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Turks and Caicos Work Permits

Over-under photo at the Bight Beach on Providenciales
The crystal water at the Bight Beach.

Given its small size, the Turks and Caicos workforce lacks sufficient skilled persons in many fields and industries, requiring employers to apply for work permits for people who meet the required skill sets.

To legally work in the Turks and Caicos Islands, nearly all foreign nationals must obtain a work permit (a few exceptions exist, such as for spouses of Islanders). There are several different work permit types, issued at varying fees.

Obtaining a work permit can be a long and arduous process. Depending on caseworker loads and the luck of the draw, getting a physical work permit in hand can take as long as six months, with two to four months being the typical timeline for the entire process.

It is strongly recommended for employers to hire a third-party agent or law firm to apply for the work permit on their behalf. Missing or incorrectly completed documents can result in lengthy delays. Here’s everything you need to know about applying for a work permit in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Overview of the Work Permit Process

  1. The job must be advertised in a local newspaper for at least two weeks.
  2. Assuming there are no qualified Turks and Caicos Islander applicants, you can progress to the application stage.
  3. Before a work permit application can be submitted, the employee must obtain a Migrant Health Evaluation Certificate. This must be completed by a doctor in the applicant’s home country. Then, a local doctor must review it and submit it to the Ministry of Health. This process takes up to six weeks.
  4. Once the Health Certificate is approved, you can apply for the work permit.
  5. It takes around four to eight weeks (sometimes longer) for the permit board to render a decision.
  6. The entire process, from advertisement to approval, takes between two to four months, but can take longer.

Who Approves Work Permits

The Turks and Caicos Islands Work Permit Board is comprised of two branches. One board (Zone 1) services the Turks Islands—Grand Turk, Salt Cay, and Ambergris Cay—as well as South Caicos. The other board (Zone 2) services the remaining islands, including Providenciales, which is where most of the country’s workforce lives.

These boards are responsible for issuing most types of work permits. The exceptions are freelancer’s work permits and temporary work permits, which must be submitted to the Commissioner of Labour.

Above: Resorts on the unmatched Grace Bay Beach, Providenciales.   Top right:  Top left:  Paddling through the Mangrove Cay channels.   Bottom right:  Top right:  Scuba diving at South Caicos with Reef Divers.  

Types of Work Permits

There are three categories of work permits that grant the right to work in the country. Note that you cannot be in the country while applying for any of them (and during processing), with the exception of the freelancer's permit.

Employed (Skilled and Unskilled) Work Permit

The most common work permit type is the permit for skilled and unskilled employed persons. This permit grants you the right to work for a private business, non-profit, or any other employer for a specific term.

Employees cannot apply for this permit themselves—an employer or accredited agent or firm must submit the application on their behalf.

People applying for this category can obtain a work permit for up to three years before having to renew. However, it is typically issued for only one year. The cost of the permit depends on the rate the government sets for different jobs and industries, as well as the duration of the permit.

Self-Employed Work Permit

Kiteboarding lessons at the beautiful Long Bay Beach on Providenciales
Kiteboarding lessons at Long Bay Beach.

A self-employed work permit grants you the right to start a business in Turks and Caicos. Unlike the employed (skilled and unskilled) permit, the self-employed permit is something you can apply for yourself (or via an agent).

Most business types require you to have a local partner with Turks and Caicos Islander Status (Belongership). For a comprehensive list of restricted businesses, see our page on Starting a business in the Turks and Caicos.

The self-employed work permit is generally easier to get than the employed (skilled and unskilled) permit, not only because it does not require you to search for a qualified Turks and Caicos Islander who can do the job, but because the work permit boards tend to favor businesses with a local partner and typically approve them faster. In theory, self-employed permits can be valid for up to five years, but that often isn’t the case.

Note that there is no scheme dedicated to digital nomads, and anyone planning to work remotely long-term either needs to set up a company or be employed by an existing Turks and Caicos company (subject then to the requirement to advertise for a qualified Turks and Caicos Islander).

Freelancer Permit

Shops at the Regent Village plaza in Grace Bay on Providenciales
The Regent Village shopping plaza at Grace Bay.

Due to significant illegal migration and its large undocumented population, the Turks and Caicos created a special ‘freelancer’s permit’. This was for young persons who were either born in the Turks and Caicos Islands (to parents without legal status), or who were themselves brought to the islands as children without the legal right to enter. The basic requirements are that the applicant must have completed secondary school and not qualify for another type of immigration status, such as a Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC).

Great-grandchildren of Islanders can also apply for a freelancer’s permit. However, with the amendment of the Islander Status Ordinance—which now grants Islander Status to great-grandchildren of Islanders—there’s no point for this route.

Like self-employed permits, eligible persons can apply for this permit themselves, without an employer, lawyer, or third-party agent.

Government Workers

Workers for the Government don’t go through the work permit process, and instead are issued a ‘government stamp’ in their passport which side-steps the work permit process.

Cost of a Turks and Caicos Work Permit

The cost of a work permit varies depending on the job or industry and the permit category—self-employed permits are more expensive than most employee permits.

In addition to the cost of the work permit, employers must also pay a non-refundable repatriation fee of $500 and a separate fee of $100 for the work permit board to issue the physical work permit card.

There are more than 100 different occupations across eight scales, with fees that range from $150 to $9,500 for a work permit.

Example Costs of a Work Permit for Different Occupations (2024)
Occupation Permit Cost
Self-employed (director of a limited company) $9,500
Doctors, engineers, architects $9,500
Opticians, veterinarians, assistant engineers, investment advisors $7,500
Secretaries, chefs, diving instructors $4,700
Nurses, dental hygienists, marine biologists, pharmacists $3,500
Boat captains, cooks, electricians, journalists $2,700
Bakers, mechanics, self-employed laborers $2,000
Artists, bartenders, deckhands, janitors, musicians, live-in housekeepers $1,350
Domestic workers, store clerks, waiters $1,000 or less

Work permits do not grant you the right to work in Turks and Caicos indefinitely—they must be renewed periodically, at additional cost. After 10 years of uninterrupted legal residency in the Turks and Caicos, you may apply for a Permanent Residence Certificate (PRC). PRCs can allow the right to work or may not, depending on the category under which the document was applied for. PRCs with the right to work may be restricted to a certain category of work.

Getting Permanent Status

There is a limit on how many times you can renew a work permit, and there is no right to renewal with a work permit. It is common for work permits to be refused starting at around seven years of residency.

This has made it difficult for many immigrants to obtain any sort of permanent status, such as a PRC. It is possible to naturalize as a British Overseas Territory Citizen (BOTC) after holding a PRC for one year, however, there is no reasonable pathway for the majority of immigrants in the Turks and Caicos to obtain Islander Status.

Obtaining Turks and Caicos Islander Status (Belongership)—which allows you to vote, stand for office, own many types of businesses, and hold certain occupations—is extremely difficult.

Endorsing a Spouse or Children

Playing water basketball on a boat charter in the Turks and Caicos
A water basketball competition on an Ocean Outback Adventures cruise.

If you are applying for a self-employed work permit, freelancer permit, or skilled employee permit, you can endorse a spouse or child on your permit. Unskilled permits, however, cannot endorse a spouse or children. Endorsements do not necessarily grant spouses or children the right to work in the Turks and Caicos Islands on the permit-holder’s card.

Endorsing a dependent requires that the applicant include a marriage certificate, copy of each dependent’s valid passport biodata page, police record for people 10 years or older, school letter, and birth certificate. Each person must also obtain a certificate of good health, which can take as long as a month and must be verified by a local physician for an additional fee.

How to Apply for a Job in Turks and Caicos

The best place for foreign nationals to look for work in the Turks and Caicos Islands is in the classifieds of the national newspapers: the print and online TC Weekly News, and the online-only TCI Sun. Interested applicants should look closely at each posting, as many jobs listed are work permit renewals that already have a qualified candidate on staff.

How to Apply for an Employed (Skilled or Unskilled) Work Permit

Jeep Wrangler with kayaks driving on the North Caicos and Middle Caicos Causeway
Jeep Wrangler on the North and Middle Caicos Causeway.

Applying for a work permit here is an involved process. The easiest path for businesses looking to hire a non-Turks and Caicos Islander for a position is to engage a third-party agent or law firm to help them. This service can cost between $900 and $1,500 (in addition to all the Government fees) and is recommended for successfully obtaining a work permit. On average, it takes around 2-4 months to get a work permit in hand.

Advertise the Job in a Newspaper

To begin the application process for a foreign candidate, employers must advertise the position in either the TC Weekly News or the TCI Sun for a period of two weeks to ensure there are no qualified local candidates for the job. In the Turks and Caicos, employers are required by law to give preference to Turks and Caicos Islanders over foreign nationals when hiring for a position. Note that businesses are not required to give any preference to applicants with other permanent status, such as PRCs or BOTC citizens.

The newspaper ad must include:

  • The job title and description
  • The employing business’ name, office address, and contact information (telephone and email address)
  • The proposed salary
  • An invitation for qualified Turks and Caicos Islanders to submit an application to the employer and work permit board
  • A disclaimer if the position is currently held by a work permit holder

Two weeks of newspaper advertising can cost anywhere from $250 to $700, based on ad size. If an employer receives an application from a qualified Turks and Caicos Islander, they must keep a record to include in the work permit application and indicate why the Turks and Caicos Islander applicant is not qualified for the role.

Apply for a Migrant Health Certificate

The Associated Medical Practices clinic on Leeward Highway. The clinic has Island Pharmacy, the oldest dispensing pharmacy on the island.

To work in the Turks and Caicos Islands, employees will need to obtain a Migrant Health Evaluation Certificate before their employer can submit the work permit application. This certificate must then be renewed annually.

Getting this approval is one of the lengthiest parts of the process, and takes about a month. Spelling and data errors, which are common, can delay approval by several weeks. It’s best to start as soon as the newspaper ads have run their course (as long as they have not identified a qualified Turks and Caicos Islander candidate).

Prospective employees must have a physician complete a migrant health evaluation form. As these forms are updated frequently, it’s best to contact the immigration department or an agent to obtain the latest copy.

As part of the medical exam, physicians also need to fill out a separate certificate form for the employee that includes:

  • A chest X-ray
  • A urinalysis
  • A Mantoux (Tuberculosis) test
  • An echocardiogram (if 40 years or older)
  • HIV, Hepatitis B, and Syphilis tests

As with the migrant health evaluation form, applicants will want to obtain the latest copy of the certificate form from immigration or an agent.

To receive this certificate, employees will also need to prove that they have been vaccinated against polio (one dose), measles, mumps, and rubella (two doses), and diphtheria and tetanus (three doses, with one booster less than 10 years old). While COVID-19 vaccines are not legally required, they are often requested as part of the permit application.

If you are applying for work with the government, you’ll need to do a drug screen. Fees associated with the above tests and evaluation are generally the employee’s responsibility.

The migrant health evaluation form, vaccine records, and certificate of good health tests must be submitted to an authorized local physician or certifying health officer, who then verifies the package and submits it to the Ministry of Health for review. The physician or certifying health officer charges around $300 for this service.

Collect the Necessary Documents

If there are no qualified local candidates for the job, the employer or agent must then collect all the necessary documents for the work permit application. Employers need to provide their business license, a cover letter outlining their need for the foreign worker, copies of the initial and follow-up newspaper advertisements, the employment contract, and a job description.

Floating in the clear ocean water at Little Water Cay
Swimming in the crystal-clear water off of Little Water Cay.

The prospective employee must provide the employer with:

  • Two passport photos (one certified per person) of themselves and each person, such as a spouse or child, to be endorsed on the work permit
  • A certified copy of their passport biodata page
  • An approved Migrant Health Evaluation Certificate
  • Proof of legal entry and lawful stay, if in the country at the time of application
  • Academic or professional qualifications, certificates, and diplomas
  • A valid police record from the country in which they currently live
  • A completed application form signed by themselves and the employer

If the employee is not from an English-speaking country, they will need to provide evidence of proficiency in written and spoken English.

Renewals

For work permit renewals, employees must submit a local police record and proof that their National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) and National Insurance Board (NIB) contributions—the country’s healthcare and pension taxes—are up to date.

Submit the Work Permit Application

Work permit processing times can take anywhere from a few weeks to six months. While the work permit board does offer the option to fast track an application in seven days, it’s common that fast-tracked applications can take just as long as applications submitted without the service.

Temporary work permits allow businesses with an urgent need for an employee to hire someone for a short period of time. These specific permits should not be submitted to the Turks and Caicos Islands Work Permit Board, but to the Commissioner of Labour.

A Note on NHIP and NIP Contributions

Employers are expected to start paying payroll taxes—NHIP and NIB—from the day the employee’s work permit is approved. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a paradox. Not paying these fees on time can result in high penalties, but employers can’t register an employee with NHIP or NIB until they have received a physical work permit card, which can take months to issue.

Above: A jet ski tour on the beautiful waters of the Turks and Caicos.   Top right:  Top left:  The local Turk's Head Beer.   Bottom right:  Top right:  Kiteboarding on the Turks and Caicos flats.  

How to Apply for a Self-Employed Work Permit

To apply for a self-employed work permit, applicants will first need to apply for a business license.

Apply for a Business License

A business license is essential to operate a business in the Turks and Caicos Islands, with the exception of banks, insurance providers, and corporate managers and agents. If the business engages in activities in more than one category of business, the owners will need a separate business license for each category.

These licenses expire annually on March 31st and do not guarantee that the applicant will get a self-employed work permit. As with employed (skilled and unskilled) permits, it’s best that applicants hire a law firm or professional agent to handle the application on their behalf. The renewal fee for a business license can cost anywhere from $100 to $7,500, depending on the business.

Certain business types require foreign nationals to have a local partner with Turks and Caicos Islander Status (Belongership). For a comprehensive list of restricted businesses, see our page on Starting a business in the Turks and Caicos.

To apply for a business license, applicants must submit a business license application and a SIGTAS registration form. These forms are updated often, so it’s best to request the latest copy from the permit board directly or through a third-party agent before applying.

Applicants will also need to submit supporting documents, including other licenses, permits, and registrations or authorizations.

Collect the Necessary Documents

A female Turks and Caicos Islands Rock Iguana.

Once the applicant has received their business license, they themselves or a third-party agent or law firm will need to submit the government’s self-employed work permit form, and include in the application:

  • Two passport photos (one certified per person) of themselves and each person, such as a spouse or child, to be endorsed on the work permit
  • A certified copy of their passport biodata page
  • An approved Migrant Health Evaluation Certificate
  • Proof of legal entry and lawful stay, if in the country at the time of application
  • Academic or professional qualifications, certificates, and diplomas
  • A cover letter outlining the need for the self-employed work permit
  • A bank statement
  • A valid business license
  • Proof that the self-employed person owns the company
  • A business and staffing plan that includes the company’s organizational structure
  • An incumbency certificate or list of any partners or shareholders of the company
  • A valid police record from the country in which they currently live
  • A completed application form signed by themselves and the employer

If the self-employed person is not from an English-speaking country, they will need to provide evidence of proficiency in written and spoken English.

To renew a permit, self-employed persons must submit a local police record and proof that their National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) and National Insurance Board (NIB) contributions—the country’s healthcare and pension taxes—are up to date.