GUIDE TO ESTABLISHING AN OFFICE IN BERMUDA

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1 GUIDE TO ESTABLISHING AN OFFICE IN BERMUDA CONTENTS PREFACE 1 1. Real Property 2 2. Employment & Immigration 2 3. Taxation 5 4. Benefits 6 5. Compliance 6 6. Conclusion 7

2 PREFACE This Guide aims to assist those considering moving to and establishing an office in Bermuda. It broadly discusses Bermuda law and practice and is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact any member of our team using the contact information provided at the end of this Guide should any questions arise. We strongly suggest that our clients seek legal advice specific to their situation before undertaking any plans to move to or open an office in Bermuda. Appleby Bermuda May 2015 applebyglobal.com 1

3 1. REAL PROPERTY 1.1 Office Space As a general rule, only local or exempted companies (as defined in the Companies Act 1981) are permitted to purchase land or buildings in Bermuda. A non-bermudian company may seek special permission from the Government in order to purchase land or buildings, though in practice this type of permission is usually granted to long-standing non-bermudian companies that make a significant contribution to the Bermudian economy. Whilst a non-bermudian company generally cannot own a freehold interest in property in Bermuda, it can lease commercial property for up to 50 years for purposes relating to the business and can lease residential property for up to 21 years for purposes of providing accommodation or recreational facilities for employees. It is possible for a non-bermudian company to enter into a contract with an existing business in Bermuda, such as our associated service company, Appleby Services (Bermuda) Ltd., for the purpose of leasing a limited amount of office space. However, special permission is required should a non-bermudian company decide to sublet their office space or enter into a space-sharing agreement. 1.2 Accommodation Non-Bermudians will require a licence to acquire property and only certain properties are available for purchase by non-bermudians. Properties in Bermuda are categorised by their annual rental value (ARV) assigned by the Government. As matters currently stand, freehold properties with an ARV in excess of $177,000 1 and condominiums with an ARV in excess of $32,400 are available for purchase by non- Bermudians. The fee for a licence to acquire property is currently 8% of the purchase price for a freehold property and 6% of the purchase price for a condominium. A licence is also required for a non-bermudian to enter into a lease or tenancy agreement for a term extending beyond five years or having a right of renewal which might extend the term beyond this period. Local advice should be sought in this complex area should any non-bermudian wish to purchase property in Bermuda 1.3 Land Tax Generally, the owner of property in Bermuda is responsible for paying land tax. However, if property is leased for three years or longer, the lessee is deemed the owner of the property for land tax purposes and is therefore responsible for payment of the annual land tax. Land tax on residential property is calculated on a progressive scale based on the ARV. Land tax on commercial properties is a flat rate of 5.5% of the ARV. Land tax is paid twice a year in Bermuda. 2. EMPLOYMENT & IMMIGRATION 2.1 The Employment Act The principal statute governing employment relations is the Employment Act 2000 (Employment Act) which sets out minimum prescribed requirements that must be observed by employers. The following is a summary of the responsibilities of an employer within Bermuda s current regulatory environment. 1 This figure is subject to change as the current law is in the process of being amended, which may result in the ARV threshold being reduced to $153,000 for freehold properties. applebyglobal.com 2

4 Statement of Employment Under the Employment Act, an employer must provide a Statement of Employment (Statement) to each employee. The Statement must contain: the full name of the employer and employee; the employee s commencement date; the job title and brief description of the employee s job; the place of work; the gross wage, including the method of calculating it and pay periods; normal days and hours of employment; holiday entitlement, including public holidays; terms relating to incapacity for work through sickness and injury; length of notice the employee must give or receive with respect to termination; details of any pension provided; disciplinary/grievance procedure; the duration of employment/whether it is intended to be permanent; any probationary period; and dress codes. If there are no particulars regarding the last four points, that fact should be noted in the Statement. It should be noted that the Statement is not a contract of employment. We recommend that the employer and employee enter into a contract of employment for the protection of both parties. Vacations Under the Employment Act, each employee is entitled to two weeks of paid annual vacation after one year of continuous employment. Further, an employee is entitled to a week s remuneration for each week of annual vacation. Such remuneration must be paid in advance of the vacation, if so requested. Sick Leave An employee is entitled to eight days of paid sick leave after one year of continuous employment. The employee is not entitled to be paid for sick leave exceeding two consecutive days unless he provides his employer with a certificate from a registered medical practitioner upon the request of the employer. Ante-Natal Care A pregnant employee who, upon the advice of a medical practitioner, makes an appointment to receive ante-natal care is entitled to time off to attend the appointment. Upon the request of the employer, the employee must produce a certificate from a registered medical practitioner confirming her pregnancy, and an appointment card confirming the appointment. If the employee has completed one complete year of employment, she is entitled to her normal hourly wage in respect of any such absence. applebyglobal.com 3

5 Maternity Leave An employee shall be entitled to maternity leave if she provides her employer with a medical certificate certifying that she is pregnant and specifying the estimated date of birth. If the employee has completed one year of continuous employment, she is entitled to twelve weeks of maternity leave; eight weeks paid leave and four weeks unpaid leave. In the event that the employee has not completed one year of continuous employment prior to her expected date of delivery, she is entitled to eight weeks of unpaid leave. 2.2 Immigration and Work Permits Every non-bermudian employee requires a work permit, which is issued by the Department of Immigration. In general, the Department of Immigration will only issue a work permit to non-bermudian if no suitably qualified Bermudian, Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) holder or spouse of a Bermudian seeks the position. In order to determine whether there is a suitably qualified Bermudian, PRC holder or spouse of a Bermudian available for the position, the employer is required to advertise the position locally in accordance with the Department of Immigration Work Permit Policy. It is possible to have the requirement to advertise waived in certain situations, including for chief officer roles. The cost of a permit depends on the type of permit sought and the period for which it is issued. Please enquire for the current schedule of fees. The types of permits are summarised below. Standard Work Permit A company may make an application for a standard work permit to employ a non-bermudian for a fixed term of up to five years, with a three year permit being the most common. This process usually takes up to 20 working days from the date of submission of the application, but in cases where additional information or clarification is required the process may be extended. Short Term Work Permit A company may make an application for a short term work permit to employ an individual to work for a period of up to six months. At the conclusion of the term, the holder will be expected to leave Bermuda, unless an extension has been sought within the proper processing period. Global Work Permit A global work permit allows a person who is already employed by a global company in another jurisdiction to transfer to the Bermuda office without the requirement to advertise the position. The company must demonstrate that the global work permit holder is not being transferred to fill a pre-existing position in Bermuda. A global work permit can have a term of up to five years. Applications will be automatically approved for individuals who have been employed by the company for over one year and who earn a gross salary greater than $125,000 per year. Applications for individuals who have been employed less than one year and/or earn less than $125,000 will be considered on a case by case basis. Approval will depend substantially on demonstrating that the addition of the global work permit holder will add value to Bermuda. If the company wishes for the holder of a global work permit to stay beyond the expiry of their permit, the company must apply for a standard work permit. The application process for a global work permit usually takes ten working days. applebyglobal.com 4

6 New Business Work Permit A new business permit allows an exempted company that is new to Bermuda to receive automatic approval of work permits for the first six months of obtaining the first new business work permit. There is no need to advertise the positions. New section 114B companies (per the definition in the Companies Act) will also be granted new business work permits, however these will be limited to five new business work permits. A new business work permit can have a term of up to five years. If the company wishes for the holder of a new business work permit to stay beyond the expiry of their permit, the company must apply for a standard work permit. The application process for a new business work permit usually takes ten working days. Global Entrepreneur Work Permit A global entrepreneur work permit may be issued for a period of up to one year in order to enable an entrepreneur to work and reside in Bermuda whilst starting up a prospective exempted company or section 114B company. The work activities may include business planning, seeking appropriate Government or regulatory approval(s), meeting compliance or financial requirements or raising capital. A letter of application justifying the request together with a letter from a Bermudian or Bermuda business services company verifying the intent of the application is required. The Minister will grant a global entrepreneur work permit if he is satisfied that the application is a bona fide investor or business person that is likely to domicile a company in Bermuda. Emergency Work Permit Provided that the Department of Immigration is satisfied that the situation warrants emergency service, a decision to grant an emergency work permit can normally be made within 48 hours of receipt of an application. While a work permit is not likely to be issued within this period, the person will be cleared for landing in Bermuda without penalty. Periodic Work Permit A periodic permit may be issued to an individual or to a company, allowing the individual (or representative from the company) to visit and work in Bermuda from time to time. A periodic work permit allows for the holder to pay periodic working visits to Bermuda of up to 30 days per visit. Visits cannot exceed 180 days in total in any given calendar year. Periodic work permits may be granted for periods of up to five years. 3. TAXATION Payroll Tax Act 1995 Under the Payroll Tax Act 1995 (Payroll Tax Act), payroll tax is payable by all employers and calculated according to total remuneration paid to employees for services performed wholly or mainly in Bermuda. For the purposes of the Payroll Tax Act, remuneration includes all wages and benefits paid to employees such as salaries, leave pay, commissions, bonuses, housing allowance, redundancy payment, money paid under a profit sharing scheme and stock options. applebyglobal.com 5

7 Employer contributions under the Contributory Pensions Act 1970 (Contributory Pensions Act), the Health Insurance Act 1970 (Health Insurance Act) or under an approved health insurance, hospital, life insurance or retirement scheme are not considered remuneration and therefore are not subject to taxation. Payroll tax is paid quarterly and the employer must file and pay a tax return within 15 days of the end of every tax period. Please inquire for information regarding the payroll tax rates. 4. BENEFITS Compulsory employment benefits under Bermuda law include: (i) social insurance, which is effectively a Government administered contributory pension scheme, and (ii) hospital insurance whereby an employer must meet a minimum standard in providing insurance for its employees. Social Insurance Under the Contributory Pensions Act, liability for contributions to social insurance is split evenly between the employer and employee. Payments made can be transferred overseas for the future benefit of a returning overseas resident. Health Insurance Health insurance is mandatory for all workers in Bermuda. Employers must provide a minimum of a standard hospital benefit to every employee and the non-employed spouse of every employee. An employer is responsible for payment of the total premium due under any contract of insurance effected in respect of an employee, but is entitled to deduct up to one half of the premium payment from an employee s pay. Pensions The National Pension Scheme (Occupational Pensions) Act 1998 sets out the requirements to be followed in establishing a pension fund for all employees. All employers are required to establish and register a pension plan for all Bermudians or the spouse of Bermudian employees who are over the age of 23 years and work more than 720 hours of employment in any calendar year. Employees may either establish and maintain the pension plan themselves, or they may participate in a Financial Institution Pension Plan. Employers and employees will each be required to contribute 5% of the pensionable earnings of the employee to the pension scheme. All Bermudian employees must be included in a pension scheme. Work permit holders may be included in a pension scheme, but their participation is not compulsory. 5. COMPLIANCE Bermuda has a complete anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing (AML/ATF) legislative scheme. Minimum basic AML/ATF policies and procedures required to be maintained by certain businesses in Bermuda. These AML/ATF policies and procedures need not be elaborate but should provide an employee with an avenue through which to report any suspicion that the Company may have become involved in any AML/ATF activity. They must also include customer due diligence measures. applebyglobal.com 6

8 6. CONCLUSION Appleby is a full service law firm with the necessary expertise to advise on all aspects of establishing an office in Bermuda, including corporate, property, immigration, employment and compliance matters. We are able to advise in relation to any legal issues involved in registration for tax purposes, and concerning the application of Bermuda taxes to an exempted company. Additionally, Appleby Management (Bermuda) Limited, our associated service company, can assist in the completion of requisite forms and registration for tax, pension and other purposes, and can deal with payroll preparation, accounting and all other aspects of the management of a local office. For more specific advice on establishing an office in Bermuda, we invite you to contact: Bermuda Timothy Faries Partner, Group Head, Bermuda Corporate Kiernan Bell Managing Partner, Bermuda Dispute Resolution Scott Swainson Partner, Group Head, Bermuda Property Michael Hanson Counsel, Bermuda Dispute Resolution For the convenience of clients in other time zones, a list of Corporate contacts available in each of our jurisdictions may be found here. For the convenience of clients in other time zones, a list of Dispute Resolution contacts available in each of our jurisdictions may be found here. This publication is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice Appleby Global Group Services Limited 2015 applebyglobal.com 7

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