There are a variety of questions many people have about moving from the mainland to the islands. This page will cover the “how to make it happen” questions as well as some of the “what is life there like” queries you may have. Many of these questions and others are covered in more detail at The USVI Moving Center website.
Is it expensive to move to St. Croix?
Many of the homes on the island are sold at least partly-furnished. This can cut down on the expense of shipping the bulkier items. If you want to bring everything plus the kitchen sink, then the cheapest method is to bring it all in on a ship. Most of the national movers have agents here on the island. The US Postal Service is great for boxes under 70lbs. You can insure them and use a general delivery address. This is not a quick method – be prepared to wait for a few weeks.
The most expensive but least troublesome, method is to employ a national moving company to pack, ship, and deliver your furniture and belongings using a “door-to-door” service. This is definitely the easiest way to go if your budget allows. All fragile or precious items are best left to the experts, but packing your own boxes with non-essentials and using the good old Post Office is definitely the most reasonable choice.
How do I get my “stuff” to St. Croix when I move?
The most popular way to get your household “stuff,” vehicle, etc to the island is via moving company on a cargo ship. Many large companies have offices in the US Virgin Islands, so you may want to call and find out if your preferred company is one of them. We recommend you talk to multiple vendors to get a feeling for cost and how shipping works with different companies. Here’s are a couple links to companies that may be able to help you:
Airfreight may also be an option for you depending on how quickly you need your items delivered, how much you have and what costs you’re willing to cover.
What about our cars?
This depends on several factors. How much do you love your car? Is your car suitable for island roadways? Was your car built entirely by the United States? The latter can be answered by looking at the VIN – if it starts with a 1 or 4, then it can enter the USVI duty free. If it was built outside the US or is a foreign manufacturer, the duty runs between 3-6%. Remember too, that our little island roads and short distances may not be entirely suited to a racy sports car. The best “island” cars have a rugged build and an excellent cooling system. Four-wheel drive is also useful, especially during the rainy season.
The carriers that visit our island will ship your car. As soon as it lands, take the bill of lading to the Internal Revenue and pay the road tax (calculated by weight) with either cash, a money order, or certified check. The next stop is the Department of Motor Vehicles for a permit to take your car off the dock and then it is on to the US Customs office. Once your car has cleared customs, you will need to go back to the DMV once more for inspection and registration of your trusty vehicle. You will need to take your road tax receipt and the title with you. The last task is to get your car insurance (required by law) and then you are off!
You have 90 days to change to a US driver’s license if you hold a valid US license. Make sure that you allow plenty of time to obtain your VI license if your US license is due to expire. If you do not have a valid US license then you will have to take a road test as well as a written exam and this can be a long and drawn out process.
WORD OF WARNING – the only road on St. Croix that has a speed limit higher than 35 is the Melvin Evans Highway on the South Shore. Watch your speed, especially in towns and near schools.
How easy is it to buy a house or condo on St. Croix?
Almost identical to buying a home in the States! Conventional mortgages are available here and the local banks will lend to US residents who qualify. The interest rates and down payments are about the same as the mainland and some owner-financing is available. FHA mortgages are available on the island. The closing costs are within normal limits for the States. We strongly advise that anyone purchasing a home uses an attorney to ensure that their purchase goes smoothly.
What paperwork do I need to live and work in the Virgin Islands?
If you are an American citizen, you need NO EXTRA paperwork to visit, live in, or work in the US Virgin Islands!
How about taxes?
We pay income tax at the same rate as the mainland and we use the same IRS forms that everybody recognizes all over the United States. The only difference is that the money we pay stays here in the USVI. We have Internal Revenue Bureau here on-island and all tax forms are available from their office. Unless you were born here, your assets are taxed in the same way and at the same rate as the mainland. Federal estate tax law applies. Residents of the USVI pay no gift tax. Our property rates are liable for a 2% stamp tax.
Who pays what to whom and where?
Wherever you declare your residence to be as of December of any given year, that is where you pay your income taxes for that year. Simply put – if you live here, wherever in the world your money is earned, this is where you pay your taxes. If you have a vacation home here, then you have a tax liability to the Virgin Islands government. Forms and advice are available to help you sort out this split liability.
Income taxes must be filed by April 15.
What about Social Security?
We fully participate in the Federal Social Security system. We have a slightly different form (1040-SS), but social security taxes are deducted from our paychecks in the same way as on the mainland.
Will my move to St. Croix affect any benefits that I may receive?
In general, you should not be affected by your move to our island. However, it would be wise to check with your present office before making any decisions. Medicare and Medicaid are available here – check for different payment ceiling to your home state.
What about banking?
Your trusty ATM card will work at most of the local banks. Slow clearance times make our banks very wary of cashing “off-island” checks. This can even include cashier’s checks. You will have to allow at least 5-10 business days for even a bank check to clear from the mainland. Many people open a checking account here and get their mainland bank to transfer their funds once they have finally completed the move.
Are there many families with kids living there?
Yes, there are many families with children! There is a fair size group of young families with children from the US mainland living in the islands. To view population statistics by age visit USVI Statistics.
What about schools for the kids?
There are private and public schools on St. Croix for all ages. We even have our own campus for the University of the Virgin Islands. There are both private and government sponsored preschools on the island. We have religious and non-sectarian private schools that vary in tuition costs, size, and amenities. The sectarian and public schools have a uniform code, whole most of the other private schools are more informal in their attire.
Where would we go to church?
Thanks to the many nations who have owned St. Croix, we have an incredible number of churches of every denomination, style, and credo. You will almost certainly find a place to worship here and make new friends.
Is St. Croix suitable for retirement? Is it suitable for seasonal or permanent living?
YES! St. Croix is a popular place to retire and many people of all ages seasonally visit the island. Permanently moving to or retiring on the island is an option as well, however, we recommend you fully research the island lifestyle and weather patterns to confirm they match your year round desires.
What about my pets? Can I bring them too?!
Of course! There is no quarantine for animals coming from the mainland to the US Virgin Islands. Your pet will need to go through a vet exam and get a health certificate before coming over and if you have “exotic” pets like birds or reptiles, you may need to get an import permit. You’ll also want to check with airline service providers to confirm transportation for your pet. We recommend doing thorough research on this top. Here’s a good place to start.
Most condos do not allow pets – this tends to limit your options in the housing market if you decide that you want to bring your best friend to St. Croix. A family home with a yard would be the best choice.
Are there high racial tensions on the islands?
No, there are no high levels of racial tension. The Virgin Islands have a wide variety of persons living here. People generally live and work peacefully together. Inter-racial and inter-cultural couples and families are somewhat common. Although racial issues are not common, nationalistic issues are visible. Virgin Islanders stick together. Caribbean people in general do the same. The greater majority of the Virgin Islands population is made up of Virgin Islanders and people from other Caribbean islands, consequently new residents might feel like outsiders or like the locals are standoffish. Not all people relay feeling or witnessing this but some do. Once a non-islander has lived on island for some time their status changes from “new” to “they live here”. (Taken directly from http://www.vimovingcenter.com/faq/)
Will my cell phone work on St. Croix? How much does it cost to call the mainland from a land line?
Some cell phone providers have coverage on the island and calls between the island and the mainland may be covered in your national coverage plan. It’s best to call your provider and check. Land line calls between the island and the mainland tend to be between 10 and 25 cents a minute.
What about dangerous critters and creepy crawlies?
Our nastiest little friend is the centipede. It has a painful bite that is toxic enough to make a young child quite ill. Just be careful when weeding the garden or moving stored objects. The rain brings the mosquitoes – annoying, but not overwhelming. Luckily our lizards and geckos are common household companions. They are completely harmless and are fun to watch. Most importantly, they consume massive quantities of mosquitoes. Termites are a threat to your home and furnishings in this tropical region. Regular inspections by an expert and rapid treatment will minimize the damage done by these greedy little bugs. Keep an eye out for their telltale mud trails on your masonry and little piles of sawdust under your wooden furniture or door frames.
Should we be concerned about hurricanes?
Hurricanes, like all forces of nature, should be treated with respect. The tropical waves that form around the equator do have the ability to turn into tropical storms and eventually hurricanes, most do not. And if they do become hurricanes, they rarely go higher than category 2.
June 1 to November 30 is our “hurricane season.” All that means, is that this is the time of year when the weather patterns over the Atlantic and the Caribbean region are the most active. We prepare ourselves for the worst and hope for the best. Our warning systems are very accurate and our emergency preparations are well in place. All the residents of the islands should keep emergency supplies of canned goods, drinking water, batteries, and other necessities in a waterproof storage system. Your essential documents and irreplaceable family items should also be well-protected. Many households have their own generators and storm shutters or plywood boards that are essential to protect their homes in the event of high winds. The VI Government has some excellent publications on hurricane preparedness – handy hints and sound safety advice.
What other things should I know about life on the island?
Benefits of island living; we enjoy a fairly constant climate and temperature in the high 70’s and mid 80 range. There are no severe rainstorms and no snow. The landscape in the islands is beautiful and can be enjoyed year round. Water activities are world-renowned. There is no sales tax or state tax. It is the Caribbean but when in the U.S.V.I you are in a United States territory, so you enjoy all protective laws of the United States including the legal system. The island lifestyle is laid back.
Things just don’t happen as fast in the U.S.V.I as they do in the mainland. And that pretty much goes for all things; from being checked out at the grocery store, to post office lines, traffic and registering your car. Traveling back home can be quite expensive from the U.S.V.I. Many people start to feel “Rock Fever” – an island term referring to feeling stuck on an island or a rock surrounded by water! Hurricanes are a big concern. And finally some people miss the options, choices and variety that life on the mainland offers them. (Taken directly from http://www.vimovingcenter.com/faq/)