In July 2020, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley scored a notable PR win in announcing a one-year visa for people wishing to work remotely from her island nation. The message could not have been better timed. It came as parts of Europe – including one of Barbados’s biggest visitor markets, Britain – had started to emerge from their 100-day-plus Covid lockdown into a mediocre summer.
Officially known as the Remote Employment Bill, the legislation allows people from around the world to live and work remotely for up to a year on the island with a special visa. It’s not an extended holiday and it does not offer Barbadian jobs to foreigners. In essence, people who can work remotely - and can prove their earnings and produce a valid passport - can apply for the visa to do that remote work on the island of Barbados.
The global response has been “What’s not to like?” Pictures of people with laptops on the beach (if you’ve ever tried this, it’s not as good an idea as you might think) accompanied the media message in many papers around the world. News outlets seemed to queue up to interview media-friendly Mia Mottley.
Caribbean Intelligence has rounded up some of the Mottley messages on the 12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp and the coverage from some of the world’s media (and yes, we might consider applying too!)
- In early July, the New York Post ran an article including a Barbados Tourism Authority promotional video. It stated: “If you’ve ever dreamed of living in an island paradise, that fantasy could now become a reality. As remote working becomes the new normal, Barbados is hoping to turn its beaches, adjacent to crystal-blue waters, into your new outdoor office.”
- The Scotsman newspaper provided some fact-checking for the offer. The paper said: “If you love the idea of spending your work days on the beach, rather than the sofa, but are worried about the safety aspects of living in Barbados, here are some reassuring facts: The number of coronavirus cases and fatalities is extremely low in comparison to that of the UK, with only 98 recorded infections and seven deaths. Safety measures currently in place to protect the country include mandatory face masks for all incoming visitors as well as coronavirus testing at the airports.”
- London’s Evening Standard reported the offer as “Always dreamed of swapping your London flat for the Caribbean on your doorstep? Now’s your chance.”
- Lonely Planet said: “For many people, the shift to remote working is becoming permanent because of the coronavirus, which is all well and good if you have the means to work comfortably from home. But if not, and you're craving a change of scene, the blue skies of Barbados are calling your name with this incentive for digital nomads.”
- Prime Minister Mottley was interviewed by Britain’s ITV channel programme Good Morning Britain. During her interview, she also had a chance to discuss the CARICOM position on debt, slavery and reparations. On the remote visa offer, the programme later tweeted that “Prime Minister @miaamormottley has proposed the 'Barbados Welcome Stamp' scheme which would give visitors the option to work remotely in the country for a year at a time. Team GMB are on their way!” The tweet included a smiley face wearing sunglasses.
- By mid-July, the American media had warmed to the story. The New York Caribbean News described the offer as an “incentive to attract visitors from overseas to stay an entire year”.
- NBC News said: “Tired of lockdown? Barbados tempts remote workers with 12-month visas.”
- Harpers Bazaar said that “Working remotely never sounded so dreamy .... Barbados wants you to work remotely from the beach – for a year”.
- Of course, there have been some indications of one of the possible downsides of post-lockdown travel. Barbados Today reported towards the end of July that one of the newly-returning British Airways flights to Barbados had landed to find that a 76-year-old passenger had been tested positive for the coronavirus. He was placed in mandatory quarantine, as were a number of other passengers who had been setting near him on the flight, in line with the island’s protocol for contact tracing.
- People talk about a good idea whose time has come. Well, it wasn’t long before word came of other Caribbean nations considering remote working offers. The Antigua News Room website reported that the Antigua & Barbuda cabinet had been mulling a residency programme to allow visitors to work remotely in Antigua for two years or more.
- Referring to announcements from Antigua and also from Bermuda to consider similar visa arrangements, Barbados Attorney General Dale Marshall told parliament during debate on the visa legislation that the other schemes had come within two weeks of the Barbadian announcement. He wrapped up debate on the remote employment bill hailing “all the publicity we have been getting all over the world”.
- Wasting no time, Prime Minister Mottley said that she planned to start processing applications from the weekend of 25 July, anticipating parliamentary approval. Final details indicate that successful applications will pay a fee of US$2,000 and must provide proof of a minimum income of US$50,000.