As a territory of the United States, the economy of the United States Virgin Islands is based on the U.S. dollar. Working, starting a business and buying real estate are conducted just as they are on the mainland United States. The USVI consists of four major islands: St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John and Water Island, with the most employment opportunities on St. Croix.
Types of Industry
The primary industry in the USVI is tourism -- it provides the basis for the economy of the islands, accounting for more than 70 percent of employment as well as GDP. Businesses within this industry include hotels and resorts, tours, charters, restaurants and sporting activities. For these types of jobs, the chances of finding employment are better in the high season, mid-November to mid-May. The USVI has public and private elementary and high schools as well as the University of the Virgin Islands, which has two campuses, so teaching and other jobs in education are available. Three hospitals are in the territory. Special licensing for physicians and other health services might be required.
Income and Cost of Living
The cost of living in the USVI is an average of 33 percent higher than other U.S. jurisdictions. Wages, however, average 23.9 percent lower than the mainland United States. The minimum wage, as of 2011, is $7.25 per hour, unless the business has a gross annual income of less than $150,000, in which case the minimum wage is $4.30 per hour. In 2009, the average hourly wage for all occupations was $16.85 per hour -- compared to $20.90 nationally -- and the average annual wage was $35,000. However, the employment sectors with the highest concentration of workers averaged between $21,000 and $29,000 annually.
Professions that require board certification to practice in the Virgin Islands are architects, engineers, land surveyors, barbers, beauticians, manicurists, plumbers, electricians, social workers, public accountancy, real estate appraisers and commissioners and construction contractors. Those working in the food and drink service industry are required to have health cards issued by the Community Health Clinic and the cost for the card is less than $50.
Business licenses are issued by the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs and are required to operate a business in the USVI. In addition, businesses are required to have a certificate of trade names/corporation registration, a tax clearance letter and a police records check.
When living and working in the USVI, be aware of what to expect of the natural conditions. The climate of the USVI is classified as subtropical. It has little temperature variation and has relatively low humidity. The rainy season is from May to November. Hurricanes are not uncommon.