Most of the processes associated with starting a new business in the U.S. Virgin Islands are the same as those that would be used to start up a business in the continental United States. You must complete all the necessary startup steps in the proper order and be patient as the process progresses, but for the most part starting a business is fairly straightforward. In addition, there are plenty of resources to help you through this process, such as the Virgin Islands Small Business Development Center, which has locations on both St. Croix and St. Thomas to provide technical assistance, small business counseling and important training.
Here are some of the things you should know when looking to start a new business in the territory.
You should have a location in mind for your business but hold off on purchasing the property or signing a lease until your business is officially licensed. You can get a letter of intent from a seller, or a copy of an unsigned lease, but the actual agreement should not go through until your business is licensed and registered.
You must register your business and its name with the Territory’s Office of the Lieutenant Governor. Fees for filing your articles of incorporation can be anywhere from $150 to $400, and the filing fee for registering a trade name is $25.
You can work with a representative from the territory’s Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs to determine the kinds of paperwork you’ll need to fill out and file for your business, as well as the inspections and approvals you’ll need to have on file for your license application to be approved. You’ll need, for example, to pass a background check and have a tax clearance letter, which requires you to also have a valid driver’s license or passport, plus a small filing fee. Your business location will also need to undergo fire inspection and may require zoning approval.
Certain types of businesses need additional licenses and certifications before they can begin operation. These might include health inspection certificates or alcohol sales licenses. Other types of professional licenses are required for business in fields such as real estate, various trades, the beauty industry, architecture, accounting and more. Business license applications are available with the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, and you may need to file separate license applications if you intend to conduct business on both St. Croix and St. Thomas. Some types of businesses require separate applications to start a business on St. John as well. License fees vary widely depending on the type of business, from $50 to $1,000 per year.
For more information and tips about starting a new business in the U.S. Virgin Islands, contact an experienced business attorney in the territory.
Tom Bolt is Managing Attorney of BoltNagi PC, a widely respected and well-established business and corporate law firm serving individuals and organizations throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.