This policy has meant that visitors have effectively been able to reside in Bermuda without the proper permissions. Those to take most advantage of this tend to be the partners of those who do have the right to reside in Bermuda.
Amendment to the policy was done by the passing of the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2022 (‘BIPA Amendment’) which repealed and replaced s.28(2) of the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956. At s.2 of the BIPA Amendment, it is stated that “unrestricted period of residence”, in relation to a visitor to Bermuda, means within any 12-month period- (a) the period of six months or 180 days (whichever is greater) whether consecutive or cumulative, beginning on the date on which the visitor first lands in Bermuda”.
On 29 November 2023, in a policy statement posted to their website, the Department of Immigration warned that the BIPA Amendment would come into force on 15 January 2024. The Department of Immigration made it clear that the ‘Allocated Length of Stay’ would be monitored via the Department of Immigration’s Border Management System and that the System “has been modified to track the cumulative maximum length of stay, looking at past calendar dates to identify when the visitor has been to Bermuda. This information calculates the number of days, whether available or not, for that visitor to remain in Bermuda”.
The BIPA Amendment came into force on 15 January 2024, but one outstanding question for many has been whether the policy would be retroactive, meaning whether the days spent in Bermuda in the 12-month period prior to 15 January 2024 would count towards the ‘Allocated Length of Stay’ or whether the policy would mean that for all visitors, they would need to start counting their days from 15 January 2024.
The Department of Immigration have confirmed that their Border Management System will look at the number of days spent in Bermuda in the last twelve months. For many this will come as a surprise because it had been generally anticipated that the policy would only look forward from 15 January 2024.
What will this mean for visitors who have reached or exceeded the 180-day limit in the last 12 months and remain in Bermuda as of 15 January 2024? The Department of Immigration have made it clear that those individuals must leave Bermuda immediately and will not be able to return for another six months. For those considering circumventing the new rules, they risk being put on a ‘stop list’ and having their entry into Bermuda banned for a ‘specified period of time’. The Department of Immigration have not set out what a ‘specified period of time’ means but one imagines that the circumstances of each circumvention will be taken into account when determining the appropriate period for each individual.
For those visitors who need to spend more time in Bermuda because of, for example, a pre-existing relationship, then there are several routes they can consider. They can make an application to be put on their partner’s work permit as a ‘Sponsored Dependant’. Under section 5 of the Department of Immigration’s Work Permit policy from March 2015, one has to show that they have been living with either a Bermudian, PRC Holder or work permit holder in a relationship ‘akin to a marriage’ for at least two (2) years prior to the date of the application. The Department of Immigration state that “this is not an absolute guideline and is indicative only” with each case being determined on its own merits. Factors such as joint financial responsibilities and children are considered.
Another option is to apply for a digital nomad visa. The application requires that the applicant is over the age of 18, pays a fee of BM$275, has not been convicted of a crime, possesses valid health insurance coverage, is able to demonstrate employment either with a legitimate company or has their own company outside of Bermuda, and has a substantial income or a continuous source of income. The turn around for a digital nomad visa is only 5 business days.
Other options to reside include the Economic Investment Certificate which requires a “Qualifying Investment” of at least BM$2.5m or making an application for permission to reside on an annual basis, however the individual is not given permission to seek employment in Bermuda. These options are more likely to be appealing to higher net worth individuals.
In summary, there are likely to be a number of people currently on island who will be significantly impacted by the BIPA amendment, but after all, the vast majority of countries, including the UK, USA and in the European Union, have similar tight immigration controls and the Department of Immigration’s message is clear: if you have reached 180 days or more in the last 12 months, leave immediately or face the consequences.
First Published in the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce Newsletter (Chamber Insider), January 2024