Being situated in the hurricane prone tropics, however, results in building codes which have much more in common with South Florida and neighbouring Caribbean nations than those of the British Isles.
By using locally based professionals you can save time, frustration and most importantly - money. The first step will probably be to choose an architect. It is wise to make contact with a few architects and select someone you feel comfortable with. Your architect should then be able to provide you with the names of local contractors they would recommend, you can then choose to request bid proposals and meet with each contractor individually. The Turks and Caicos Architects, Surveyors and Engineers society (TCASE) is a locally based professional organization made up of locally licensed practices. They will be happy to provide you with additional information.
The Do It Center is your one-stop location for everything you need to build your island home. Windows, doors, lumber, cement, rebar, electrical supplies, hardware supplies, paints, floor and wall tiles, and plumbing supplies are all in stock.
The focal point of any island home is definitely the swimming pool, great for entertaining, exercising or simply just cooling off. Although many home swimming pools on island are constructed of gunite / concrete, fiberglass pools are becoming more and more preferred. You can choose your fiberglass pool from a fantastic range of colours, shapes, sizes and designs.
Utilities are an important and expensive necessity of island living. Because our population in the Turks & Caicos Islands is very small, as compared to other Caribbean countries, our costs for utilities are relatively high.
Power is provided by Fortis (TCI) Ltd. on Providenciales, North, Middle, and South Caicos. On Provo we now pay 26 cents per kilowatt hour for residential use plus a fuel surcharge, which typically equals or exceeds the kilowatt charge. Fees for new customers (classed as Belongers and non-Belongers; Belongers pay lower deposits) are also fairly impressive: Residential Service: connection fee $100.00 and deposit (refundable after service has been terminated and the last bill paid) is $150.00 to $250.00. Commercial Service Single Phase: connection fee $350.00, and deposit of $250.00, Commercial 3 Phase: connection fee $750.00 and the deposit is based on an estimate of six weeks usage.
Land lines are provided by Lime and new customers pay a $70.00 installation fee plus $20.00 per month for a residential line. Unlike in North America there are per minute charges associated with even local calls. Additional deposits will apply for Non-Belongers. We currently have three cellular providers: Islandcom, Lime and Digicel. With these companies you have an option to purchase a ‘pre-paid’ or a ‘pay as you go’ phone. With a pre-paid phone there are no monthly fees and you purchase credit for the phone in advance. If, however, you would prefer the traditional ‘post-paid’ or ‘billed’ cellular phone you may choose a plan starting as low as $35.00 per month and there are a variety of packages available. The connection fee is $75.00 and Non-Belongers usually pay a $200.00 deposit. Unlike North America, incoming cellular calls are FREE. Customers of either service may rent or buy equipment from their provider of choice or use their own.
There are two internet providers on island. Lime and Express High Speed Internet both have several service levels available at varying costs. Installation is approximately $150.00 and basic service starts at around $40.00 a month. Lime charges a $200.00 deposit to Non- Belongers.
Cable TV is provided by WIV Cable TV. The connection charge for cable varies depending on where you live and is between $100.00 and $500.00. There is an additional charge of $125.00 to purchase your cable box and the basic cable package is $50.00 per month.
Importation of Personal Goods
When entering the islands you are allowed to bring in items worth $400.00 without being charged duty. Beyond the $400.00 most items carry a duty charge of 33% with some exceptions. However, when moving to the Turks & Caicos Islands for the first time a person may import personal effects (goods) free of duties. These goods must be intended solely for your personal use, your spouse or any other person wholly or mainly in your custody, charge or care. You must also have obtained a Residence Certificate or a Work Permit. At the time of entry you must intend to remain in the islands for a period not less than 12 months from date of entry.
Automobiles are not included in personal effects. Should you wish to import a motor vehicle (new or used) there is duty based on engine size. Your moving company can arrange for the vehicle to be shipped with your personal goods. It would be helpful to consult with a freight forwarder. It is recommended, for simplicity, that you use a local broker to clear your goods through customs, as it can be a time consuming process.
Once you’re ready to move in to your new home you’ll want to fill it with furnishings to complement your tastes and the island setting. Decorating your home is a highly personal matter, but if you’ve never lived in a tropical environment why not consult those who have? We have several stores on island that stock everything you need to transform your house or condo into a Caribbean home. Paintings and prints to adorn your walls, sculptures and other pieces of art can be found at Paradise Arts, Anna’s Art Gallery, Art Provo, Driftwood Studio and Making Waves.
If you live on Providenciales, a reliable vehicle is a must. The settlements, stores and offices are widespread with no scheduled public transportation system. If you import a motor vehicle (new or used) you will pay a duty rate based on the engine size as follows: for a vehicle with an engine not exceeding 2000cc, duty is 25% of landed cost, 2000cc to 4000cc is 35% and over 4000cc the duty is 45%. For personal use cars, you will also pay that duty on the shipping cost. If you purchase here, (new or used) those costs are in the price tag. Ironically, it can sometimes amount to less to purchase a new car here than to import a used car from home.
We have four new car dealerships on Provo who feature Ford, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Jeep, Toyota, Land Rover, Kia, Isuzu, Hyundai, Suzuki and Diahatsu automobiles complete with warranties, financing and authorized full service facilities. Used cars, trucks and utility vehicles are often available for sale by private owners, or through several car dealers / importers and from car rental companies who are updating their fleet of autos. There are several reputable full service garages with licenced mechanics on-island for automobile repairs. Emergency road and tire repair service is also available. It is a good idea to find a mechanic who can work on your vehicle prior to importing it.
There are several private primary schools on Providenciales offering classes for pre-school through grade six students. The curriculum varies from British National to Caribbean. The British West Indies Collegiate is the only private secondary school on Providenciales with a current enrollment of over 100 students offering classes from year 6 up. French and Spanish languages are taught from a young age. Computer classes, art and music are stressed. After school clubs are popular, with teachers sharing their expertise in fun activities or homework clubs. Favourite sports include swimming, dance, gymnastics, basketball, soccer and hockey - hockey on roller-blades that is!
In addition to groups such as Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, and Kiwanis there are less official clubs which you can join, such as the Bridge Club and the Garden Club on Provo. If your passion is three-no-trump or producing the largest papaya in the history of the Caribbean you’re sure to find your group easily.
Pets and Vets
When you move to the Turks & Caicos, you may bring your dog or cat with you. However, it is not a simple process and there are medical tests and proper (current) forms to fill out long before you arrive. All dogs and cats must be spayed or neutered. Allow yourself plenty of time (six months) to make sure that you get it all right. If you and your pet should arrive without the current, proper paperwork, your pet could be deported or euthanised. The government does not have any holding facilities to impound animals.
Many residents who travel back and forth to the USA or Canada have been able to obtain a Pet Passport from our Ministry of the Environment’s Department of Agriculture-Veterinary and Animal Control unit. This allows them to travel with their pets without repeating the tests and paperwork for each trip. And FYI, the Turks & Caicos is recognised as a ‘Rabies Free’ country. Contact Dr. Mark Butler at the Department of Agriculture for advice and the latest forms and paperwork.
As with all the Caribbean islands, we have many homeless dogs and cats which you will see roaming the streets in search of food, water and mates. The native dogs are called Potcakes. They come in a startling array of sizes, colours and coats, having bred with many different imported dogs over the past thirty years.
The Turks & Caicos Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (TCSPCA) helps any animals in need, including horses, donkeys, goats, iguanas and birds. They rescue countless pups, kittens and some adult dogs and cats. Rescues are kept in private homes or quarantine facilities until they have proven to be healthy. They are then socialised or rehabilitated, and placed in homes both within the TCI, and in the United States and Canada. In fact, TCI Potcakes and cats have become well known and very popular. They make terrific pets. Perhaps they understand they have been given a second chance. Many out-of-country adopters have adopted another TCI animal after living with one of these special, rescued critters.
If you would like to adopt a Potcake or kitten, or courier one to its new home when you depart the TCI, please call the TCSPCA a few days prior to your departure. (649 941-8846 or 649 231-3052). They will handle all the paperwork. If you adopt, there is no adoption fee but there will be airline fees to transport the animal. If adoption/courier is not possible, a donation of any kind will help all the animals of the TCI. The TCSPCA is not-for-profit and receives no funding from the government. They are entirely dependent upon volunteers, fund-raising events and the generosity of residents and visitors.