Island Fever: Working In the Caribbean

I’ll admit it; as Americans, we’re a little spoiled! 

One of the many things that spoil us, our country is so big.  Someone could tour for a year, non-stop, and see a new region everyday while never encountering any restrictions on travel or commerce.  Something else, we have the biggest economy in the world.  There is a near limitless demand for products and services for businesses to reap.  Other countries, especially island nations, are not so lucky. 

Islands have a limited geography and demand for native professionals, and businesses cannot simply expand without incurring significant costs.  To protect native professionals, island nations place business restrictions on foreign professionals. 

Little or no restrictions can cause native professionals to loose too much business to foreigners, whereas being too restrictive can cause tourists to take their business to other islands.  Each island balances this differently, and how so needs to be taken into consideration when estimating a project in the Caribbean.  I recently encountered this while pricing out a project in Bermuda.  So where to begin? 

To start, I went to the Bermuda government’s website on immigration.  I learned I would need to apply for a temporary visa for each member of my crew; a three-month visa (the shortest available) cost $585.  Additionally, the island has restrictions on what type of photography foreigners can perform, however it was difficult to deceiver what they were (government website). 

Next, I found and contacted an immigration and customs broker on the island.  (Islands have a limited amount of potential employees, so companies exist to help businesses import foreign employees for busy months.)  Along with their fees, the broker was able to provide clarification on what the restrictions were for visiting photographers and advice on how to circumvent any restrictions that may affect my project.  Yes, factoring them into my estimate did raise my cost, however knowing of and explaining why you need a broker will usually outweigh their costs to a client.

Last was to account for my time.  Even though I would be retaining a broker to assist me, I would still need to personally fill out immigration and both Bermuda and U.S. customs forms.  Part of this is to itemize every piece of equipment I plan on taking, down to the batteries and cords.  I will need to send this to Bermuda for inspection when I enter and leave the country.  I will need to give this to U.S. customs before leaving and allow them to inspect my equipment as well.  These inspections can take hours, so I will need to plan accordingly and account for visiting US customs prior to my flight. 

All of this can easily add up to a thousand dollars or more.  However, they will ensure the project runs as smoothly as possible while minimizing lost time, fees and fines, which would cost much more. 

Now, it is time to keep my fingers crossed and hopefully I will have images from Bermuda to share in a few months.