Palm trees, white sand beaches, turquoise waters are what vacations are made of. Luckily the vacation never has to end. Working for The Moorings in the British Virgin Islands is not as difficult as you may think. I moved to the BVI in May after securing a job in February. It took me three months, but it was well worth the wait. Below I have laid out a game plan for obtaining your work permit in paradise!
Must Have’s before applying for work:
– Interest in working on a 48-58ft yacht as a steward, chef, or captain.
– Background in sailing, hospitality, and/or captaining.
– Have a STCW-95 certificate ( find out what this is here)
Step One: Creating A CV
A CV, or a curriculum vitae, is a 2-3 page summary of your skills, geared towards the job you are trying to get. CV’s are more common when applying for positions outside of the United States. You can find examples and tips on how to write CV’s here.
Step Two: Contacting The Moorings
Once you are happy with you CV its time to send it to the recruiting manager! The best way to get your CV in the right hands is to visit The Moorings website and scroll down to the “Careers” tab.
Then click “Contact Us” which will prompt you to send an email to email@example.com. In your email you should introduce yourself and let them know what position you are interested in, as well as which location (the BVI’s in our case). Attach your CV, send it off, and the waiting game begins.
Step Three: The Interview
If you catch their eye a recruiting agent will email you back and set up an interview!
It took them almost a week to get back to me, so don’t worry if you do not hear from them right away. The interview will most likely be done by someone in the UK base, so it will be over Skype. My interview took a little over an hour. Be prepared to be asked about your previous experience, situational questions, and personality questions. Just be yourself, and as open and honest as you can be. It is also a good idea to prepare a list of questions of your own for the recruiting manager, after all you are also interviewing them!
The recruiting manager will usually let you know their decision 2-4 days post interview.
Step Four: Preparing Paperwork
Congrats! You made it past the interview and you’ve been offered the job, now what?
Luckily for us, The Moorings handles and pays for the work permit application. However, you are not totally off the hook. In order for them to put in a work permit request you have to provide them with some documents.
The initial documents you must send to The Moorings BVI base are:
-a clear copy of the picture page of your passport
-3 passport sized photos
-copy of your CV
-copy of your STCW-95
-copy of any relevant certificates (like a culinary certificate or your captains license)
Once you have complied all of those documents you will send them via FedEx to the BVI base. This is paid for by The Moorings.
Step Five: Waiting For Your Work Permit
Once The Moorings has applied for your work permit they will need to wait for it to be approved by the Labour and Immigration departments. This can take anywhere between 4-6 weeks. I used this time to make some backup money and tie up any loose ends back home.
When The Moorings receives your work permit, they will send it to you via FedEx express. The package will contain your work permit as well as a check list you will need to complete before stepping foot into the BVI’s.
This checklist will include:
-A certificate of health to be filled out by your doctor, as well as test results for: VDRL, Ova or Parasites in stool, and a skin test for tuberculosis.
-A police record
-Two passport sized photos
-Evidence of a return air ticket home for when the year long visa runs out. (Pro tip: some airlines let you get a full refund if you cancel the flight within 24 hours)
Your tests and police check need to have been done recently, otherwise the BVI government will not accept them. I had attached my tuberculosis test results from 2016 and they did not accept it. I had to redo the test and prolong my visa process by a week, super annoying!
Step Six: Get Ready to Leave
Once you have collected all of the necessary paperwork you will be ready to leave!
There are two ways to get to The Moorings base in Tortola, a plane or ferry. If you fly into Beef Island, get ready to pay a pretty penny. It is the only airport on island and only a select few air lines fly there. The cheaper way to do it, which is what I did, is to fly into St. Thomas, USVI. From Cyril E. King airport in St. Thomas you can take a $40 ferry from Charlotte Amalie or Red Hook to Road Town, Tortola. On of the perks working for The Moorings is that at the end of your one year contract they will reimburse your flight to the BVI up to $1000!
Pack light! Living on a boat is amazing but it is far from spacious! The Moorings will provide you with shorts and shirts to wear while working, so you only need to pack some casual clothes. I would recommend using a duffle bag or some sort of collapsable suit case. Check out my packing list here.
Once your ticket is purchased, bags are packed, and passport is in hand you will be ready to set off for your Caribbean adventure!
Step Seven: Arriving In The British Virgin Islands
You’ve made it, now its times to go through customs. When you go through the customs line it is important to have your passport and work visa in hand. When you get to the customs officer explain that you are here to work for The Moorings and you have your work permit as well as all the supporting documents. The customs officer will stamp your passport with a 2 week entry permit. You will use these two weeks to get your official work permit, get your medical papers checked off, social security card, health insurance card, and bank account set up.
You will take a cab, or hitch hike ( very common in the BVI), to The Moorings base in Road Town where a base manager will meet you and show you around. You will most likely sleep on one of the off-charter yachts while you finish up your visa process.
Step Eight: Finishing The Work Permit Process
I am not going to lie, this is going to be one of the most annoying weeks of your life. It involves a lot of waiting. There are 5 tasks you must finish before becoming part of the legal BVI workforce. I highly recommend getting a local sim card for your phone. I use FLOW.
5 Tasks (to be completed in this order):
You must get your medical papers checked and okayed by one of the local nurses. Peebles hospital is where you will do this. Make sure to go early. When you arrive let the receptionist know you are there for your work visa medicals. You will pay the cashier with a check that one of The Moorings managers should have given you. This process usually takes 2-4 days.
Once you have your medicals done and stamped by the hospital you can go to the Labour Department. The Labour Department is only open for New Work Permit registration on Thursdays. I know, its a pain. You must get in line early. Be prepared to wait anywhere between 1-4 hours. Bring a book and some water! You will bring your work permit with the medicals to the cashier window, pay with a check that moorings will give you, and then you will go and get your photo taken for your work permit card. You will have to come back later in the day, around 1pm if I remember correctly, for the New Work Permit Orientation. Once the orientation is over you will get your work permit card! Before you go to the orientation you will need to visit the Immigration building next door.
Before you go to your orientation for the Labour Department you will need to visit the Immigration department. Again, you will grab a number and wait in line. You will let the officer know that you just came from Labour for your new work permit. They will take your passport and send you on your way. They will tell you to return for passport in roughly 4-8 days. They take your passport in order to give you the official work permit stamp. This process does not take very long. They will give The Moorings a call when your passport is ready for pick up. Make sure you bring a check from The Moorings to pay for the fee.
Social Security Card/ National Health Insurance Card:
You will have some time before you can pick up your passport, this is when you can get your social security and health insurance card. You must register for these two cards to legally work in the BVI. They are both located in the Joshua J. Smith building, which is only a 5-10 minute walk away from Labour and Immigration. These cards are really easy to get. You tell the receptionists that you are a new resident and give them your shiny new work permit card. They will handle the rest. It takes less than 30 minutes.
BVI Bank Account:
The last step is opening a BVI bank account. You will need this local bank account in order to get paid your salary. The Moorings uses First Caribbean Bank as their primary bank. I could not open an account there because I did not have my physical social security card from my home country present. I opened a bank account with First Bank, which is an American bank. They did not need my physical card, just my social security number, which I knew off the top of my head. First Caribbean Bank always has a long cue and their practices are very old school, which makes a simple bank visit over an hour every time. First Bank is much faster and easier to work with. Its up to you, The Moorings payroll with work with either one.
Step Nine: Start Working!
Now that all of that is over you are ready to start working! The visa process is not an easy one but once its over its totally worth the effort. You get to work on the open ocean on a yacht, doesn’t get much better than that! I love my job and I am making great money since I have barely any living expenses. This job is not for everyone, you have to be flexible and adaptable. It is not always a glamorous job, but it is highly rewarding and you become part of an amazing supportive community. See you on the water!
If you have any more questions about working for The Moorings and the BVI work visa process please feel free to reach out to me!
*All photos taken by Hubert Haciski