British Virgin Islands

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. 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


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


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

Area – comparative

about 0.9 times the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries

0 km


80 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 3 nm

exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm


subtropical; humid; temperatures moderated by trade winds


coral islands relatively flat; volcanic islands steep, hilly


lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m

highest point: Mount Sage 521 m

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


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


37,381 (July 2020 est.)


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.)


English (official)


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

population pyramid

Median age

total: 37.2 years

male: 37 years

female: 37.5 years (2020 est.)

Population growth rate

2.14% (2020 est.)

Birth rate

11.1 births/1,000 population (2020 est.)

Death rate

5.4 deaths/1,000 population (2020 est.)

Net migration rate

15.5 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2020 est.)

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


urban population: 48.5% of total population (2020)

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: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 0.92 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 0.88 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.92 male(s)/female

total population: 0.91 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 11 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 12.5 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 9.4 deaths/1,000 live births (2020 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 79.2 years

male: 77.7 years

female: 80.8 years (2020 est.)

Total fertility rate

1.33 children born/woman (2020 est.)

Drinking water source

improved:** total:** 100% of population

unimproved:** total:** 0% of population (2017 est.)

Sanitation facility access

improved:** urban:** 97.5% of population

rural: 97.5% of population

total: 97.5% of population

unimproved:** urban:** 2.5% of population

rural: 2.5% of population

total: 2.5% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate


HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS


HIV/AIDS – deaths


Education expenditures

3.2% of GDP (2017)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 14 years

male: NA

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; self-governing overseas territory of the UK


name: Road Town

geographic coordinates: 18 25 N, 64 37 W

time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: name refers to the nautical term “roadstead” or “roads,” a body of water less sheltered than a harbor but where where ships can lie reasonably safely at anchor sheltered from rip currents, spring tides, or ocean swells

Administrative divisions

none (overseas territory of the UK)


none (overseas territory of the UK)

National holiday

Territory Day, 1 July (1956)


history: several previous; latest effective 15 June 2007 (The Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007)

Legal system

English common law


see United Kingdom


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 Andrew FAHIE (since 26 February 2019)

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 (15 seats; 13 members – 9 in single-seat constituencies and 4 at-large seats directly elected by simple majority vote and 2 ex-officio members – the attorney general and the speaker – chosen from outside the House; members serve 4-year terms)

elections: last held on 25 February 2019 (next to be held in 2023)

election results: percent of vote by party – VIP 46.5%, NDP 28.2%, PVIM 17.4%, PU 8%; seats by party – VIP 8, NDP 3, PVIM 1, PU 1; composition – men 12, women 3, percent of women 20%

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, traveling to member states on a schedule to hear appeals from the High Court and subordinate courts; High Court judges reside in the member states, with 3 in 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]
Progressive Virgin Islands Movement or PVIM [Ronnie SKELTON]
Progressives United or PU [Julian FRASER]
Virgin Islands Party or VIP [Andrew FAHIE]

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


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.)

GDP (official exchange rate)

$1.028 billion (2017 est.)

GDP – real growth rate

2% (2017 est.)
1.9% (2016 est.)
1.8% (2015 est.)

GDP – per capita (PPP)

$34,200 (2017 est.)

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


tourism, light industry, construction, rum, concrete block, offshore banking center

Industrial production growth rate

1.1% (2017 est.)

Labor force

12,770 (2004)

Labor force – by occupation

agriculture: 0.6%

industry: 40%

services: 59.4% (2005)

Unemployment rate

2.9% (2015 est.)

Population below poverty line


Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: NA
highest 10%: NA


revenues: 400 million (2017 est.)

expenditures: 400 million (2017 est.)

Taxes and other revenues

38.9% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

0% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

Fiscal year

1 April – 31 March

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

1.1% (2017 est.)
1.1% (2016 est.)

Current account balance

$362.6 million (2011 est.)
$279.8 million (2010 est.)


$23 million (2017 est.)
$23 million (2015 est.)

Exports – commodities

rum, fresh fish, fruits, animals; gravel, sand


$300 million NA (2017 est.)
$210 million (2016 est.)

Imports – commodities

building materials, automobiles, foodstuffs, machinery

Debt – external

$36.1 million (1997)

Exchange rates

the US dollar is used

Energy :: British Virgin Islands

Electricity – production

126.3 million kWh (2016 est.)

Electricity – consumption

117.5 million kWh (2016 est.)

Electricity – exports

0 kWh (2016 est.)

Electricity – imports

0 kWh (2016 est.)

Electricity – installed generating capacity

45,200 kW (2016 est.)

Electricity – from fossil fuels

97% of total installed capacity (2016 est.)

Electricity – from nuclear fuels

0% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)

Electricity – from hydroelectric plants

0% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)

Electricity – from other renewable sources

3% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)

Crude oil – production

0 bbl/day (2018 est.)

Crude oil – exports

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Crude oil – imports

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Crude oil – proved reserves

0 bbl (1 January 2018 est.)

Refined petroleum products – production

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products – consumption

20,000 bbl/day (2016 est.)

Refined petroleum products – exports

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products – imports

1,227 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Natural gas – production

0 cu m (2017 est.)

Natural gas – consumption

0 cu m (2017 est.)

Natural gas – exports

0 cu m (2017 est.)

Natural gas – imports

0 cu m (2017 est.)

Natural gas – proved reserves

0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy

183,300 Mt (2017 est.)

Communications :: British Virgin Islands

Telephones – fixed lines

total subscriptions: 6,222

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 17 (2018 est.)

Telephones – mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 39,954

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 112 (2018 est.)

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: good overall telephone service; major expansion sectors include the mobile telephony and data segments, which continue to appeal to operator investment; several operators licensed to provide services within individual markets, most of them are small and localized; telecommunication contributes to overall GDP (2020)

domestic: fixed-line connections exceed 17 per 100 persons and mobile cellular subscribership is roughly 112 per 100 persons (2018)

international: country code – 1-284; landing points for PCCS, ECFS, CBUS, Deep Blue Cable, East-West, PAN-AM, Americas-1, Southern Caribbean Fiber, Columbus- IIb, St Thomas – St Croix System, Taino-Carib, and Americas I- North via submarine cable to Caribbean, Central and South America, and US (2019)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic’s effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry – mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite – has moderated

Broadcast media

1 private TV station; multi-channel TV is available from cable and satellite subscription services; about a half-dozen private radio stations

Internet country code


Internet users

total: 27,818

percent of population: 77.7% (July 2018 est.)

Broadband – fixed subscriptions

total: 4,715

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 13 (2018 est.)

Military and Security :: British Virgin Islands

Military – note

defense is the responsibility of the UK

Transportation :: British Virgin Islands

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 1 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 3

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

VP-L (2016)


4 (2020)

Airports – with paved runways

total: 2 (2019)

914 to 1,523 m: 1

under 914 m: 1

Airports – with unpaved runways

total: 2 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2013)


total: 200 km (2007)

paved: 200 km (2007)

Merchant marine

total: 29

by type: general cargo 3, other 26 (2019)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Road Harbor

Transnational Issues :: British Virgin Islands

Disputes – international


Illicit drugs

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


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