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Photostories is dedicated to reliving photography sessions, addressing the reason behind each shoot, and sharing general thoughts on photography..

Getting a business license in the VI (for freelancers)

Updated: Nov 7, 2019

The first step to becoming an entrepreneur is making sure you have all your licenses and certifications in check. This step may be a lot easier in the mainland United States than it is in the US Virgin Islands, but it's still possible.


I've received a lot of questions (for some reason) about how to go about getting a business license in the Virgin Islands. I am not the authority figure on this topic, but I am happy to help as it is a process I am familiar with. As I am a freelancer and a sole-proprietor, things may vary from my experience compared to yours.


I'd like to also note that I am a writer and a photographer. I can only speak for myself in these aspects.


To start, you need to have your business name trademarked with the Lieutenant Governor's office, Division of Trademarks and Corporations.


You can visit the website here (Division of Trademarks and Corporations). If you try to do it from mobile, it may give you some issues but you can always request the desktop site from the options menu in your phone and that would fix that hiccup. I recommend doing this from a laptop though. But, it's your preference.


Once at the website, you have to register as a new user. From there, you register for a trade name/entity. During this registration, you'll be asked some basic information such as your name, address, etc. Your addresses are important. It's going to ask you about your business(s)' mailing and physical address. You want these to match what you're going to put on your business license. It's one of the things that held me up because I originally did not think anything of it. So, make sure you know the actual physical address of your business location. This address is going to be a plot number, NOT your normal address. You can get this information from whatever lease or title you have. If you're renting, just ask the owner for this information.


You know what your profession is going to be of course, but You'll also be deciding what type of business you want. The most common here seem to be LLC, Sole Proprietorship and Partnership. For information on the difference, you can visit this link from the Small Business Administration. (Choosing your business structure)


Once you're done here, you submit and pay the fee. Mine was $25. The time to be approved may differ but my turnaround was 24 hours.


Once that's done, you can move on to DLCA. (Department of Licensing and Consumer affairs.)


It's time to create an account again. You'll get a registration pin as well. Keep checking your emails because you'll be getting updates there.


DLCA has a section that gives you the breakdown of every step you will need to take for receiving your license. And by steps you need to take, what they actually mean is steps you have to wait on them to complete because DLCA does all of this for you. You can view it here. (DLCA Licensing steps)


The first thing on the list is your Trademark certification. You should already have that out the way. The next item is a Tax Clearance letter. You don't do this on your own. DLCA handles that for you. So no, you don't need to talk to BIR yourself.


After you have created your account, you go to apply for a new license. You're going to fill out all the same questions you just did for your trademark. You want this information to match. Once you're done filling it all out, you should see how much it's going to cost (please remember this and tuck that money away somewhere) and you hit submit.


You'll be given a control number and an agent. You and your agent will get real familiar.


Now you wait. Literally. Because you aren't in control anymore, DLCA is. They're going to go through these steps:


*Police Record Check

*Zoning Approval

*Fire Inspection

*Health Inspection

*Board Certifications


These cost a fee, but you may not have to worry about some of them.


For me, the first thing they did was work on Zoning and it was denied originally because I did my physical address wrong. Remember those good old plot numbers? That's for zoning. Your business has to be in the right area for DPNR (Department of Planning and Natural Resources) to approve you. I got this fixed eventually.


After (or even during) Zoning, they'll do a background check with VIPD (VI Police Department).


If you're a freelancer, like me, with no set physical location, you don't have to worry about a fire inspection or a health inspection. Now you may wonder why do you need proper zoning then if you don't have a physical location? Because DLCA says so. That's it. That's the reason. Literally.


If you have an actual location, you will need be prepared for inspection.


Lastly, your certifications. I don't need one of these either, but for lawyers, beauticians, etc. basically trade, social work and legal professionals you need to have these.


If things are moving slow, call your agent! Give them your control number and check on your progress. If you don't, it might make things move slower.


You will get a call from a DLCA representative who is not your agent to double check all your information.


If everything is fine and dandy, they'll send you a checklist for you to sign and return along with a Photo ID and your Trademark certificate. This step might be either earlier on for others. It was last for me.


When you submit your checklist, your agent will then charge your credit card for the fee for the license (remember the one I told you to remember?) plus the cost of the steps they did for you (police check etc). My total was $142.


Then you're done! For now anyway until you have to renew it.


You'll get a PDF version of your business license in your email and one will be mailed to your mailing address.


For me, this took exactly 4 months to complete. I heard it is faster for some and even slower for others.


Hope this helps!


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