Turks and Caicos Islands law is based on the common law legal system of England and Wales, and is similar to the legal systems used in other British Overseas Territories including Bermuda, The Cayman Islands, and Anguilla. Likewise, the systems used by commonwealth countries such as the Bahamas, Canada, Barbados, and other Caribbean countries have many parallels in laws and practices.
Lawyers and attorneys in the Turks and Caicos are regulated by the Turks and Caicos Islands Bar Association, an independent entity established under the 1997 Legal Profession Ordinance.
Whereas several larger firms exist which cover all ranges of legal services, many smaller firms have chosen to practice in specific areas, such as real estate transactions.
Financial services in the Turks and Caicos are regulated by the Financial Services Commission (FSC), an independent statutory body established in 2001.
A range of corporate entities can be formed in the Turks and Caicos, with the most popular being an ordinary company. The legislation allows for additional types, such as partnerships and limited-life companies.
Unlike in the United Kingdom, beneficial ownership information is not public, although there have been proposals to change this.
Trusts which are formed in the Turks and Caicos, hold property in the islands, or have a trustee resident in the islands fall under local jurisdiction.
Commercial Property and Real Estate
Large-scale tourism and other development projects can typically benefit from a wide range of development concessions through a Development Agreement (a power of the Government derived via the Encouragement of Development Ordinance).
In the last decade, a variety of changes have been made to family law to modernize legislation, such as relaxed requirements for divorce and changes to guardianship and custody laws.
Intellectual Property (Trademarks, Patents and Copyrights)
Trademarks can be registered locally, and marks registered in the United Kingdom have an automatic right of registration in the Turks and Caicos. There is no local copyright law in the islands and the laws of the UK apply in this regard.
Most employment disputes are in the jurisdiction of the Labour Tribunal, an independent body of the Government established to provide faster and lower-cost resolutions to employment disputes.
Immigration law can be complex and difficult for people unfamiliar with the Turks and Caicos. The Government has over the years reduced the amount of services offered directly to individuals, and as such it is nearly impossible to deal with the Government on immigration matters without the use of a local lawyer.
Choosing a Local Law Firm
There are small, single-lawyer firms, multi-partner firms, and larger internationally affiliated firms to choose from. Law firms in the Turks and Caicos include L’Heureux & Co, Miller Simons O´Sullivan, Twa Marcelin and Wolf, Hugh G. O’Neill & Co, F Chambers, Griffiths and Partners, Geordins Attorneys At Law, Misick and Stanbrook, and Savory & Co. Most law firms in the Turks and Caicos maintain offices in the Grace Bay region at plazas such as Regent Village and the Saltmills, or have premises on Leeward Highway, which is the primary road on Providenciales.
Law firms and lawyers in the Turks and Caicos typically have practices areas that can be quite broad, yet a few do specialize in specific subjects such as real estate, resort development and investment, or corporate services. Ensure that a prospective lawyer or attorney has the required expertise in your required field. Many local lawyers are not litigation attorneys (i.e. courtroom lawyers offering civil or commercial litigation services), and it’s common for them to have the majority of experience in one (or a few) fields within the law.
Before taking you on as a client, a lawyer will conduct a know-your-customer (KYC) exercise. This process may take longer for an international client than it would for a resident of the Turks and Caicos.
You may wish to consider speaking to past clients to obtain their opinion on the performance of a local law firm.