Virgin Islands: No passport needed
Until then, however, if your Caribbean destination is a U.S. territory like Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands then you can avoid all the paperwork.
"It's part of the United States, so you don't even need a passport to go there you just need a driver's license," says Matt Bauer, co-founder and director of St. Croix-based ConnectSpace.vi and president of BetterWorld Telecom in Reston, Va. "It's like moving to another state."
Bauer, who splits his time between the island of St. Croix and California, says the cost of living on the island is a bit higher than, say, in a rural town in the midwest. But there are supermarkets, K-Mart, Office Depot, even an accredited university the University of the Virgin Islands.
Best of all, St. Croix is one of the 10 most concentrated places for Internet traffic in the world, since two major Internet pipelines meet here. Local authorities are currently putting in about $300 million worth of new infrastructure to expand local connectivity to these pipelines, paid for with U.S. stimulus grants and private business investment.
The main goal of this infrastructure is to attract new businesses, such as financial institutions or tech companies looking for lower taxes, an educated local work force, and, of course, great infrastructure.
But the infrastructure is also perfect for telecommuters. Another benefit for telecommuters is the region's two new co-working spaces. One is in Frederickston on St. Croix, and the other is on the neighboring island of St. Thomas. Telecommuters can get daily, weekly, or monthly memberships to work in these broadband hubs. There are also Internet cafes on the islands.
"And at 5 p.m. you walk out the front door and run off the pier and jump into the Caribbean ocean," he says. "It's paradise. It's beautiful. You're surrounded by water and nature. It has a unique feel very healthy. I feel really good when I'm there."
The Caribbean is particularly attractive for people who live in northern states. "I don't know if you've been to Seattle in the winter," says Ted Lawrence. "It's pretty dreary. It starts raining in October and keeps raining through February. So I got in the habit of heading down to the Caribbean in January, February, and March."
Lawrence is a business manager for Bellevue, Wash.-based consulting firm Inviso Corp., managing operating expenses for Inviso's corporate clients.
"The job is very well suited to telecommuting," says Lawrence. "It's very independent work. I spent a lot of time on spreadsheets and making sure that things add up the way they're supposed to."
This year, he worked from St. Croix and decided to just stay there. "St. Crois just appealed to me," he says. "It's far more laid-back than the other two U.S. Virgin Islands. St. Thomas is quite busy and St. John is quite expensive. St. Croix just seemed to strike a good balance. Good people. Real estate values seemed reasonable. So I bought a house, fully decked out with a desk and a few computers and all kinds of deck chairs. I have a view of the Caribbean."
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