Central America and Caribbean :: British Virgin Islands
(overseas territory of the UK)

Introduction ::British Virgin Islands

    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.

Geography ::British Virgin Islands

People and Society ::British Virgin Islands

Government ::British Virgin Islands

    conventional long form: none
    conventional short form: British Virgin Islands
    abbreviation: BVI
    overseas territory of the UK; internal self-governing
    name: Road Town
    geographic coordinates: 18 25 N, 64 37 W
    time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
    none (overseas territory of the UK)
    none (overseas territory of the UK)
    Territory Day, 1 July (1956)
    13 June 2007
    English common law
    18 years of age; universal
    chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor Boyd MCCLEARY (since 20 August 2010)
    head of government: Premier Orlando SMITH (since 9 November 2011)
    cabinet: Executive Council appointed by the governor from members of the House of Assembly
    (For more information visit the World Leaders website Opens in New Window)
    elections: the monarchy is hereditary; governor appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition usually appointed premier by the governor
    unicameral House of Assembly (13 elected seats, a speaker elected by the 13 members of the House of Assembly, and 1 non-voting ex officio member in the attorney general; members are elected by direct popular vote, 1 member from each of nine electoral districts, 4 at-large members; members serve four-year terms)
    elections: last held on 7 November 2011 (next to be held in 2015)
    election results: percent of vote by party - NDP 49.4%, VIP 42%, other 8.6%; seats by party - NDP 9, VIP 4
    highest court(s): the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) is the itinerant superior court of record for the 9-member Organization of Eastern Caribbean States to include the British Virgin Islands; the ECSC - with its headquarters on St. Lucia - is headed by the chief justice and is comprised of the Court of Appeal with 3 justices and the High Court with 16 judges; sittings of the Court of Appeal and High Court rotate among the 9 member states; 3 High Court judges reside in member states; 3 High Court judges reside 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
    Concerned Citizens Movement or CCM [Ethlyn SMITH]; National Democratic Party or NDP [Orlando SMITH]; United Party or UP [Gregory MADURO]; Virgin Islands Party or VIP [Ralph T. O'NEAL]
    The Family Support Network; The Women's Desk
    other: environmentalists
    Caricom (associate), CDB, Interpol (subbureau), IOC, OECS, UNESCO (associate), UPU
    none (overseas territory of the UK)
    none (overseas territory of the UK)
    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
    note: as a territory of the United Kingdom, "God Save the Queen" is official (see United Kingdom)

Economy ::British Virgin Islands

Energy ::British Virgin Islands

Communications ::British Virgin Islands

    26,800 (2010)
    country comparison to the world: 182
    46,800 (2010)
    country comparison to the world: 201
    general assessment: good overall telephone service
    domestic: fixed line connections exceed 80 per 100 persons and mobile cellular subscribership is roughly 150 per 100 persons
    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 (2011)
    1 private TV station; multi-channel TV is available from cable and satellite subscription services; about a half dozen private radio stations (2007)
    505 (2012)
    country comparison to the world: 182
    4,000 (2002)
    country comparison to the world: 207

Transportation ::British Virgin Islands

Military ::British Virgin Islands

Transnational Issues ::British Virgin Islands

    transshipment point for South American narcotics destined for the US and Europe; large offshore financial center makes it vulnerable to money laundering