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Want to move to the Caribbean. Suggestions?

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I have the opportunity to work remotely for my job. I'd like to move to the Caribbean, I think. I used to live in Okinawa, Japan, and while I know that it won't be the same, I know I love island living.

Here are the main things I want:

Scuba diving
Beautiful beaches
Affordable (I could pay about $1500 USD/mo for rent)
Entertainment - I'm a young, single guy, and I need some night life
Reliable electricity and internet (need it for my job)

I don't speak Spanish, but I'll be happy to learn it.

I'm going to make a visit before I move, of course. I'd appreciate any suggestions on places to check out.

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    Oh, another requirement is that it be low on violent crime. I don't mind petty theft and stuff like that, but it's important to me to be safe from armed theft, murder, etc.

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    You already have a job and don't need to find work, right? If that's the case, you may look into Grenada and St. Kitts. Grenada has a large medical school and there are lots of young American/Europeans there along with the local folks. There is decent nightlife as long as you know where to look.

    St. Kitts has a large Vet school so there is a contingent of young adults there as well...also, nightlife if you know where to look.

    I don't scuba dive, but I know it's available...I think the beaches on both are beautiful...don't know too much about the affordability of the rent, but that seems doable...I've never experienced a blackout or internet problems in either location in my many visits.

    No need to learn spanish...

    Good luck in your search!

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    Without knowing your current citizenship status it is difficult to give you specific advise.

    Moving to the Caribbean is no different than moving to any foreign country - meaning unless you have citizen status on that particular island you can't just show up one day and expect to take up permanant residency. The process can be complex but I'll try to sum it up briefly.

    As a non-citizen of a particular island you have to apply for residency and, if granted, that only gives you the right to live on the island. Generally speaking having residency does not allow you to work on the island unless you are granted a Work Permit (these can be difficult to get).

    Normally to gain residency a person would have to make an investment in land or a business that creates jobs for the locals. The amount of the investment varies from island to island and can range from $100,000US to as much as $500,000US.

    So what does this mean to you?

    If you are a US citizen you can easily move to Puerto Rico, Culebra Vieques or any of the US Virgin Islands as they are all US Territories and your citizenship status is valid on those islands. If you are not a US Citizen the same rules that apply for immigration into the US mainland will apply on those islands.

    If you are a citizen of a European Union nation you can easily take up residence on one of the French Islands (St. Martin, St. Barths, Guadaluope, Martinique). If you are a Dutch citizen then you can easily relocate to one of the Dutch islands.

    The British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, St. Kitts, Nevis, Grenada, St. Vincent & the Grenadines are all independatnt islands so regardless of your citizenship you'd have to apply for residency.

    Do your research to determine if there are any islands where you might have citizenship status. If you are fortunate to find some concentrate your efforts there as that will be the easiest and least costly option to you. Regardless of what island you plan to reside on check out the USVI's Relocation website and forum (www.vimovingcenter.com) for a wealth of information about relocating to and living on those islands. Much of what is written there applies to just about every island. It's a must read for anyone contemplating a move to the Caribbean.

    Next check out the official government website for any of the islands where you might want to reside. They will usually have a section that outlines the legal steps necessary to immigrate to that island. Every Caribbean island is different so do personal research to determine which ones appeal to you. Don't rely on others to pick the spot where you plan to live.

    Once you decided which island might be best for you plan on making a Pre-move visit (PMV) so you get the "lay of the land", during this visit don't stay in a resort and don't act as though you are on vacation. Instead stay in a housekeeping unit, do everyday chores, go grocery shopping, check out living conditions, see what it's like to stand in line at the phone company or electric company waiting to pay your monthly bill (after all you'll be doing that on a regular basis after you move) - in other words try to approximate daily life so you'll know if island life is for you.

    Remember living on an island is not better or worse than where you know live, it's just different.

    Lastly, if you decide to relocate to an island where you don't have citizenship status hire a local attorney who is well versed in the immigration procedures for that island to assist you. The process is often long and filled with lots of "red-tape".

    Good luck following your dream.

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    Just as a follow-up to caribqueen's suggestions -

    St. Kitts is an independant island (it's a Federation with Nevis) and is one of the islands that requires persons seeking residency to invest in property or a business. The last time I checked the amount required was $250,000US (it could be more now).

    The students she referred to are there on Student Visa's and are not "residents". They must leave after completing their studies.

    I believe the same holds true for Grenada but it's been almost 15 years since I check the immigration laws for that island and the regulations might have change a bit.

    You should know that unless you have citizenship or residency status most islands will only grant you a visitor's visa (for 30, 60 or 90 days at a time - varies from island to island) and you will not be allowed to stay for more than a total of 6 months in any one calendar year.

    You'll get plenty of "advice" from well meaning people who will tell you don't need residency status and it's OK to stay for your 6 months, leave the island for a few days and come back and "start all over" but I assure you that is not legal. The immigration officials on most islands watch those kind of things verty carefully and it's the easiest way to get deported.

    I know this for a fact as I've seen it happen.

    Take it from someone who is a US citizen but who has residency on a Caribbean island - you want to do it legally.

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    To further add:

    It's costs money to have residency if not purchasing property-usually $1000 plus (I've seen up to $50,000!!) Plus you have to renew your work VISA annually, which I've seen can average $7000 a year.

    The biggest consideration also for Caribbean, is Islanders have rights to jobs first-that means your employer has to prove an Islander can not do the job.

    If you want to be a bartender, you're probably out of luck-if you want to be a Dive Master-better luck.

    Other ideas-apply to a company, such as a resort, construction, etc., they will pay for work permits, etc, plus get you in.

    Keep in mind, Caribbean in general is expensive to live-everything has to be imported, and all imports have 30% + taxes to boot-so everything from housing to groceries may be up to 3 times what your used too.

    You may want to consider Mexico-especially around Cozumel. I do not know the requirements for them, but it's alot cheaper to live.

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    Hey everyone, thanks for the answers so far. Some quick notes before I run off to work:

    1. I'm a US citizen
    2. I already have a job, I won't be looking for one. I'd work remotely for a US-based company
    3. I intend to live there for at least a couple years

    Based on RoamsAround's replies, I might want to consider VI and PR most. How viable are other places like Cayman Islands or Aruba?

    Also, I'd be interested in other tropical places not necessarily in the Caribbean. I'm just not totally sure of what those places are yet!

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    All right, as a US citizen PR, Culebra, Vieques and the USVI's are your easiest options since you already have US Citizenship. Moving there is just like moving across town from where you now like - only difference is cost of your transportation. Go to the USVI relocation website I mentioned - take the time (you'll need days or weeks for this as besides the basics there are litterally thousands of threads on the forum) to read everything there and you'll know what's in store for you.

    FYI - Puerto Rico is fairly built up so unless you plan to reside in parts of the island that are of the beaten path you may find living there pretty much like living in any mid-size US mainland city. Culebra and Vieques are not as developed so expect a more rustic life if you choose either of those. St. John is a very expensive island. St. thomas more crowded and St. Croix a bit more laid back.

    Keep in mind living expenses in PR and the USVI's (as well as throughout most of the Caribbean)will probably be higher than where you now live so unless you expect to be able to increas your earning power as a result of your move you may have to reduce your standard of living.

    The Caymans are "very expensive" islands and the immigration rules are pretty much as outlined in my earlier post. Aruba is less expensive (but not by much) and similar immigration rules apply.

    Also, regarding your ability to "work from home" on some islands that will still constitute "working on the island" and will require that you obtain a Work Permit or establishing a business that will employ locals or at the very least require you to have a "local" as a partner. Check with the local government authorities before making any commitments. That's why it's important to hire an local attorney if you are contemplating immigration to an island (country) where you are not already a citizen or have residency status.

    Lastly, other tropical areas you might consider are Belize, Roatan and Costa Rica -the cost of living in those places is likely to be lower than the mainstrean Caribbean islands.

    If you decide to relocate to somewhere other than PR or the USVI's keep in mind you are dealing with significant legal issues here so don't rely too heavily on the advice you receive on a travel forum. Save yourself a lot of headaches and get immigration advice directly from the government of the country where you are planning to live and (I've said this before) HIRE A LOCAL ATTORNEY. I can't stress this point enough.

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    What about just being an extended tourist? Can't you stay 6 months on almost any island as a tourist? If you would just go home to the States every six months, or even travel on to another island every six months, you might be able to get around that. I definitely agree with others, though, that you get real legal advice and not just anecdotal advice like we're giving here.

    I second the suggestion of Grenada. There are quite a few budget apartments with cooking facilities whose daily rates would put you under $1500/month, and you could certainly negotiate a lower rent. I've stayed at the Spice Tree Suites and found them just lovely--if you could negotiate a good monthly rate it would be hard to do better, as they offer high speed internet access, satellite tv, full kitchen, a/c in the bedrooms, and a very nice ambience.

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    ejcrowe - Of course, a person could pick up stakes every 6 months to return home or move on to another island but that's not what pergesu was trying to accomplish. He wants to live full time (for several years, at least) in the Caribbean.

    As for trying use the 6 months rule as a way of getting around the residency requirements that's an oversimplfication.

    On most islands when arriving as a tourist you will be asked how long you intend to stay. Even if you say 6 months in all probability you will only be granted a 30 day or 60 day visa. If you wish to extend your stay you have to apply a few days before your original visitor's visa expires and you may be granted extentions in 30 day increments up to a maximum of 6 months. There is usually a fee for each extention and there are never any guarantees a specific extentions will be granted. Many times, if you are requesting extended stays you will be asked to provide proof that you have an onward ticket and the financial means to support yourself. This is where a person trying to take up residence illegally can run into difficulties, i.e. proving financial stability without income derived from work.

    Assuming you stay for a full 6 months you may not be allowed back into the country for a pre-determined period of time (varies from island to island.

    While it is theoretically possible to remain on an island for about year by staying the last 6 months during one calendar year, leaving for a brief time and returning for the first 6 months of the following calendar that is not really going to fool the immigration officials. The government and immigration officials on most islands are not "stupid" - they have seen all the "tricks" numerous times and are not fooled by them. Remember, most islands have computer records showing the commings and goings of all visitors. It won't take them long to figure out what you are trying to get around the system. If caught violating the immigration laws you will be deported very quickly. That's not a risk one should take lightly.

    As I mentioned earlier post there are always people who will tell you ways to "beat the system" or that they know someone who overstayed their visa with no ranifications but those people are doing it illegally and the consequences, when they are caught (and they eventually will be caught) are dramatic indeed.

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    We (my wife and I) picked up and moved from New Jersey to Puerto Rico ... quit jobs and sold everything. We're on year #5 of a "5 to 10 year plan" with no regrets and no plans of moving back any time soon.

    We moved here knowing only limited high school Spanish, and have managed quite nicely.

    It's true that parts of the island are no different that living in the States.

    Let me know if there are any specific questions I can answer for you.

    // Ray

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    To be clear on this...since I'm a US citizen, I could move to VI and not have this whole 6-month dilemma, or have to deal with immigration and stuff like that?

    Also, what's the deal with income taxes? I've done some googling but am unable to fully understand it. I saw something that said that VI exempts most US taxes completely, and 90% of US income tax. So does that mean my income would be nearly tax-free living there?

    For example, let's say I make $100k/yr (I don't, but it makes the math easy :), how much would I expect to pay in taxes? In the US I would pay roughly $35k.

    Thanks a lot for all of the information, everyone. It's been very helpful. I'm sure I'll have more questions soon :)

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    Moving to the USVI is like moving to any state in the US. No immigration or work visas are necessary. You will need to get a new driver's license if you plan to stay for more than 60 days. Residents of the USVI are subject to the same federal income taxes as those living in other states. There is no sales tax in the USVI. Liquor, gas, tobacco, etc. avoid the federal tariffs and taxes. You would be living in what is considered a "duty-free" environment! Don't get too excited, however, as the cost of living is on par with many of the more expensive areas in the US. Check out St. Croix as it is the most "livable" of all the USVI, in my opinion. St. John is the nicest, but it would be difficult to find a place for $1,500, I imagine.

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    pergesu - If you are considering a move to the USVI do as RoamsAround suggests and go to the USVI relocation website (www.www.vimovingcenter.com) as you'll find very detailed answers to ALL your questions. Every conceivable topic (taxes, cost of living, job opportunities, sating, activities, internet availability, electricity and utility matters, transportation, housing, bill paying, daily life, etc., etc., etc. has been discussed there ad nauseum.

    Also, get a copy of The Settler's Handbook(available on that website or on-line at places like Amazon.com. It's a must read for anyone contemplating a move to the USVI's.

    Not to sound abrupt but Fodor's is a Travel Forum and while some contributors like myself, Blamona and RoamsAround have first hand knowledge of the complexities of relocation to the Caribbean the majority do not. On the relocation website there are hundreds of posters who have "been there, done that". You'd be remiss if you don't go to that website and pick their brains - they are all very willing to help. One more point is you'll get responses there that "tell it like it really is".

    Good luck!

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