Relocating from US to Turks and Caicos - help needed
March 23, 2013 11:36 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I will soon be relocating to the Turks and Caicos. Specifically Providenciales. We've visited the island once and plan to do so at least once more, but probably twice more, to gather more information regarding employment, accommodations and basic living information. We are much too young to retire and would need to obtain full employment fairly quickly in order to become self sufficient. We are not expecting to replace the large home and lifestyle that is typical here in the US, but rather a much smaller and basic way of life. Continue reading...

I'm finding it quite difficult to locate employment opportunities and apartment/home rental listings online. We are both professionals in our respective occupations. One in middle school education, the other in construction/renovation. Other skills include property management, computer repair, technical support and networking support. While it would be nice to find something in similar fields, we of course would embrace new employment opportunities along with our new location.

I’m hoping someone here, perhaps an expat, can point us in the right direction as far as obtaining information resources, forums or specific contacts to aide us in our relocation efforts.

Thank you so much for your help.
posted by Jackie_Treehorn to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
TCI Mall is pretty much the main source of local information. I can probably suggest some folks to connect with on Provo if you MeMail me.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:03 PM on March 23, 2013

Umm... you entire sure this is legal? TCI is part of the UK, and last I checked, US citizens can't just move to the UK and start working. The UK is a bit better about handing out visas than the US is, but that's hardly saying much. TCI seems to handle its own visas and work permits, rather than relying upon the UK Border Agency, but there absolutely are hoops you're going to have to jump through here. You don't need a visa, but you do need a work permit, and even if you can get the latter (which brief investigation suggests is not that difficult) there are apparently many jobs reserved for TCI citizens.

Muck about with TCI's immigration website. You're really going to need to understand this before you can do much about getting a job.
posted by valkyryn at 1:05 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm an expat who has been working in the TCI for a number of years. Work VISA's aren't managed or handled by the UK at all, only by the local government, and they've become a great deal harder to get and renew in the last few years.

This is probably all going to sound like a downer, but you can't really just move to the island, tourist visas give you 90 days on the ground at best then you can hopefully get a 30 day extension, or more likely it's just easier to bounce to Miami and back (several hundred dollars unfortunately) and obviously immigration can get very testy if you try that too many times-- unless you for instance have family who are legally here, which can justify it. Either way, you'll be expected to have a return flight within that window each time you visit. They can also just turn you around at the airport if they think you're here primarily to find work, or are potentially working illegally here.

If you buy a house you can apply for a permanent resident visa, which will allow you to live here without restriction, but not work, you can't just rent and get a permanent residency.

To work, essentially, you need a skill-set that can't be had on island. If a company wants an expat to work for them, they need to first advertise the job locally to give islanders first dibs, if an islander is turned down by the business for lack of specific skills or experience, the labour board has to agree with that decision (and can overrule the business), then the job can fall to expats. So even if you find a business who likes you, and even creates a role for you, then theres no guarantee they'll actually be able to employ you.

Jobs are generally work of mouth, but our business uses various agencies in the UK and USA if the local talent isn't available, because no-one knows the TCI, I think they're often just advertised as 'Caribbean', other businesses may do the same. Businesses are legally obligated to advertise expat jobs as the work permits (generally yearly) are up for renewal, so if you look at the TCI Free Press you'll see a lot of job advertisements, but generally they are essentially for jobs that are already taken, but are there so an islander can apply for the job, if no islanders apply, then the work permit for that expat can be renewed, they're not actually looking for other expats.

I'm tempted to say that property management is a protected industry, so only islanders can do that job-- but I might be wrong and it's just the buy/sell realty sector that is. I'd also be tempted to say the middle-school experienced one would have an initial better chance of success. Construction is still pretty stagnant, but things are starting to look up and there is talk of some big hotels and resorts in the pipeline. There's only a few schools, so I'd start by reaching out to them.

Just on your note of a more basic way of life-- I love this island, it's beautiful and the community is great, and the life work balance is much better then in the city, I've never regretted moving here, but I wouldn't call it basic. It's incredibly expensive compared to the USA, you'll need a car, and optimistically assume everything is 50% more expensive, but for things like electricity you're looking at 500-600% what you'd pay in the states, add in the hot climate, and it's a ring stinger.

Drop me a memail and I'll do my best to help, and point you in the right directions.
posted by Static Vagabond at 3:41 PM on March 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Thank you Static Vagabond for the time and the detailed information. I'll certainly keep you in mind and will memail you at some point.

You are right. That's a real downer for sure. I'm afraid without being able to easily, or even likely to obtain work, this dream is grounded without even getting off the ground. We could potentially sell our modest home here in the states, as opposed to renting it out for any easy return should we want/need to. This would allow us the funds to purchase a home on Provo, or at least go towards a down payment, if that's how purchases are arranged there. But we would certainly need to be able to be fully employed to carry forward. And from your information, even if we did indeed find employment, it could potentially be taken away from us on a yearly basis. That is something that we just couldn't risk.

I do agree that the middle-school experience would carry more weight and perhaps be more useful than my construction and property management background. I'd be hard pressed to think that we would be able to obtain work permits before arriving.

I'm not giving up, but I'm a little deflated.
posted by Jackie_Treehorn at 8:02 PM on March 23, 2013

There are a lot of other Caribbean islands you could look into relocating to if it's turquoise waters and white sand you want.
posted by Dansaman at 9:23 PM on March 23, 2013

There are a lot of other Caribbean islands you could look into relocating to if it's turquoise waters and white sand you want.

Like, say, the U.S. Virgin Islands. As a US insular area, you don't need any paperwork whatsoever. Not even a passport. You can rent an apartment and start looking for work tomorrow, if you had a mind to.

But most of the advice about the employment market applicable to TCI is going to apply to the USVI, and heck, most of the Caribbean islands in general. Namely, the communities are really small and highly networked with a distinct bias against outsiders, costs are high and pay is low, life moves at a drastically slower pace than on the mainland, and a surprisingly high percentage of jobs have something to do with tourism.

First-hand experience: My family and I vacationed on one of the Bahamian out islands when I was in high school. There are about 300 people who live on the island year-round, most of whom belong to one of two families. There are two stores on the island, and which one you go to depends on which family you belong to. It would be almost impossible for an outsider to find a job there. I can't for the life of me figure out what the people who do live there do for a living. There's apparently a shipbuilding industry of some sort.

Oh, and if one were suddenly transported there with no external frame of reference, one could easily be excused for assuming that the date was 1963 instead of 2013. If they have the internet at all, it's via satellite or dial-up. In general, only about a third of the population of the Caribbean uses the internet on a regular basis.

Now granted, this cay is little more than a dot on most maps, but a place like St. Thomas or St. John is going to be a difference in degree, not kind. The USVI have a combined population of just over 100k. The TCI have a population of under 50k. There's just not a whole heck of a lot going on, and those few jobs that they do have need of they don't need many of.

If it helps, try to think of your standard Caribbean island as a high-tech version of a mid-nineteenth-century US frontier town in, say, western Nebraska. The main difference is that islanders have access to petroleum products, modern medicine, and cell phones. But in both places, the population isn't very big, traveling to the next town is an enormous hassle and there's almost nothing between here and there, and almost everything one needs other than food (and even some of that) has to be imported. Heck, that's not very different from some towns in western Nebraska even today. The weather in the Caribbean sure is nicer, as is the landscape, but the economy in both places is kind of anemic. Unemployment is chronically high, and GDP per capita is less than a quarter what it is in the US. Combine that with higher living expenses and you get a place where more people than you'd expect are basically impoverished.

My suggestion? Try to come up with something to do before you up and move. Whether it's finding a job with an existing business (e.g., property manager for a hotel/resort) or setting up one of your own (you can start a sight-seeing outfit for remarkably little capital), this may be a better angle than trying to get a job like you would on the mainland.
posted by valkyryn at 11:58 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

TCI is considering changing its curriculum to an international baccalaureate, which may mean they will need teachers.

However, government has been so screwed up there for the past five years or so that it's hard to tell if anything will change.

Corrupt and incompetent government is also one of the major factors inhibiting economic growth on the island, save for tourism.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:11 AM on March 27, 2013

« Older What's the sense in the marriage tax penalty?   |   Looking for under-$60 headphones with detachable... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.