Like many other destinations hit hard by the pandemic, Barbados — which depended on tourism for an estimated 60-80 per cent of its income — has found a way to entice tourists with a special visa for remote workers.
Launched on July 18, the Barbados Welcome Stamp Visa requires applicants to fill out an online form, upload their birth certificate, confirm their salary (which must be over $50,000), and pay a $2,000 fee.
The visa is popular so far. By the end of October, Barbados had received 1,693 applications for the Welcome Stamp (a mix of groups and individuals), accounting for 2,796 people in total, the Barbados Tourism and Marketing team told Insider. The top country for applications is the US (675), followed by Canada (283), and the UK (231), though they come from all over the world.
Meanwhile, others arrive in Barbados on tourist visas to work remotely there for up to six months at a time.
Last month, I travelled to Barbados (following the necessary safety protocol and quarantining on arrival) to meet some of the country’s new digital nomads, from a Canadian schoolteacher to an attorney from New York City.
Most were lured by Barbados’ beaches and low number of coronavirus cases — the country has had 250 coronavirus cases and seven related deaths to date, according to Johns Hopkins University & Medicine — while many Americans wanted to escape tensions at home. And more than a few plan to stay.
Fridaouss Nabine and Kennedy Brown went to Barbados to escape the anxiety of the pandemic and racial tensions in the US. They’re already planning on extending their Welcome Stamp when it expires.
Nabine, 23, and Brown, 24, met in 2018 and had been living together in St. Louis, Missouri, for a year before they moved
to Barbados on the Welcome Stamp.
Brown was a fellow at nonprofit organization Venture for America, for which she still does marketing remotely, and
Nabine was working in marketing and sales for a tech company when the pandemic hit.
“We got to the crossroads of multiple pandemics — race in middle America also being the pandemic that it is — it was just a lot going on,” Brown told Insider.
Despite neither having been to Barbados before, they applied for the Welcome Stamp, got the green light from their employers, and arrived on the island in August.
“Part of the case that I made with my employer is that this is a much healthier work environment in regards to COVID and racism flaring up in the States,” Brown said. “Being able to wake up and not feel anxious is so much healthier.”
The couple like living in Barbados so much that they’re planning on renewing the visa for a second year.
“I’m always struck by how nice people are here,” Nabine said. “Also, some of the beaches have Wi-Fi, and that is a real game-changer — I’ve been able to set up my hammock a few times, go for a dip, then carry on working from there.”
Cris Torres has lived and worked all over the world, but she’s planning on settling in Barbados for the time being.
Barcelona-born Cris Torres, 35, quit her full-time job in London in 2016 to travel around the world. Ever since, she has worked from places including Bali, New York, Colombia, Kenya, Canada, Japan, and Martinique.
Torres is thought to be the first Welcome Stamp holder to land in Barbados, arriving there on August 8.
“Just look at how well everything is run here — they’ve pioneered the visa and continued to manage the spread of coronavirus,” Torres said, speaking of Barbados. “It’s made me feel very safe. I watch the sunrise before work, walk on the beach, listen to the birds, and everyone is happy.”
She currently works for US-based travel medical insurance company Safety Wing, does operations for a UK company, and is a researcher for Flatten the Curve, a resource that shares up-to-date travel regulations regarding the coronavirus around the world.
Working for companies in both the US and the UK means Torres has to be creative with her hours, but she generally splits her workday into two shifts, working from around 7 a.m. to 12 p.m., taking the afternoon off, and then working again from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
“This is the first time I’ve said it in years, but right now this feels like home,” she said.
Jamie and Jakki Prince, from Toronto, Canada, decided thatif they were going to work from home, they might as well
do it in Barbados.
Construction manager Jamie Prince, 40, has been working from home since March, while his wife Jakki, 35, who works in small business consulting, has been self-employed since she was 24.
Jamie and Jakki have been vacationing in Barbados for years as they have a timeshare there. And the couple’s love of travel led them to start their own travel company, Prince Adventures, in 2019.
“We thought, if we’re going to be working from home, we love Barbados, let’s just go to Barbados,” Jamie said.
The Princes were initially due to leave Canada on October 18, but as coronavirus cases continued to rise there, they brought their trip forward and landed in Barbados on October 4.
The couple is planning to stay in Barbados until early 2021, but doesn’t have a set date of departure. They didn’t apply for the Welcome Stamp, but Canadians can stay for up to six months in the country on a tourist visa.
“It’s been a delight to be here,” Jakki said. “Barbados is dealing with coronavirus in a way that’s very appropriate. You see young people, old people, everybody is wearing their masks no matter what.”
Jamie and Jakki have settled into remote-work life in Barbados as well. “Some mornings we get up and do a nice beach walk before work and you just feel so good,” Jamie said.
Attorney Mita Carriman has been self-employed for ten years and working remotely since 2017 and says life in Barbados is “paradise.” And with stints in Colombia, Mexico, Spain, Bulgaria, Turkey, Los Angeles, Bali, Vietnam, Estonia, and Greece, she’s
no stranger to the digital-nomad life. She also runs her own company, Adventurely, to help solo travelers connect.
Carriman was in Mexico when the pandemic hit, prompting her to go back home to New York City in March. “When I saw Barbados was like, ‘Hey, we have health and safety protocols and we want you guys to come,’ I just made a decision,” Carriman said. “I thought, ‘Alright, I’m going to try Barbados this time.’”
Carriman could come to Barbados for six months with a Grenadian passport — she’s a dual citizen of the Caribbean country and her father is from Grenada — so she didn’t need to apply for the Welcome Stamp.
“I’ve been to a few Caribbean islands and there’s a lot they have in common, but I do think the beaches here are really spectacular,” Carriman said of Barbados, where she has stayed since she arrived on August 15.
“It’s not cheap by any means,” she added. “But it’s a trade-off. I feel safe with my health, I feel comfortable. A lot of people are in lockdowns and I’m not. I’m in paradise.”
(Part 2 will be published in Friday’s edition)