Moving to and Living in Bermuda
Dreaming to live in Bermuda? Hopefully you must have secured a job in the island by now or well on your course to get one. But getting a job is step-1. Your employer will then need to get a work permit for you from Bermuda Immigration Department, and then you are all set to move into the island. So if all that's already done, you must be now preparing to relocate and have started wondering what it means to be moving to Bermuda.... how will the life be? What should you plan in advance so that you have a smooth transition to your new life?
Well I'll answer all those questions. But first, how long can you plan to live in the island with your current job and work permit? Actually it is first determined by the period of validity of your work permit. So if your work permit is issued for 3 years, then you can initially plan to live in the island for 3 years. However with the new regulations coming in, a work permit can now be extended by the employer if the job role continues to remain important for them.
But work permit or its extension requires hefty fees to be paid to the government of Bermuda. So the extension fee has to make business sense for the employer and can sometimes get adjusted from your salary.
Another important factor for extension is your performance. If the employer is not happy with your performance, they may not renew your work permit and rather look for an alternative human resource. In fact, they can even go for pre-mature termination with the contract if they are not happy for some reason. But that will be in accordance with the terms & conditions of the contract, if at all.
Well I don't want to dwell on the negative side of the story, but the fact is although there is technically no limit to how long you may be able to stay in the island, practically it does come to an end at some point in time - whether it's due to your own decision or of your employer. Secondly, no matter how long you live in the island on a job, it doesn't get you eligibility for citizenship. I shall discuss this point later.
Now coming to the great positive side of living in Bermuda... wondering what kind of lifestyle Bermuda offers? Just to get a snapshot of what this pretty island offers that are so special, check out Why Visit Bermuda. Now let's take a look at all aspects of life in Bermuda once you have relocated.
Housing and Accommodation in Bermuda
Housing in Bermuda has always been very expensive. While a good employer may cover you initially for the first few weeks, you will eventually need to find your own accommodation. So how to find the right house rental in Bermuda? And how much should you budget for the rentals? Check out Bermuda Housing for details.
Bermuda Cost and Tax Factors
While Bermuda offers one of the most fabulous lifestyles and jobs with high pays, the cost of living in Bermuda can be substantial. While there is hardly any direct taxes to employees like income tax or capital gain or wealth tax, there are lot many hidden Indirect taxes that hit your wallet. As a result, Living Cost in Bermuda is considered one of the highest in the world. It is near four times of US and three times of UK or Canada.
When you are moving to Bermuda, you will need to pay Customs Duty virtually on all household goods and other stuffs that you bring in except for some used items like books, used clothes etc which are exempted. Check out Bermuda Customs Duty and read the section titled 'Bermuda Customs Duty for Immigrants & Returning Residents' for details.
Secondly, although Bermuda does not impose direct income tax on your earnings, you will most likely end up paying tax anyway to your home country, particularly if you are from US, UK, Canada or so. There are tax treaties and agreements signed between Bermuda and these countries that require expats working in Bermuda to file tax returns and pay tax in the home country. However there are some relaxation. For example in case of US citizens working in Bermuda, they need to pay tax for the amount which is in excess of annual earning of $80,000. This discount is due to the high living expenses in Bermuda.
Foreigners Living in Bermuda with Family
You can live in Bermuda as long as your work permit is valid which is issued usually for 1 to 5 years, sometimes for longer. Before it expires, your employer can apply for an extension/renewal after exploring that no other suitable Bermudian is available for the job. Understandably in this small island, Bermudians are always given preference whenever a job opportunity pops up. Once extended, you can continue to stay. Work Permits no longer have term limits and can be extended depending on employer's requirement.
If you have your spouse accompanying you, he or she will not be able to work in Bermuda on your work permit. Your spouse should go through the same process of job application and getting a separate work permit the way you did. Generally, if your spouse does not come with a separate work permit, it would be difficult if not impossible to get a separate job while in Bermuda. Also remember that expats are not allowed to take up more than one day jobs.
Update March 2015: A recent amendment to the policy (effective March 1, 2015) allows a foreigner with work permit to seek for a second job but only after serving the initial employer for minimum of two continuos years.
In Bermuda while your spouse and children can stay with you as long as you work and live in Bermuda, the same is not allowed if you plan to bring in your partner or significant other. A partner is treated as a tourist and needs to leave the island as per prevailing tourist visa regulation. Also given Bermuda's conservative culture, many landlords may not allow one to stay with a partner. However, this is not a problem in hotels.
Update March 2015: An amendment to the policy (effective March 1, 2015) allows Work Permit holders (and also Bermudians & PRC holders) to bring their unmarried partners and children to Bermuda to live with them. However this is subject to a verification by Bermuda's Department of Immigration that the relationship is genuine and subsisting. Out of several factors considered as evidence to this, some include 2 years of continuous relationship (not a binding though), dependent children, partners sharing financial responsibilities etc. This verification is done to ensure that relationship is not faked to get a long term entry into Bermuda. If qualified, the partner is granted entry/re-entry permit for a duration of the work permit (or 5 years in case of Bermudians and PRC holders). If the work permit is extended, the partner can also apply for a new entry/re-entry permit. The partner can also seek for employment in Bermuda. If the status of relationship changes, the partners are required to immediately notify the same in writing to Department of Immigration.
Children's Education in Bermuda
While there are some state run schools in Bermuda, the expatriates generally prefer one of the private schools. See Bermuda Schools and Education for detailed reviews. The state schools have a multi racial environment. The standard of the private schools are generally better than the state schools. While no expats generally face any problems with the schooling of their children, remember that the over all quality of teaching and standard of education in Bermuda may not be at par with the best that you get in UK or US.
I have seen many local Bermudians sending out their own children to countries like US and UK for better education. Having said that, there is nothing wrong with the schools and they have very friendly and responsive staff. Call up the schools directly. Better even try to visit them before you relocate. Here is what an expat had to say: "I have three children and all are at Warwick Academy. The standard here is comparable to a good state primary in the UK. My 11 year old daughter just got a place in a top UK secondary private school. We did get her some extra tuition though".
Health and Medical Insurance
Health insurance in Bermuda is very expensive these days and have even overtaken US. You don't get any automatic medical coverage in Bermuda. On the other hand the health care expense in Bermuda is now second highest in the world. Unlike in many other countries, there is no national health or medical services that are available to anyone. Neither any reciprocal health insurance works in Bermuda, which means your health insurance in your home country will not work here. So what should you do? Check out Bermuda Health Insurance for the steps that you need to take.
Also check out Bermuda Medical Services to know about the medical centers and clinics in the island.
You are after all in an unknown country, and every country requires that you understand its social dynamics and safety measures if you are planning for a long term stay. Go through Health and Safety Measures so that you can understand the do's and don'ts in the island and prepare yourself accordingly.
Making Friends in Bermuda
This is probably the easiest thing to do in Bermuda. If you read Bermuda's People & Culture, you will know the background of Bermudians and how warm and charming they are.
You will find many locals as well as fellow expats in several pubs and restaurants in the island like Robin Hood, Hog Penny and the Pickled Onion. The pub Henry VIII is also quite popular on Sunday nights and are frequented by those working in the hotels industry.
There are also a number of Expat organizations in Bermuda who meet at different locations from time to time. These organizations, associations and clubs in Bermuda provide required support, information and friend circle to new residents.
Update April 2012: A survey report from HSBC Bank International shows that Bermuda has been rated as the second most friendly country in the world (after Canada). 57% of the expatriates living in Bermuda mentioned that they found Bermuda to be very friendly. Several factors including economy, ability to befriend locals and get integrated to the community, fitting into the culture and overall experience were the main factors determining such rankings.
Food and Dining in Bermuda
You will find all types of Restaurants in Bermuda. However, when it comes to Bermudian cuisine itself, there are some special favorites that we never miss, like the Pan-fried fish with sweet potatoes, codfish and potatoes covered in egg sauce, fish chowder (a thick soup made of fish head) served with a dash of black rum and sherry peppers, broiled spiny lobster with lemon and melted butter, Hoppin' John peas and rice, and such. Visit Local Food & Drinks to know all about Bermudian cuisine and where to get them.
Note that food at the restaurants and for that matter almost anything in the island is quite expensive. For eating out cheap, go through How to eat cheap in Bermuda. But sometimes you may like to indulge and go beyond just good food and seek great ambience & service as well ... here you go: Top Restaurants in Bermuda
And for self cooking, get to know the good & reasonably priced Grocery & Food Stores in Bermuda.
Bermudians almost habitually take Full Aternoon Tea in English Style at around 4pm. This has been a tradition continuing from the old British days. And when it comes to social drinking, Bermudians are expert in that too. Some of the famous original cocktails in the island include Dark n' Stormy (black rum and ginger beer) and Rum Swizzle.
How to shop cheap in Bermuda
You can't bring everything with you when you come on a work permit to live in the island temporarily. Neither can you subdue your shopping habits for long. While I have discussed all shopping options here, you may not always have big money to spend. So Thrift Stores are often a good answer when you want to shop cheap.
Other Employment and Living Conditions in Bermuda
Bermuda Cost of living: Know about all the recurring or fixed costs in Bermuda that will hit your wallet as soon as you land there.
Vacation and Working Hours
Usually vacation is given for 2-3 weeks a year for the initial few years and then it may increase to 3-4 weeks per year. In case of executives, it may start with 3-4 weeks a year. Working hours is usually 40 hours a week.
Driving in Bermuda
Your home country driving license will not work in Bermuda. You will need to go through written and then a driving test to get the local driving license in Bermuda (be it a car, scooter or motor cycle of any class) and it takes a few weeks. The only exception is in case of a Rental Scooter or a moped where you don't need a license. If you stay at the Eastern End (St George) or Western End (Sandys), during the morning and afternoon office hours, a driving time of almost 1 hour will be required to reach Hamilton City. If you don't have a vehicle, check out Bermuda Public Transportation to know about all the options to commute in the island.
Update May 2012: During a used car and motor bike fair/show held in the island (at Elliot Street Car Park), price of the used (i.e. second hand) cars ranged between $9,500 to $32,000 and that of the used bikes from $1,000 to $3,500. So if you plan to buy a used car or a bike while living in Bermuda, you can use this indicative cost range for your planning.
Taxes & Duties: Find out what kind of taxes and duties you are likely to pay while living in Bermuda including Customs Duty at the time of relocation.
Bermuda Dress Code: Bermuda's culture is quite conservative having deep influence from British heritage. Check out the link to understand how to dress in various places and occasions.
Taking Pets to Bermuda: If you are planning to import or move your pets from your home country to Bermuda, here are the steps you need to take.
As an expat, you can not become a Bermudian citizen even if you happen to live in the island for decades. So you will never have a voting right. The only exception is if you get married to a Bermudian and live together for at least 10 years, then you can only apply for a citizenship.
Children born in Bermuda
If your child is born in Bermuda, unlike in many other countries, the child does not become a Bermudian. So your child wont be eligible for any government scholarship or other benefits available to a Bermudian child. The only exception is if one of the parents is a Bermudian.
Credit Cards in Bermuda
I would advise you to retain your home country credit card(s) and bring them to Bermuda. Their coverage and services are much better than those issued from Bermuda. An example is, if you are an US citizen and have an Amex card, while travelling abroad from Bermuda, you can avail the American Express Premium Baggage Protection Plan to insure your baggage. You can't do so with a Bermuda issued card, nor can you use it to get a car rental while in a foreign country. But the 1-800-307-7309 number of Master card works from Bermuda to get a customer support service.
Electricity is provided by a government approved company named BELCO. It uses gas fuel to generate the power and charges a heavy fuel surcharge as part of the electricity rates in Bermuda. Electricity charge in Bermuda is quite high and would be 3 times the cost compared to US or UK. The voltage in Bermuda is 120 volts and frequency 60 hz.
Bermuda Bank Accounts & Transferring Money
You can open an account with one of the four Banks in Bermuda. In most cases, the salary is transferred to the savings account of a bank. You can convert the money to your home currency and send a draft or wire it to your home country account. However a transaction fee and Foreign Currency Tax (presently 1%) is charged on the amount you transfer.
Internet Services in Bermuda: There are quite a few Internet Cafes & Access areas in Bermuda including in Hamilton, Dockyard and St. George. A number of home and office internet service providers offer broadband high speed internet connections. And there are few limited places where you can enjoy free wi-fi services as well.
Update January 2014: The Global Rich List survey shows that an average Bermudian who works and earns is within the top 0.37% of the richest people in the world. So what does this mean? It means what an average Bermudian or an expat in Bermuda can earn in a year can be earned in about 46 years by a person in Zimbabwe. But note that the expense levels in Bermuda is also much higher than most countries. So just the earnings does not give the full picture.
Buying or selling household stuffs through Auction
Buy now you know that almost everything in Bermuda is so expensive. Once you find an apartment, you will soon need to buy household stuffs. Although your apartment may be furnished, individual requirements can be quite different. One way to get nice and not so expensive household stuffs is through auctions. And such auctions can also be very helpful for you to dispose off the stuffs when you leave the island. You can get many different items on auction like Cedar furniture including tables, chairs and cabinets, items on Silver, China, Glass, Crystal, Brass etc, Bermuda art, antique items such as mahogany slant front desk, sideboards and lot more including collectibles.
Here is a well known Auction company in Bermuda. They hold up to 8 auctions in a season:
Hammers Limited, Suite 239, 48 Par la ville Road, Hamilton City, Bermuda.
Telephone, Office: (441) 236.6569; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
When the time comes to say good bye to Bermuda
If you are an expatriate, eventually you will have to leave the island and say good bye to Bermuda, unless of course you get married here to a Bermudian ;) You may get work permit extensions, but finally the day will come for you to pack up. I would strongly recommend that you prepare yourself and your family, particularly your children well in advance for such exit. You should do that much before your work permit expires. Children are particularly very sensitive to such matters and their change in schooling is one area which needs to be planned out very carefully.
If you apply for extension or another job, remember that there is never any guarantee of that happening. In fact with struggling economy in the island, there are good chances that such options may not eventually work out. You will need to come to the island with a thought that you are carving out a piece of good time for yourself as long as you live in this island. And eventually all good things in life come to an end. When the term expires, the reality strikes hard and quick. The Immigration authority barely gives you enough time to settle all your matters before leaving the island. So it's all the more important that you prepare well in advance.
I know about a case of an expat family where the working husband lost his job when his workplace was burned down by fire. He worked as a spray painter in a car dealer's workshop. As a reputed skilled person, he was granted several extensions to his term earlier. But this time he could not find an alternative job and was asked by the Immigration Department to leave the island in just 22 days. You don't want to be in that situation.
Update March 2015: A recent amendment in work permit policy (effective March 1, 2015) allows up to 90 days for settlement of matters before a work-permit holder and his dependants must leave Bermuda, once the work permit expires or not extended. Additional time may be granted on written request giving adequate justification.
1) Check out Bermuda Jobs to know all about job scene in Bermuda.
2) Check out Bermuda Economy to know about overall economic conditions of Bermuda.
Living in Bermuda Reviewed by Raj Bhattacharya Rating: 5.0
By Raj Bhattacharya
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