How to Start a Business in the Virgin Islands

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The Virgin Islands.
The Virgin Islands. (Image: DC Productions/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Starting a business in the U.S. Virgin Islands isn’t all that different from starting one in the continental United States. As long as you complete start-up steps in the right order and allow plenty of time, getting a business license is a relatively straightforward process. If you have questions or need additional assistance, the Virgin Islands Small Business Development Center has sites on each island that offer counseling, technical assistance and both on-site and online training.

Location and Business Registration

Find a good location, but don’t finalize a purchase or sign a lease until you have a business license. Instead, get a letter of intent from a seller or a copy of the unsigned lease. Sole proprietors not using a fictitious business name have no business registration requirements. All others must register both the business and its name with the Office of the Lieutenant Governor. According to the Virgin Islands Chamber of Commerce, fees for filing articles of incorporation range from $150 to $400, as of publication, and the filing fee for registering a trade name is $25.

Licensing Filing Requirements

Speak with a representative from the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs to clarify paperwork requirements required for your type of business, as you’ll need all required inspections and approvals on file before the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs will process a business license application. For example, all new business owners need a tax clearance letter and a background check -- which requires a valid driver’s license or passport and $12 filing fee, as of publication. The location will need a satisfactory fire inspection and may require zoning approval. Food-related businesses, counseling practices and massage therapists will also need a health inspection certificate, and nightclubs and taverns must get approval from the Alcohol Control Board.

Professional Licensing

You must have a valid professional license, issued in the Virgin Islands, to conduct business in certain fields and industries. This includes real estate brokers and salespeople, construction contractors, electricians, plumbers, barbers, beauticians and manicurists, certified public accountants and draftsmen. Licensing requirements, applications and examination dates are available from the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs.

Business License Application

Get one or more business license applications from the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs. You’ll need to file separate license applications to conduct business in St. Croix and St. Thomas. Depending on the type of business, you may also need a separate application to start a business in St. John. As long as you list each business on the application, all of the islands require only one license, even if you’re engaging in more than one type of business. According to the Chamber of Commerce, annual license fees range from $50 to $1,000 each year, as of publication.

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