By Gemma Handy
Whether it’s to escape high Covid rates, cold climes or both, an increasing number of foreign professionals are taking advantage of the country’s ‘digital nomad’ scheme.
The programme – officially launched in September – offers foreign professionals able to work remotely the chance to live in Antigua and Barbuda for up to two years.
Tourism officials told Cabinet on Wednesday that interest had been high with a number of American, Canadian and British applicants already here – and the number of those showing an interest continuing to rise.
Tourism Minister Charles Fernandez told Observer that up to seven inquiries were being received a day.
“People are attracted to the Caribbean generally. We still have low incidents of Covid and also – again because of Covid – most people can work remotely now. So if you are working from home in an apartment in New York or London at an exorbitant rate, you can come to Antigua where the cost of living is much lower and the water is beautiful,” he said.
“It’s a win-win for everyone. The programme has created a great amount of interest and proven to be a good thing for us, because when these people come here they spend money,” he added.
Nadia Dyson, of Jolly Harbour-based firm Luxury Locations Real Estate, testified to a surge in long-term rentals.
“It’s quite refreshing to have so many inquiries for long-term properties,” she told Observer. “They have mainly been from the US and Canada, but we have had some from Asia and Russia too.
“Most people who have come here so far are from places with direct flights because it’s easy for them.”
She said applicants tended to be single people, and were opting for properties in and around the expat hub of Jolly Harbour.
“We have had some clients who work for internet-based companies, others are property investors interested in citizenship by investment.
“Around 30 percent are looking to potentially build a home in Antigua. We are seeing a few people just looking for a different life. Antigua has been getting quite a lot of good press recently and has a prime location in the heart of the Caribbean,” she explained.
The digital nomad initiative is similar to schemes in other parts of the world, such as Barbados.
But Antigua has the edge over its regional neighbour when it comes to property rental rates, Dyson said.
“Rates tend to be lower here than Barbados and you get more for your money,” she added.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne previously said the aim was to attract people who can work remotely and still service the requirements of their employers, or clients if they are self-employed.
“In turn, these persons will rent accommodation, lease motor vehicles, shop in supermarkets, eat in restaurants, visit places of entertainment, and help to put money in the pockets of Antigua and Barbudans and aid the economy,” he said.
Applicants must earn a minimum of US$50,000 a year and show they have the means to support themselves, spouse and dependents while in the country. The fee is US$1,500 for a single applicant, US2,000 for a couple and US$3,000 for a family of three or more. Visa-holders can only work remotely for companies and individuals outside of Antigua and Barbuda.