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In looking over the articles I've written these past nine years, I realized that I've never detailed the steps involved in obtaining an Alien Land Holding License and registering title to property once the License is obtained-herein that omission is corrected.

An Alien Land Holding License is a site specific and a purchaser specific document that cannot be assigned or transferred. A License allows an approved purchaser to buy a clearly identified parcel of property for generally defined purposes-the primarily areas of use being either residential or tourism development.

A License Application can be submitted to Government with or without a private sector agreement concerning the Land for which the License is sought--in fact, the Vendor of the property identified on the Application is not required to sign, or otherwise attest to, the Application itself. Nonetheless, it is customary to have a signed Purchase Agreement in hand prior to License Application-an Agreement that stipulates price, parcel, refund conditions, etc. If the License Application is for undeveloped land, Planning Permission is required prior to License Application-Planning Permission is obtained by application to the Planning Board, which meets every three weeks.

The License Application must be completed in duplicate and submitted to the Department of Lands-a nominal fee of US$250 is charged when the paperwork is presented. At the Department of Lands the particulars of the property are reviewed and the value of the property as declared on the Application is confirmed. Once those hurdles are climbed, the Application is noted and then forwarded to the Registry Office at the Secretariat.

From the Registry Office the Application is forwarded to the Chief Minister's Office for review prior to the required Interview-every applicant applying for an Alien Land Holding License must be interviewed. Most interviews are very straight forward-the easiest scenarios involving the transfer of property that has already been alienated. The interviews that require a bit more discussion are those whereby land is being alienated for the first time-a major event, as alienated property seldom returns to local ownership.

Sometime after the interview is completed the Permanent Secretary in the Chief Minister's Office prepares a packet for the Chief Minister to bring to Executive Council for discussion and decision. Regardless of the decision that is made, the Minutes of the relevant ExCo meeting must be approved prior to the Applicant or his Agent receiving notification from Government-this normally occurs the week following the decision.

Sometime after the Minutes are approved, the Permanent Secretary will write a letter to the Applicant advising whether the Application was refused or approved-if refused, a reason may or may not be specified; if approved, the relevant taxes payable are noted. In addition, if the Application is approved, the letter written by the Permanent Secretary will advise that a second letter will be written when the License itself is ready to collect.

At that point, details of the approval are put into the standard License format by the Chief Minister's Office and the document is sent to the Governor's Office for his signature-every Alien Land Holding License must be signed by the Governor to be valid. After the Governor's signature is affixed, the License is sent back to the Chief Ministers' office, whereupon the Permanent Secretary then writes that second letter-this one advising the Applicant that the License is ready to collect.

At that point, the Applicant can go to the Chief Minister's Office to collect the completed License, which must them be presented (along with the relevant RL1 Land Transfer forms) to the Department of Lands-there the documents are stamped to confirm the taxable value of the property. Once the stamps are affixed, the papers must be carried to the Treasury where the taxes themselves are paid-5% Stamp Duty to register the land transfer, plus 12.5% Stamp Duty to register the License. Once the applicable taxes are paid and the receipts are issued, the paperwork is then brought back to the Department of Lands-at that point they will take the RL1 forms and the License and collect a fees of US$20 to actually transfer title into your name.

It's not an easy process-rather time consuming and a bit convoluted-but it does work. Although there is no doubt that the process can be frustrating and should be expedited as well as streamlined, the Alien Land Holding License hurdles help to maintain Anguilla's value and image by ensuring that the real estate market won't get too hot. It can't get too hot-the process takes too long for the boil.


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