Bermuda entered into its final stage of reopening on 1 July 2020. Under Phase 4, New Normal, Government departments are fully operational. Mandated working from home has ended, although some businesses and government offices are continuing with a hybrid model that includes some employees working from home and some employees returning to the office.
Bermuda is now offering one-year residency for those who want to work or study remotely. Effective from 1 August 2020, the new initiative aims to capitalise on the rise of remote working, which has been accelerated by COVID-19, and to give the local economy a boost without displacing jobs for Bermudians.
On 21 August 2020, the Premier of Bermuda called for a General Election to be held on 2 October 2020.
1. Filings – Updated
Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA)
In conjunction with the Government’s phased re-opening of Bermuda, the BMA is also initiating a phased return to its office. All correspondence and application requests can continue to be submitted electronically during this time.
Registrar of Companies (RoC)
The RoC has been accepting the submission of electronic applications since 18 March 2020. All payments to the RoC should be made via wire transfer. As most staff continue to work remotely, the preferred method of contact is by email.
All general registrations and application submissions should be sent via email to both email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, which will ensure that both the Registration Division and the Revenue Division receive the submissions and so can process it concurrently.
Local and permit companies that did not have the ability to submit their filings and fees electronically by the deadline of 31 March 2020, were given a temporary extension to 30 June 2020 and normal penalties were waived.
The Registry General is now accepting filings that require original documents for registration, such as the registration of partnership charges.
Documents requiring an apostille can be processed and certificates will continued to be issued digitally. Requests should be submitted via email. In light of the forthcoming General Election, the Parliamentary Registry will only be issuing apostilles from 8:30am – 1:00pm Tuesdays and Thursdays effective 24 August 2020 until further notice.
2. Can searches be conducted? – Updated
Physical Company Searches of hard copy files are available by appointment, but the RoC is encouraging search requests to continue to be submitted electronically using a RoC company extract form.
Searches of the Cause Books are permitted by appointment only. Searches are limited to one hour per search request and strict COVID-19 protocols are in place.
Registry General Searches
The Registry General will be able to conduct searches that are submitted via email but please expect delays. Appointments can also be made for up to two hours for in person searches at the Registry General.
3. Certificates of good standing – if and how these are being conducted
Requests for certificates of compliance should be submitted to the RoC electronically. If the entity is in compliance the RoC will issue an electronic certificate via email. Once operations have returned to normal, hard copies of the certificates will be available where necessary.
4. Court sessions and position (including filings and hearings)
The Registrar for the Courts of Bermuda released a Practice Direction on 30 June 2020 updating the protocols for the transition to enable the Courts to re-open to provide full services. Members of the public are required to call the Court with any inquiries rather than attending Court offices.
The following services are suspended until further notice: swearing of affidavits and certifying copies.
The Magistrates’ Court is prioritising matters for relisting that have been adjourned administratively since March 2020. Please note that there is a backlog of applications. Where a matter is listed, parties may be required to attend Court, although attendance can be requested to be via telephone or video conference.
There will be an unavoidable lag in the listing of new matters for hearing due to strict social distance requirements which limit the number of matters that can be heard at any one time. The Magistrate’s Court has extended the days for the filing of new applications in the Civil and Family divisions to Mondays to Fridays from 9:00am to 12:45pm. Applications for criminal record checks have also resumed during these hours.
The Cashiers Desk is open on Mondays to Fridays from 9:30am until 4:30pm. However, persons are encouraged to make payments via online banking or by credit or debit cards via the telephone where possible.
The Supreme Court is prioritising the listing and hearing of urgent matters. Matters that have been adjourned administratively since March 2020 are being prioritised for relisting. Please note that there is a backlog of applications. Where a matter is listed for directions or a hearing, parties may be required to attend Court, although attendance can be requested to be via telephone or video conference.
The Supreme Court Registries are open to general filings on Mondays to Fridays from 9:30am until 12:30pm.
Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal for Bermuda resumed on 1 June 2020 and will conclude on 19 November 2020 or when the Court has so ordered.
The Department of Immigration began a phased resumption of services on 4 May 2020 with strict COVID-19 protocols in place. Immigration staff will communicate with customers via email and telephone as the office will not be open to the public. In person meetings are possible by appointment only. A Corporate Services Drop Box and Personal Services Drop Box have been placed at the main entrance of the Government Administration Building. Applications submitted after 2:30pm will be recorded as received on the next business day. Documents are no longer available for pick-up from the Collections Desk and will be sent via email instead. The Department of Immigration is only accepting online payments.
C-Suite, New Business, Global & Global Entrepreneur Work Permit Applications are now being accepted by the Department of Immigration. Short Term Emergency Work Permit Applications are also now being accepted, however, applicants must clearly justify the emergency in accordance with the Work Permit Policies.
Effective from 1 August 2020, Bermuda is now offering one-year residency for those who want to work or study remotely. A successful applicant must, among other things, possess valid health insurance coverage and be able to demonstrate employment with a legitimate company, or their own company, registered and operating outside of Bermuda, or have substantial means or a continuous source of annual income. There is a fee of BMD263 per applicant. The Government of Bermuda has indicated that the turnaround time will be five working days and that renewals of the certificate (beyond the initial 12 month period) will be permitted on a case-by-case basis.
6. Any travel restrictions – Updated
Bermuda has suspended its previous travel ban. The Bermuda airport reopened to commercial flights on 1 July 2020. Travellers (includes visitors and Bermuda residents) to Bermuda must comply with stringent COVID-19 protocols which include completing the Bermuda travel authorisation process online prior to departure. Visitors must take a certified PCR COVID-19 test within 5 days (ideally 72 hours) of flying to Bermuda and any visitor who does not provide proof of a negative test result, will be refused entry to Bermuda. Bermuda residents are not required to get a test before travelling to Bermuda. Upon arrival all travellers will be tested for COVID-19 at the airport and are required to quarantine until their results are ready. Tests are also required on day 3, day 7 and day 14 after arrival.
The Minister of Health has advised that, even if persons test negative upon arrival or day 3 of arrival (as applicable) or later, they should conduct themselves with the “utmost care.” Persons who test positive for COVID-19 will be subject to contact tracing.
If a traveller receives a COVID-19 positive test result or is in close contact of a positive person, he or she will be subject to public-health (COVID-19) regulations and must quarantine for up to 14 days. Anyone who becomes COVID-19 positive, or whom health authorities believe could be positive, will be fitted with an Aqua electronic bracelet to assist with isolation/quarantine.
7. Implications for economic substance compliance and residency
The RoC has advised that it will take circumstances surrounding COVID-19 into account when assessing compliance with the economic substance requirements pursuant to the Economic Substance Act 2018, and the principles set out in the applicable Guidance Notes. The RoC may therefore take into account situations where meetings or other similar compliance measures are not possible due to necessary travel or quarantine restrictions. Entities should keep careful records of all such circumstances, and should continue in good faith to ensure their ongoing compliance with the economic substance requirements.