One-year residency attracts tech interest
Bermuda's offer to invite international remote workers to stay on the island for a year is already attracting interest from the technology industry.
The new policy was announced last Friday by Jason Hayward, the labour minister, and an article published by Bloomberg News the next day helped to spread the word to the global business community.
A marketing blitz is now being planned by the Bermuda Tourism Authority and Bermuda Business Development Agency, with the main focus on North American cities. The policy will take effect from August 1.
Roland Andy Burrows, chief executive of the BDA, said the announcement had been “extremely well received by our international stakeholders”.
Mr Burrows said: “Since the announcement, we have seen increased traffic to our website from San Francisco and London, two global tech hubs, and we also have tech executives — both on and off island — ready to share information with their networks who are asking for more details.
“Technology is an evident sector that can take advantage of this new policy, complementing the island's ongoing economic diversification strategy, in addition to a number of other industries, in financial services and international business, where remote working is now the norm.”
He added: “It not only puts Bermuda in a positive position on the international stage, it is good for the domestic economy.”
Remote working has been a growing trend for some time, Mr Burrows added, and it was a topic of discussions at last year's Bermuda Tech Week.
The one-year residential certificate policy was announced by Mr Hayward in a virtual session of the House of Assembly.
Also eligible will be foreign students who, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic closing campuses elsewhere, are doing university and college courses online.
In addition, the maximum stay period for all visitors is to be extended from 90 days to 180 days.
Workers approved for the programme must have health insurance and be employed by a “legitimate” overseas firm or their own company.
Glenn Jones, interim CEO of the BTA, said the residency certificate was likely to be marketed in cities including New York, Boston, Hartford, Providence, Washington, Atlanta, Miami, Toronto and Philadelphia.
Mr Jones said the Government's new policies aligned with ideas that had been discussed for several weeks.
“Earlier this month the BTA assembled a working group comprised of the BDA, along with tourism industry stakeholders, to collectively explore opportunities around ‘digital nomads' and other extended-stay visits.
“Our goal was to research and recommend to government leaders what policy changes may be needed to attract this audience.
“Before we could even set up a meeting to advance the issue with policymakers, government officials shared a draft policy with us. Since that moment about a week ago, we have hit the ground running.
“When minister Hayward announced the policy on Friday morning, we had the Premier on the phone with a reporter from Bloomberg on Friday afternoon.”
He added that this week the BTA and BDA were working on a communications and outreach plan to align with the Ministry of Labour's progress.
Mr Jones said: “At the end of this week, our working group will reconvene to talk about how we make the traveller's transition to Bermuda as frictionless as possible, once an applicant is approved.
“Ultimately, we don't know how many hotel room nights or vacation rental stays will result from this policy, but we firmly believe this is good for Bermuda, good for the local economy. So we're all in.”
The Bloomberg article suggested that Bermuda was “pitching itself as a refuge as Covid-19 cases continue to climb in other countries and upend rules about where people can work”.
David Burt, the Premier, told Bloomberg: “The world is changing, and we want people we consider long-term visitors to come to Bermuda.”
He spoke of the island's success in so far limiting the spread of the pandemic and added: “Unlike places where you have to worry about going to the supermarket, here we have very clear rules.”
Mr Burt added that Bermuda had a history of temporary residencies for foreigners, having long offered one-year certificates to retirees.
The Premier added that “2020 is a year of innovation all around — we're innovating to be responsive to the demands of people around the world”.