Out of office: Barbados prime minister welcomes remote workers, proposes 12-month visa

Barbados prime minister welcomes remote workers, proposes 12-month visa

The coronavirus pandemic has forced a lot of companies to rethink their workplace policies and procedures. Many corporate offices have closed or greatly reduced the number of employees who can work at a facility at a given time.

In an avant-gard move, Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey announced employees at those two companies, which together have more than 20 offices across the U.S., can work remotely forever. Others are considering following suit.

“If our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen,” Twitter’s vice president of people, Jennifer Christie, said in May. “If not, our offices will be their warm and welcoming selves, with some additional precautions, when we feel it’s safe to return.”

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Mia Amor Mottley, the prime minister of Barbados, said people with those kinds of options should work from the beach and invited remote workers to do so on the Caribbean island.

“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,” she said earlier this month.

Motley proposed a 12-month visa, which she called the “12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp,” as a way to promote tourism in the country and as an appealing choice for those who may want a change of scenery. Tourism, one of the largest industries in Barbados, has been hit hard by the far-reaching effects of the coronavirus pandemic as travel became severely limited beginning in March.

“COVID-19 has presented tremendous challenges to those countries that are tourism and travel dependent, and we have reached a position where we recognize that part of the challenge relates to short-term travel,” Mottley said. “So, if we can have a mechanism that allows people who want to … take advantage of being in a different part of the world, of the sun, sea and sand, and … a stable society, one that functions well, then Barbados is a perfect place for you to come.”

She said the initiative is a “win-win situation” for workers and the island country, as both grapple with different consequences of the pandemic.

“COVID-19 has placed a severe strain on people’s mental wellness. The sunshine is powerful. The seawater is powerful. They’re both therapeutic in ways that are hard to explain,” she said in an interview. “People seem to do better in outdoors and in this kind of weather. There may be no scientific evidence, but people feel better. They can breathe. They can do things. The salt water’s good for you,” Mottley said.

While American travelers did not previously need a visa to visit Barbados and could legally stay for up to six months, with the proposed program, Mottley hopes remote workers will stay for up to a year. She said the government will amend an income tax act in order for remote workers to avoid local income taxes.

“Rather than coming for the usual week, or three weeks or a month, why not plan out your business, given the fact that all we have gotten from COVID-19 is uncertainty,” she said. “So, we can give you certainty for the next 12 months … and you can work from here.”

Mottley said remote workers will be able to stay in condos, villas and hotels and added that the country will provide workspaces. She noted that the island has two major telecommunications companies and will be looking at more ways to support greater internet-based demand.

While no further details have been specifically outlined, a representative from the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. told Travel + Leisure that the yearlong program will start Aug. 1.

Barbados reopened to international travelers on July 12 and is encouraging visitors to get tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of departure to the island. The country reported 104 total cases of the coronavirus, including 91 recovered cases and six deaths as of Friday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 9,000 tests have been completed.

The island has eased limits imposed due to COVID-19 and now allows physical distancing of 3 feet, instead of 6. Gatherings of up to 500 are allowed for certain events, sporting events with fans have resumed and beaches are no longer restricted. Parks, restaurants and shops are also open.