Barbados offers work visa program to encourage Canadians to work from home, from Barbados

The government of a Caribbean island has a tantalizing suggestion for quarantine-weary Canadians: Working from home is a lot more palatable when you’re doing it remotely from a tropical paradise.

The Island nation of Barbados has launched something it’s calling a Barbados Welcome Stamp, a one-year working visa that gives foreigners the right to live and work in Barbados while they ride out the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting now, applicants can send in their personal information at a portal website. The application will be processed within 72 hours, at which point they may be approved to come live and work in Barbados.

There’s a non-refundable fee of $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for families, but once that’s paid, a successful applicant is all set.

“You don’t need to work in Europe, or the U.S or Latin America if you can come here and work for a couple months at a time, go back and come back,” Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley said in announcing the idea earlier this month.

The appeal of living on a tropical island may be obvious under normal circumstances, but a spokesperson for the government running the initiative said it makes even more sense during the current unprecedented situation with COVID-19.

Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley shakes hands with Justin Trudeau at a UN meeting in 2018. Mottley is pitching Canadians on riding out the pandemic by working remotely from Barbados. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Barbados ahead of crisis so far

Barbados has recorded 106 official cases of COVID, and seven deaths so far, said Peter Mayers, the Canadian director for Barbados’s tourism and marketing organization.

The country’s health-care system has been able to stay well ahead of the crisis so far, he said in an interview, as officials have set up two facilities dedicated solely to COVID-19 patients to keep them out of hospitals. The two isolation wards are capable of housing more than 200 people.

“When persons start to consider looking for travel options in jurisdictions that have managed the COVID crisis well, Barbados must be on the radar,” he said.

There are ample schooling and daycare options, none of which are currently closed or limited in any capacity, he said, adding the island also boasts the fastest fibre internet and mobile services in the Caribbean.

Housing suitable for a family can be found for about $1,000 US a month, which is why the program is hoping to appeal to families and not necessarily just individuals.

“It’s a unique opportunity to remedy cabin fever and at the same time help our tourism industry,” Mayers said.

Canadians advised against ‘non-essential’ travel

While Barbados may be welcoming Canadians with open arms the Canadian government still advises against all “non-essential” travel to Barbados, just as it does with many other countries.

Strictly speaking, there’s nothing stopping a Canadian from going to Barbados, but problems could arise if and when they attempt to return. 

“The governments of those destinations that have opened their borders to tourists could impose strict travel restrictions suddenly, should they experience an increase in cases of COVID-19,” the Canadian government’s travel advisory page for Barbados reads.

“International transportation options could be reduced significantly, making it difficult for you to return to Canada. There are no plans to offer additional repatriation flights.”

So Canadians could theoretically get stuck in Barbados should the situation take a turn for the worse, but at least one prominent Canadian seems fine with taking that risk.

Drake surfaces in Barbados

Barbados officially reopened its borders on July 12, and within days musician and entrepreneur Drake surfaced all over social media on what seems to be a Barbadian vacation.

Canadian musician and entrepreneur Drake, right, showed up in Barbados shortly after the country reopened its borders this month. (Remus/Twitter)

The program has only been formally open for a few days, but Mayers said there have already been a significant number of applicants from Quebec and Alberta.

And strictly speaking, it’s not limited to Canadians, although Mayers said he suspects the idea of being housebound in a place where the average winter temperature  is 20 degrees above zero, not below, may have particular appeal to Canadians.

“In very much the same way that COVID-19 does not discriminate, neither do we,” he quipped.

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