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.



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


mean elevation: NA
elevation extremes: 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%
arable land 6.7%; permanent crops 6.7%; permanent pasture 33.3%
forest: 24.3%
other: 29% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land


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

Geography - note

strong ties to nearby US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico

People and Society

Population growth rate

2.28% (2016 est.)


34,232 (July 2016 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

0-14 years: 16.79% (male 2,826/female 2,920)
15-24 years: 13.77% (male 2,257/female 2,456)
25-54 years: 49.57% (male 7,987/female 8,983)
55-64 years: 11.27% (male 1,881/female 1,977)
65 years and over: 8.6% (male 1,431/female 1,514) (2016 est.)

Median age

total: 36.2 years
male: 36 years
female: 36.3 years (2016 est.)

Birth rate

11 births/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Death rate

5.1 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Net migration rate

16.9 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2016 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: 46.2% of total population (2015)
rate of urbanization: 1.8% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

ROAD TOWN (capital) 13,000 (2014)

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: 0.89 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.95 male(s)/female
total population: 0.92 male(s)/female (2016 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 12.6 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 14.3 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 10.7 deaths/1,000 live births (2016 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 78.6 years
male: 77.2 years
female: 80.1 years (2016 est.)

Total fertility rate

1.28 children born/woman (2016 est.)

Drinking water source

urban: 98% of population
rural: 98% of population
total: 98% of population
urban: 2% of population
rural: 2% of population
total: 2% of population (2010 est.)

Sanitation facility access

urban: 97.5% of population
rural: 97.5% of population
total: 97.5% of population
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

4.4% of GDP (2010)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 14 years
male: NA
female: NA (2009)


Dependency status

overseas territory of the UK; internal self-governing

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)

Government type

parliamentary democracy (House of Assembly); 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)

Administrative divisions

none (overseas territory of the UK)


none (overseas territory of the UK)

National holiday

Territory Day, 1 July (1956)


several previous; latest effective 15 June 2007 (2016)

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 John DUNCAN (since 15 August 2014)
head of government: Premier Orlando SMITH (since 9 November 2011)
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 (13 seats; 9 members directly elected in single-seat constituencies and 4 at-large seats by simple majority vote to serve 4-year terms); note - the Assembly includes the attorney general, a non-voting ex officio member
elections: last held on 8 June 2015 (next to be held in 2019)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NDP 9, VIP 3, PEP 1

Judicial branch

highest court(s): the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) is the itinerant superior court of record for the 9-member Organization of Eastern Caribbean States to include the British Virgin Islands; the ECSC - with its headquarters on St. Lucia - is headed by the chief justice and is comprised of the Court of Appeal with 3 justices and the High Court with 16 judges; sittings of the Court of Appeal and High Court rotate among the 9 member states; 3 High Court judges reside in member states; 3 High Court judges reside on 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

National symbol(s)

zenaida dove, white cedar flower; national colors: yellow, green, red, white, blue

Political parties and leaders

National Democratic Party or NDP [Orlando SMITH];; Virgin Islands Party or VIP [Julian FRASER]

Political pressure groups and leaders

Family Support Network
Woman's Desk
other: environmentalists

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 anthem

note: as a territory of the United Kingdom, "God Save the Queen" is official (see United Kingdom)


Industrial production growth rate

2.2% (2016 est.)

Economy - overview

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. More than 934,000 tourists, mainly from the US, visited the islands in 2008. Because of traditionally c

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. Th

GDP (purchasing power parity)

$500 million (2010 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate)

$1.095 billion (2008)

GDP - real growth rate

1.3% (2010 est.)
-0.6% (2008 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP)

$42,300 (2010 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 68.9%
government consumption: 8.9%
investment in fixed capital: 25%
investment in inventories: 0%
exports of goods and services: 91.8%
imports of goods and services: -94.6% (2016 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 1%
industry: 11.1%
services: 87.9% (2016 est.)

Agriculture - products

fruits, vegetables; livestock, poultry; fish


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

Labor force

12,770 (2004)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 0.6%
industry: 40%
services: 59.4% (2005)

Unemployment rate

8.7% (2010 est.)

Population below poverty line


Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%


revenues: $300 million
expenditures: $300 million (2016 est.)

Taxes and other revenues

27.4% of GDP (2016 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

0% of GDP (2016 est.)

Fiscal year

1 April - 31 March

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

1.1% (2016 est.)
0.9% (2015 est.)

Current account balance

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


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

Exports - commodities

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


$200 million (2015 est.)
$200 million (2015 est.)

Imports - commodities

building materials, automobiles, foodstuffs, machinery

Debt - external

$36.1 million (1997)

Exchange rates

the US dollar is used


Electricity - production

100 million kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - consumption

100 million kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - exports

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity

44,000 kW (2014 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels

100% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Crude oil - exports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - imports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves

0 bbl (1 January 2016 es)

Refined petroleum products - production

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption

1,200 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports

1,209 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Natural gas - production

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves

0 cu m (1 January 2014 es)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy

200,000 Mt (2013 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 12,000
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 36 (July 2015 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular

total: 42,000
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 126 (July 2015 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: good overall telephone service
domestic: fixed-line connections exceed 35 per 100 persons and mobile cellular subscribership is roughly 125 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 (2015)

Broadcast media

1 private TV station; multi-channel TV is available from cable and satellite subscription services; about a half-dozen private radio stations (2007)

Internet country code


Internet users

total: 14,600
percent of population: 43.6% (July 2015 est.)


National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 1
inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 3 (2015)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

VP-L (2016)


4 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2013)


total: 200 km
paved: 200 km (2007)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Road Harbor


Military - note

defense is the responsibility of the UK

Transnational Issues

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