I founded Bright Path about five years ago. It was a concept to attract investors into St. Maarten and to introduce the island to people who wanted to retire or start a new business here. Many wanted life in St. Maarten because of the benefits here — it’s real estate tax-free and duty-free, and residents can have bank accounts established in either dollars or euros without any special paperwork necessary.
It’s a very tranquil lifestyle but everything is here that people need or want — supermarkets, restaurants, nightclubs, recreation, and very agreeable winter weather. It’s a very good destination to promote.
In 2020, Bright Path is expanding into several other islands, including St. Kitts, Dominica, and Antigua.
Our objective has always been to supply solutions to people who want to transition to life in the Caribbean. We do that by assisting them with their immigration process and their banking needs, if needed. If they wish to start a business we can assist them with all the requirements related to making that happen. There are no real estate taxes in St. Maarten and none are currently anticipated.
From a tax perspective, it is important to understand that St. Maarten does have the benefits of no duties and no property taxes. However, it’s important to understand that worldwide income is considered by St. Maarten when the country is determining the amount of taxes an individual or family or business will pay. Any income you generate outside of St. Maarten has to be declared in St. Maarten. For us to make sure we give you optimal advice custom tailored to your specific situation, we normally speak with your tax advisor. Given specific information about your current jurisdiction and your tax status, we can do our advisory due diligence properly and give you the best advice about starting or continuing a business here in St. Maarten.
Documentation requirements vary by country and also by whatever program we need to place you in. In general, across-the-board for the St. Maarten government paperwork we do require your birth certificate, if you’re married then your marriage certificate, and if you’re divorced, your divorce certificate. All of those documents have to be issued within the last three years, per Dutch side government requirements. All of them also must have a legalization stamp from a Dutch Embassy or an apostile stamp to certify the authenticity of each document. Usually such a stamp is issued by the Secretary of State of the state in which the applicant lives in the US.
Although the stamps are difficult to obtain, it’s one of the services that we provide both in the United States and Canada. We do obtain those documents for our clients and obtain the stamps and appropriate signatures. These stamps are a higher level than traditional US Notary Public stamps. The government of the Dutch side of the island also requires a police record issued within the last six months. Even if there are just misdemeanors, such as DUI, we can generally work with that. However if there are crimes of a more serious nature then we have to send that information up for review. At the end of the day, we do have a responsibility to our community for the quality of immigrant that we are bringing into the country. In some cases, we will refer the matter to some local authorities to get their feedback before proceeding further.
There is substantial paperwork required for SXM residency — and we handle all of it for our clients. Our objective is to make the transition much easier for clients. Adopting residency in a new country is a big step; there are issues including housing, schools, and more — all issues that will affect your lifestyle. We try to handle all of the details that don’t make the transition exciting anymore.
We follow the process in stages and we notify our clients as individual stages are completed. The process though a bit complicated is relatively easy for US citizens. It is a process that we complete from start to finish within 90 days, usually. For residents of other countries, the process can take from 3 to 6 months. The benefit for Americans is largely because of the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty.
Because of the Dutch American Friendship Treaty, US citizens don’t require a specific work permit to work in Dutch St. Maarten. Once we obtain a residency permit for US citizens, it customarily has an indefinite period, which means that it is essentially a permanent residence. As a result, you can freely work on the island. You do not need a separate process with a separate work permit on the island as a US citizen.
Regarding taxation, your taxable income level would depend on your worldwide income. Regarding schooling, once you have your residency permit, your children will be able to attend local schools. If you are going to have them attend private schools, once you have your residency permit and the children have passed the entrance exam, it’s a matter of simply paying the tuition there.
Most banks on the island are able to offer financing once your residency permit is in place. There are attractive options especially for first-time homebuyers on SXM.
What we do best is handle and expedite paperwork regarding immigration, relocation, establishing new businesses, and developing relationships with banks. We generally work in collaboration with licensed real estate agents on the island because their depth of experience serves our clients best.
People coming to the island are sometimes concerned about medical care. The availability of medical care is pretty good compared to our peers. Would it compared to first-world hospitals and dedicated care? No. Within the Caribbean, however, I do think it stands among the best.
Everyone has different needs, different experiences, different expectations, and different financial situations. Our initial consultations are always free, which enables people to learn what we can provide that’s custom tailored to their needs, but there are no expenses related to us determining what the most suitable options are for each individual case. It’s important for everyone to realize that they can ask all the questions they need to ask without being on the clock, so free consultations are an important benefit for our clients. Our prices are standard and are listed on our website. Government fees vary depending on what governments are involved and what documentation costs in various jurisdictions.
There are generally three types of people coming to SXM. There are younger people who want to try their luck living someplace else and you may want to start a business here. A lot of those come in and come out; they start a business but don’t always give at the time that it needs to become successful and they leave, either to go home or to another island to try something else or something similar there.
Another segment that comes here is from abroad, with existing companies that want to branch out to St. Maarten or leverage our transportation and distribution facilities to have a regional headquarters here for product distribution throughout the Caribbean region. Companies can consolidate their imports duty-free here in St. Maarten and then re-export. For trade, it’s great. Our big harbor is also excellent for product distribution for regional subsidiaries. Those companies can also invoice in US dollars and keep those US dollars.
The third segment is individuals, usually from the United States or Canada, who want to retire here. We usually help them partner with a licensed real estate agent and help them set up local banking and all the paperwork necessary for residency. We help them with opening the bank account, getting the residency permit, handling rent real estate, and getting the financing.