Establishing a company in the British Virgin Islands

The British Virgin Islands belong to an island group in the western regions of the Atlantic Ocean, termed the “Virgin Islands archipelago”, located east of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and west of Anguilla. The major islands in the archipelago include Tortola (the largest and most central island and also home to the capital city Road Town), Jost Van Dyke, and Virginia Gorda. The rest of the islands are divided between British and American rule. Per capita GDP is relatively high due to an extremely active financial services sector, particularly designed for the establishment of foreign and offshore companies.

The British Virgin Islands are comprised of 50 islands, only 15 of which are inhabited. The population is around 32,000, primarily centered on the central island of Tortola. Every year more than a million tourists flock to the region, enjoying the various tourist attractions: the famous Virgin Gorda “Baths”, and an opportunity to scuba dive in the spectacular coral reefs along Anegada’s beaches.
Government authority of the islands is stable, with executive authority of Queen Elizabeth II exercised through the island governor. Government positions are decided by democratic elections.

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Three things you did not know about the British Virgin Islands:

  • In 1917 the U.S. purchased three of the islands for 25 million USD, changing their name to "Virgin Islands of the United States". Consequently, the British changed the name of the islands under their jurisdiction to the “British Virgin Islands”.
  • A 2000 survey commissioned by the British government and conducted by KPMG revealed that 41% of all offshore companies registered worldwide during that year were established in the British Virgin Islands.
  • In the 16th century, pirates sailed rampantly across the waters surrounding the islands.

The British Virgin Islands’s economy

The tourist industry constitutes a major contribution to local economy (45% of all state revenues) and provides the majority of employment for residents. The financial services sector is equally important, and revenues generated from the registration and administration of offshore businesses, as well as the taxes submitted by the local employees of this sector, produce 51% of all British Virgin Islands income.

Foreign companies wishing to establish a business on the islands must submit to several restrictions; among other things, they are not permitted to hold any assets in the state, excluding rented office accommodations, and they may not be active in areas of banking, trusts or insurance (unless registered specifically under the 1990 Banks and Trust Companies Act).

Additional information about establishing offshore companies in British Virgin Islands:

General
Type of company
BC – Business Company
Relevant Companies Law
BVI Business Companies Act (2004), The Companies Act (Cap. 285), BVI Business Companies (Amendment) Act, 2012
Offices
Law requires companies to provide a local office address
Language of original incorporation documents
English
Finance and Taxation
Currency
USD
Corporate tax rate
0%
Standard share capital
50,000 USD in nominal value shares
Office Holders
Secretary
Obligation to appoint company secretary
Not required – the company appoint a secretary
Obligation to appoint local secretary
Not required
Type of entity that may function as company secretary
Individual and/or company
Director
Obligation to appoint company director
Required
Obligation to appoint local company director
Not required
Minimum number of directors
1
Type of entity that may serve as company director
Individual and/or company
Shareholders
Obligation to register shareholders
Required
Obligation to register local shareholders
None
Minimum number of shareholders
Minimum – 1, maximum – 50 (that are not company em
Type of entity that may register as shareholder
Individual and/or company
Type of shares
Registered shares and/or bearer shares
Accessibility of Information
Company registrar
Information regarding office holders is not accessible to the public
Annual Assembly and Reporting
Obligation to hold annual assembly
Not required
Obligation to prepare financial reports
Required
Obligation to submit financial reports
Not required