Central America :: British Virgin Islands
  • Introduction :: British Virgin Islands
  • Background:
    First inhabited by Arawak and later by Carib Indians, the Virgin Islands were settled by the Dutch in 1648 and then annexed by the English in 1672. The islands were part of the British colony of the Leeward Islands from 1872-1960; they were granted autonomy in 1967. The economy is closely tied to the larger and more populous US Virgin Islands to the west; the US dollar is the legal currency. On 6 September 2017, Hurricane Irma devastated the island of Tortola. An estimated 80% of residential and business structures were destroyed or damaged, communications disrupted, and local roads rendered impassable.
  • Geography :: British Virgin Islands
  • Location:
    Caribbean, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of Puerto Rico
    Geographic coordinates:
    18 30 N, 64 30 W
    Map references:
    Central America and the Caribbean
    Area:
    total: 151 sq km
    land: 151 sq km
    water: 0 sq km

    note: comprised of 16 inhabited and more than 20 uninhabited islands; includes the islands of Tortola, Anegada, Virgin Gorda, Jost van Dyke

    country comparison to the world: 220
    Area - comparative:
    about 0.9 times the size of Washington, DC
    Land boundaries:
    0 km
    Coastline:
    80 km
    Maritime claims:
    territorial sea: 3 nm
    exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
    Climate:
    subtropical; humid; temperatures moderated by trade winds
    Terrain:
    coral islands relatively flat; volcanic islands steep, hilly
    Elevation:
    0 m lowest point: Caribbean Sea
    521 highest point: Mount Sage
    Natural resources:
    NEGL; pleasant climate, beaches foster tourism
    Land use:
    agricultural land: 46.7% (2011 est.)
    arable land: 6.7% (2011 est.) / permanent crops: 6.7% (2011 est.) / permanent pasture: 33.3% (2011 est.)
    forest: 24.3% (2011 est.)
    other: 29% (2011 est.)
    Irrigated land:
    NA
    Population distribution:
    a fairly even distribution throughout the inhabited islands, with the largest islands of Tortola, Anegada, Virgin Gorda, and Jost Van Dyke having the largest populations
    Natural hazards:
    hurricanes and tropical storms (July to October)
    Environment - current issues:
    limited natural freshwater resources except for a few seasonal streams and springs on Tortola; most of the islands' water supply comes from desalination plants; sewage and mining/industry waste contribute to water pollution, threatening coral reefs
    Geography - note:
    strong ties to nearby US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico
  • People and Society :: British Virgin Islands
  • Population:
    35,802 (July 2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 214
    Nationality:
    noun: British Virgin Islander(s)
    adjective: British Virgin Islander
    Ethnic groups:
    African/black 76.3%, Latino 5.5%, white 5.4%, mixed 5.3%, Indian 2.1%, East Indian 1.6%, other 3%, unspecified 0.8% (2010 est.)
    Languages:
    English (official)
    Religions:
    Protestant 70.2% (Methodist 17.6%, Church of God 10.4%, Anglican 9.5%, Seventh Day Adventist 9.0%, Pentecostal 8.2%, Baptist 7.4%, New Testament Church of God 6.9%, other Protestant 1.2%), Roman Catholic 8.9%, Jehovah's Witness 2.5%, Hindu 1.9%, other 6.2%, none 7.9%, unspecified 2.4% (2010 est.)
    Age structure:
    0-14 years: 16.72% (male 2,949 /female 3,036)
    15-24 years: 12.98% (male 2,223 /female 2,425)
    25-54 years: 49.05% (male 8,230 /female 9,330)
    55-64 years: 11.93% (male 2,073 /female 2,199)
    65 years and over: 9.32% (male 1,611 /female 1,726) (2018 est.)
    population pyramid: population pyramid
    Median age:
    total: 36.7 years
    male: 36.5 years
    female: 36.9 years (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 72
    Population growth rate:
    2.2% (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 36
    Birth rate:
    11.1 births/1,000 population (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 176
    Death rate:
    5.2 deaths/1,000 population (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 188
    Net migration rate:
    16.5 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 1
    Population distribution:
    a fairly even distribution throughout the inhabited islands, with the largest islands of Tortola, Anegada, Virgin Gorda, and Jost Van Dyke having the largest populations
    Urbanization:
    urban population: 47.7% of total population (2018)
    rate of urbanization: 2.42% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)
    Major urban areas - population:
    15,000 ROAD TOWN (capital) (2018)
    Sex ratio:
    at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
    0-14 years: 0.97 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
    15-24 years: 0.92 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
    25-54 years: 0.89 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
    55-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
    65 years and over: 0.95 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
    total population: 0.92 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
    Infant mortality rate:
    total: 11.7 deaths/1,000 live births (2018 est.)
    male: 13.4 deaths/1,000 live births (2018 est.)
    female: 10 deaths/1,000 live births (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 120
    Life expectancy at birth:
    total population: 78.9 years (2018 est.)
    male: 77.5 years (2018 est.)
    female: 80.4 years (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 54
    Total fertility rate:
    1.3 children born/woman (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 218
    Drinking water source:
    improved: urban: 98% of population (2010 est.)
    rural: 98% of population (2010 est.)
    total: 98% of population (2010 est.)
    unimproved: urban: 2% of population (2010 est.)
    rural: 2% of population (2010 est.)
    total: 2% of population (2010 est.)
    Sanitation facility access:
    improved: urban: 97.5% of population (2015 est.)
    rural: 97.5% of population (2015 est.)
    total: 97.5% of population (2015 est.)
    unimproved: urban: 2.5% of population (2015 est.)
    rural: 2.5% of population (2015 est.)
    total: 2.5% of population (2015 est.)
    HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
    NA
    HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
    NA
    HIV/AIDS - deaths:
    NA
    Education expenditures:
    6.3% of GDP (2015)
    country comparison to the world: 28
    School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
    total: 14 years (2015)
    male: NA (2015)
    female: NA (2015)
  • Government :: British Virgin Islands
  • Country name:
    conventional long form: none
    conventional short form: British Virgin Islands
    abbreviation: BVI
    etymology: the myriad islets, cays, and rocks surrounding the major islands reminded explorer Christopher COLUMBUS in 1493 of Saint Ursula and her 11,000 virgin followers (Santa Ursula y las Once Mil Virgenes), which over time shortened to the Virgins (las Virgenes)
    Dependency status:
    overseas territory of the UK; internal self-governing
    Government type:
    parliamentary democracy (House of Assembly); self-governing overseas territory of the UK
    Capital:
    name: Road Town
    geographic coordinates: 18 25 N, 64 37 W
    time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
    Administrative divisions:
    none (overseas territory of the UK)
    Independence:
    none (overseas territory of the UK)
    National holiday:
    Territory Day, 1 July (1956)
    Constitution:
    several previous; latest effective 15 June 2007 (The Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007) (2018)
    Citizenship:
    see United Kingdom
    Suffrage:
    18 years of age; universal
    Executive branch:
    chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor Gus JASPERT (since 22 August 2017)
    head of government: Premier Orlando SMITH (since 9 November 2011)
    cabinet: Executive Council appointed by the governor from members of the House of Assembly
    elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; governor appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition usually appointed premier by the governor
    Legislative branch:
    description: unicameral House of Assembly (13 seats; 9 members directly elected in single-seat constituencies and 4 at-large seats by simple majority vote to serve 4-year terms); note - the Assembly includes the attorney general, a non-voting ex officio member
    elections: last held on 8 June 2015 (next to be held in 2019)
    election results: percent of vote by party - NDP 60.2%, VIP 30.2%, PEP 4%, other 5.6%; seats by party - NDP 11, VIP 2
    Judicial branch:
    highest courts: the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) is the superior court of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States; the ECSC - headquartered on St. Lucia - consists of the Court of Appeal - headed by the chief justice and 4 judges - and the High Court with 18 judges; the Court of Appeal is itinerant, travelling to member states on a schedule to hear appeals from the High Court and subordinate courts; High Court judges reside at the member states with 3 on the British Virgin Islands
    judge selection and term of office: Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court chief justice appointed by Her Majesty, Queen ELIZABETH II; other justices and judges appointed by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission; Court of Appeal justices appointed for life with mandatory retirement at age 65; High Court judges appointed for life with mandatory retirement at age 62
    subordinate courts: Magistrates' Courts
    Political parties and leaders:
    National Democratic Party or NDP [Myron WALWYN]
    People's Empowerment Party or PEP [Alvin CHRISTOPHER]
    Virgin Islands Party or VIP [Julian FRASER]
    International organization participation:
    Caricom (associate), CDB, Interpol (subbureau), IOC, OECS, UNESCO (associate), UPU
    Diplomatic representation in the US:
    none (overseas territory of the UK)
    Diplomatic representation from the US:
    none (overseas territory of the UK)
    Flag description:
    blue with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant and the Virgin Islander coat of arms centered in the outer half of the flag; the coat of arms depicts a woman flanked on either side by a vertical column of six oil lamps above a scroll bearing the Latin word VIGILATE (Be Watchful); the islands were named by COLUMBUS in 1493 in honor of Saint Ursula and her 11 virgin followers (some sources say 11,000) who reputedly were martyred by the Huns in the 4th or 5th century; the figure on the banner holding a lamp represents the saint; the other lamps symbolize her followers
    National symbol(s):
    zenaida dove, white cedar flower; national colors: yellow, green, red, white, blue
    National anthem:

    note: as a territory of the United Kingdom, "God Save the Queen" is official (see United Kingdom)

  • Economy :: British Virgin Islands
  • Economy - overview:

    The economy, one of the most stable and prosperous in the Caribbean, is highly dependent on tourism, which generates an estimated 45% of the national income. More than 934,000 tourists, mainly from the US, visited the islands in 2008. Because of traditionally close links with the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands has used the US dollar as its currency since 1959.

    Livestock raising is the most important agricultural activity; poor soils limit the islands' ability to meet domestic food requirements.

    In the mid-1980s, the government began offering offshore registration to companies wishing to incorporate in the islands, and incorporation fees now generate substantial revenues. Roughly 400,000 companies were on the offshore registry by yearend 2000. The adoption of a comprehensive insurance law in late 1994, which provides a blanket of confidentiality with regulated statutory gateways for investigation of criminal offenses, made the British Virgin Islands even more attractive to international business.

    GDP (purchasing power parity):
    $500 million (2017 est.)
    $490.2 million (2016 est.)
    $481.1 million (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 213
    GDP (official exchange rate):
    $1.028 billion (2017 est.) (2017 est.)
    GDP - real growth rate:
    2% (2017 est.)
    1.9% (2016 est.)
    1.8% (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 149
    GDP - per capita (PPP):
    $34,200 (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 59
    GDP - composition, by end use:
    household consumption: 25.1% (2017 est.)
    government consumption: 7.5% (2017 est.)
    investment in fixed capital: 21.7% (2017 est.)
    investment in inventories: 20.4% (2017 est.)
    exports of goods and services: 94.7% (2017 est.)
    imports of goods and services: -69.4% (2017 est.)
    GDP - composition, by sector of origin:
    agriculture: 0.2% (2017 est.)
    industry: 6.8% (2017 est.)
    services: 93.1% (2017 est.)
    Agriculture - products:
    fruits, vegetables; livestock, poultry; fish
    Industries:
    tourism, light industry, construction, rum, concrete block, offshore banking center
    Industrial production growth rate:
    1.1% (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 152
    Labor force:
    12,770 (2004)
    country comparison to the world: 215
    Labor force - by occupation:
    agriculture: 59.4% (2005)
    industry: 40% (2005)
    services: 59.4% (2005)
    Unemployment rate:
    2.9% (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 32
    Population below poverty line:
    NA
    Household income or consumption by percentage share:
    lowest 10%: NA
    highest 10%: NA
    Budget:
    revenues: 400 million (2017 est.)
    expenditures: 400 million (2017 est.)
    Taxes and other revenues:
    38.9% (of GDP) (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 50
    Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-):
    0% (of GDP) (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 44
    Fiscal year:
    1 April - 31 March
    Inflation rate (consumer prices):
    1.1% (2017 est.)
    1.1% (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 56
    Current account balance:
    $362.6 million (2011 est.)
    $279.8 million (2010 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 57
    Exports:
    $23 million (2017 est.)
    $23 million (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 209
    Exports - commodities:
    rum, fresh fish, fruits, animals; gravel, sand
    Imports:
    $273.7 million NA (2017 est.)
    $200 million (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 204
    Imports - commodities:
    building materials, automobiles, foodstuffs, machinery
    Debt - external:
    $36.1 million (1997)
    country comparison to the world: 198
    Exchange rates:

    the US dollar is used

  • Energy :: British Virgin Islands
  • Electricity - production:
    126 million kWh (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 195
    Electricity - consumption:
    631.5 million kWh (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 164
    Electricity - exports:
    0 kWh (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 109
    Electricity - imports:
    0 kWh (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 125
    Electricity - installed generating capacity:
    48,000 kW (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 191
    Electricity - from fossil fuels:
    100% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 3
    Electricity - from nuclear fuels:
    0% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 56
    Electricity - from hydroelectric plants:
    0% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 163
    Electricity - from other renewable sources:
    0% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 172
    Crude oil - production:
    0 bbl/day (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 112
    Crude oil - exports:
    0 bbl/day (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 97
    Crude oil - imports:
    0 bbl/day (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 101
    Crude oil - proved reserves:
    0 bbl (1 January 2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 114
    Refined petroleum products - production:
    0 bbl/day (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 122
    Refined petroleum products - consumption:
    1,200 bbl/day (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 201
    Refined petroleum products - exports:
    0 bbl/day (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 134
    Refined petroleum products - imports:
    1,209 bbl/day (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 197
    Natural gas - production:
    0 cu m (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 113
    Natural gas - consumption:
    0 cu m (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 127
    Natural gas - exports:
    0 cu m (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 73
    Natural gas - imports:
    0 cu m (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 97
    Natural gas - proved reserves:
    0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 119
    Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy:
    179,700 Mt (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 206
  • Communications :: British Virgin Islands
  • Telephones - fixed lines:
    total subscriptions: 10,004 (2017 est.)
    subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 29 (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 195
    Telephones - mobile cellular:
    total subscriptions: 42,000 (July 2016 est.)
    subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 126 (July 2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 203
    Telephone system:
    general assessment: good overall telephone service; major growth sectors include the mobile telephony and data segments, which continue to attract operator investment; several operators licensed to provide services within individual markets, most of them are small and localised (2017)
    domestic: fixed-line connections exceed 29 per 100 persons and mobile cellular subscribership is roughly 125 per 100 persons (2017)
    international: country code - 1-284; connected via submarine cable to Bermuda; the East Caribbean Fiber System (ECFS) submarine cable provides connectivity to 13 other islands in the eastern Caribbean (2015)
    Broadcast media:
    1 private TV station; multi-channel TV is available from cable and satellite subscription services; about a half-dozen private radio stations (2007)
    Internet country code:
    .vg
    Internet users:
    total: 14,600 (July 2016 est.)
    percent of population: 43.6% (July 2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 210
  • Transportation :: British Virgin Islands
  • National air transport system:
    number of registered air carriers: 1 (2015)
    inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 3 (2015)
    Civil aircraft registration country code prefix:
    VP-L (2016)
    Airports:
    4 (2013)
    country comparison to the world: 185
    Airports - with paved runways:
    total: 2 (2017)
    914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2017)
    under 914 m: 1 (2017)
    Airports - with unpaved runways:
    total: 2 (2013)
    914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2013)
    Roadways:
    total: 200 km (2007)
    paved: 200 km (2007)
    country comparison to the world: 210
    Merchant marine:
    total: 20 (2017)
    by type: general cargo 4, other 16 (2017)
    country comparison to the world: 138
    Ports and terminals:
    major seaport(s): Road Harbor
  • Military and Security :: British Virgin Islands
  • Military - note:
    defense is the responsibility of the UK
  • Transnational Issues :: British Virgin Islands
  • Disputes - international:
    none
    Illicit drugs:
    transshipment point for South American narcotics destined for the US and Europe; large offshore financial center makes it vulnerable to money laundering