Countries Information & Lifestyle
|Country Information & Lifestyle|
Cascades of colour in the Caribbean
Set in the Caribbean Sea the Netherlands Antilles consist of two groups of islands. One group the Leeward Islands includes Curacao and Bonaire and lies about 50 km north of Venezuela, the other group of three islands the Windward Islamds, St Maarten, St Eustatius and Saba are 160 km east of Puerto Rico.
The islands were discovered by the Spanish in 1499 and the peaceful Arawak Indians were mostly transported to Hispaniola. Although Christopher Columbus sighted and name the island on November 11th 1493, the holy day of St Martin of Tours, the Spanish made no attempt to settle here.
St Marten is the smallest island in the world to be shared by two sovereign governments, the Dutch and the French. The Dutch side, on the south, covers 16 sq miles and the capital is Philipsburg, on the north is the French side with the capital St Martin and covers 21 sq miles. The dual nationality adds variety to this unique of island gems and both the Dutch and French have maintained a peaceful co-existence for over 350 years.
The treaty of Concorida, executed on March 23rd 1648, established this co-existence and has the unique distinction of being the oldest treaty still in force today.
The climate is warm and sunny all year round with some cooling from the trade winds. English is spoken everywhere but Dutch is the official language of St Marten and French the official language of St Martin.
St Marten is the only completely duty free port in the Caribbean and there are huge warehouse outlets which specialise in providing duty free wines, champagnes, liquors, food and every conceivable delicacy you could imagine.
The island expresses its culinary soul with cuisine from far-flung corners of the globe and in traditional cooking all the ingredients are thrown together in the same pot with Creole food, blending local ingredients with French style, the most wide fare available on the island.
Sugar cakes, scones, potato-pudding, coconut pies and guava berry pies are some of the specialities and the legendary guava berry folk liquor was first made here in private homes hundreds of years ago and people made as much as they needed to serve the family and friends.
It became, and still is, part of the local culture and the word itself conjures up memories of the olden days, folk songs and stories. It is a local berry growing wild in the warm hills in the centre of the island and is a rare and seasonal fruit making the liquor even more unique.
The island changed hands many times between the Spanish, Dutch and French powers, and the old stone forts that guard the island inlets are proof of the islands turbulent past.
As an overseas territory of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles is an associate of the EU. Its citizens carry EU passports and have free rights of entry, residence, work etc in the EU. However the Netherlands Antilles does not form part of the EU fiscal area and somewhat analogously the British Dependent Territories does not apply Dutch or EU taxes.
|Purchasing a Property|
There are no restrictions on foreigners purchasing a property on both sides of the island, individuals must provide a passport and entities must provide articles of incorporation/association and complete resolutions, either is protected by laws of the Netherlands Antilles and France.
On the Dutch St Marten quite often corporations are used to hold property for tax structuring purposes as well as ease of transfer, on French St Martin a corporation may hold property but the tax and transfer advantages are less significant.
It is not necessary to instruct an attorney as local notaries act in accordance with Netherlands Antilles & French civil law when transferring property from the seller to the purchaser with a long established and well structured process.
Disclosure of the type of deed is made to the purchaser. The notary assures free and clear title, if mortgages are required the notary would register the mortgage as the deed with the Kadaster (City Hall). If you feel more comfortable you may of course instruct a lawyer to act for you.
The minimum deposit is 10% which is non-refundable and is required when signing the purchase agreement. This is a binding contract and the seller's notary holds the deposit in escrow except for pre-construction purchases, in which case the developer has the right to use all deposits for the financing of the project/development. The balance of the sale price must be paid to the sellers notary on completion of the the purchase.
In Dutch St Marten there are three types of deeds, Fee Simple, Government Long Lease and Private Long Lease, in French St Martin there is only Fee Simple.
|Fees & Taxes|
Closing costs in Dutch St Marten are approximately 5% of the purchase price which consists of the transfer tax and Notary fees.
A corporation can also purchase a property and would also pay 5%. If purchasing the shares in an existing corporation which owns the property there would be no transfer tax.
In French St Martin individual closing costs are approximately 10%. Corporations can hold properties on the French side but there are additional taxation and residency requirements.
Once you own a property on St Marten you can remain as a tourist for three months at which time a non-resident must leave the island for a minimum period of 24 hours.
Nationals of Belgium Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands can enter using national identity cards, nationals of the USA can enter with voter registration cards or birth certificate and nationals of Canada with birth certificates or proof of citizenship. Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, San Marino and Trinidad & Tobago nationals can enter with national identity cards. All other nationals need passports.
Entry for tourist purpose does not require a visa, except for nationals of former Eastern bloc countries, China, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, North Korea, Libya, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Tourist entry is for 14 days and another 14 days on local application, except for Belgium the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, the UK, the USA, Spain and a number of South American, African and other countries, for whom it is 90 days and another 90 days on local application.
These lists can change and you should check with your Embassy/Consulate before travelling.
In all cases of tourist entry a return or onward ticket is required.
Passports for all air travel to or from Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda are required from January 23rd 2007.
From January 1st 2008 passports will be required also for sea and land borders.
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