Central America and Caribbean :: British Virgin Islands
(overseas territory of the UK)
page last updated on October 28, 2009
Flag of British Virgin Islands
Location of British Virgin Islands
 
Map of 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.
Geography ::British Virgin Islands
Caribbean, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of Puerto Rico
18 30 N, 64 30 W
total: 151 sq km
country comparison to the world: 219
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
about 0.9 times the size of Washington, DC
0 km
80 km
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
NEGL
arable land: 20%
permanent crops: 6.67%
other: 73.33% (2005)
NA
hurricanes and tropical storms (July to October)
limited natural fresh water resources (except for a few seasonal streams and springs on Tortola, most of the islands' water supply comes from wells and rainwater catchments)
strong ties to nearby US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico
People ::British Virgin Islands
24,491 (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 215
0-14 years: 19.8% (male 2,454/female 2,387)
15-64 years: 74.4% (male 9,346/female 8,881)
65 years and over: 5.8% (male 734/female 689) (2009 est.)
total: 32.3 years
male: 32.4 years
female: 32.2 years (2009 est.)
1.837% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 71
14.62 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 144
4.37 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 203
8.13 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
urban population: 40% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 1.7% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.06 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
total: 14.65 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 129
male: 16.61 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 12.58 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
total population: 77.26 years
country comparison to the world: 58
male: 76.03 years
female: 78.55 years (2009 est.)
1.71 children born/woman (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 170
NA
NA
NA
noun: British Virgin Islander(s)
adjective: British Virgin Islander
black 83.4%, white 7%, other 9.6% (includes Indian and mixed) (2004 Census)
Protestant 86% (Methodist 33%, Anglican 17%, Church of God 9%, Seventh-Day Adventist 6%, Baptist 4%, Jehovah's Witnesses 2%, other 15%), Roman Catholic 10%, other 2%, none 2% (1991)
English (official)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97.8% (1991 est.)
male: NA
female: NA
total: 17 years
male: 15 years
female: 19 years (2005)
3.7% of GDP (2006)
country comparison to the world: 123
Government ::British Virgin Islands
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: British Virgin Islands
abbreviation: BVI
overseas territory of the UK; internal self-governing
NA
name: Road Town
geographic coordinates: 18 27 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 law
18 years of age; universal
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor David PEAREY (since 18 April 2006)
head of government: Premier Ralph T. O'NEAL (since 23 August 2007)
cabinet: Executive Council appointed by the governor from members of the House of Assembly
elections: the monarch is hereditary; governor appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually appointed premier by the governor
unicameral House of Assembly (13 elected seats 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 20 August 2007 (next to be held in 2011)
election results: percent of vote by party - VIP 45.2%, NDP 39.6%, independent 15.2%; seats by party - VIP 10, NDP 2, independent 1
Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, consisting of the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal (one judge of the Supreme Court is a resident of the islands and presides over the High Court); Magistrate's Court; Juvenile Court; Court of Summary Jurisdiction
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, WFTU
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)
Economy ::British Virgin Islands
The economy, one of the most stable and prosperous in the Caribbean, is highly dependent on tourism generating an estimated 45% of the national income. An estimated 820,000 tourists, mainly from the US, visited the islands in 2005. 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. Livestock raising is the most important agricultural activity; poor soils limit the islands' ability to meet domestic food requirements. Because of traditionally close links with the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands has used the US dollar as its currency since 1959.
$853.4 million (2004 est.)
country comparison to the world: 206
$839.7 million (2003)
1% (2002 est.)
country comparison to the world: 179
$38,500 (2004 est.)
country comparison to the world: 23
agriculture: 1.8%
industry: 6.2%
services: 92% (1996 est.)
12,770 (2004)
country comparison to the world: 206
agriculture: 0.6%
industry: 40%
services: 59.4% (2005)
3.6% (1997)
country comparison to the world: 42
NA%
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
revenues: $204.7 million
expenditures: $180.4 million (2004)
2% (2005)
country comparison to the world: 17
fruits, vegetables; livestock, poultry; fish
tourism, light industry, construction, rum, concrete block, offshore financial center
NA%
45 million kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 198
41.85 million kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 198
0 kWh (2008 est.)
0 kWh (2008 est.)
0 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 124
1,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 189
0 bbl/day (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 157
691.4 bbl/day (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 194
0 bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 118
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 116
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 124
0 cu m (2008)
country comparison to the world: 92
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 117
0 cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 123
$134.3 million (1999)
country comparison to the world: 55
$25.3 million (2002)
country comparison to the world: 202
$25.3 million (2002)
rum, fresh fish, fruits, animals; gravel, sand
$187 million f.o.b.
building materials, automobiles, foodstuffs, machinery
$36.1 million (1997)
country comparison to the world: 194
the US dollar is used
Communications ::British Virgin Islands
18,900 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 196
23,000 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 204
general assessment: worldwide telephone service
domestic: fixed line connections exceed 75 per 100 persons and mobile cellular subscribership is approaching 100 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 (2008)
AM 1, FM 5, shortwave 0 (2004)
1 (plus 1 cable company) (1997)
.vg
581 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 169
4,000 (2002)
country comparison to the world: 206
Transportation ::British Virgin Islands
4 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 185
total: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (2009)
total: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2009)
total: 200 km
country comparison to the world: 206
paved: 200 km (2007)
registered in other countries: 1 (Panama 1) (2008)
country comparison to the world: 153
Road Town
Military ::British Virgin Islands
males age 16-49: 7,101 (2008 est.)
males age 16-49: 5,979
females age 16-49: 5,738 (2009 est.)
male: 178
female: 173 (2009 est.)
defense is the responsibility of the UK
Transnational Issues ::British Virgin Islands
none
transshipment point for South American narcotics destined for the US and Europe; large offshore financial center makes it vulnerable to money laundering