When do I need an attorney in SXM?
Some newcomers to the island might be surprised to see that quite a number of legal disputes are fought in our local courts on a daily basis. For newcomers and investors to the island it is definitely recommended to always contact an attorney first before signing any legal document and to get familiarized with our legal system in order to protect your interests.
You can contact us or other attorneys for legal advice or in the event of a legal dispute that arises locally and that requires immediate follow up. You may seek legal assistance if you have questions concerning our immigration laws, if you are planning to incorporate a company on the island or purchase a business or real estate, or if you have questions concerning the rights of condominium or timeshare owners, just to name a few.
An attorney on St. Maarten is almost always a general practitioner who is admitted to the local bar and therefore shall be able to act as your local legal representative in and out of court.
Do I need to find a local lawyer for my legal issues on the island? Does Sint Maarten have its own laws and regulations?
The answer is yes if it concerns an issue where either the defendant or the plaintiff resides on the island or if the dispute surrounds any type of assets located in our jurisdiction. You would need a specialist who understands the local laws and regulations. In order to be able to represent you in court, local attorneys must be admitted to the local bar and registered with the Appellate Court, which has its seat in Curacao. Local attorneys must have graduated from a Dutch law school and have been trained with a reputable firm first, before they can practice on their own.
Sint Maarten has become an independent country, within the legal framework of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, as of October 10th, 2010. The local laws are largely laid down in the Civil Code of Sint Maarten. This Code is a near copy of the Dutch Civil Code. Besides that, numerous island Ordinances are in place. Sint Maarten has its own Criminal Code which resembles the Dutch Criminal Code as well.
Possibilities for investors –immigration regulations and business licensing:
Although things have become more complicated over the years it is still possible to start a lucrative business on the island or to retire here. Maybe you wish to purchase a second home and spend a few months each year on St. Maarten,
Long-duration visits: If you wish to stay longer than three months consecutively on the island, you would have to obtain a residence permit.
Starting a business: Although it is generally regarded as difficult to obtain legal admittance to SXM as an employee, if you wish to invest / start your own local business, you should be able to acquire a residence permit. We are able to assist you in this objective and will furthermore request on your behalf the necessary business licenses.
Retiring: Our laws arrange for special retiree status. Provided you meet certain conditions you might qualify to retire on the island.
Equal treatment under the law: According to recent court rulings, American citizens are to be treated equally to European Dutch citizens as far as immigration rights are concerned. This implies that American passport holders would no longer need a residence permit to reside here for a period longer than three months. Unless they would become needy or have a criminal record, in principle they would have to be admitted to the island without any further restrictions or terms. Nevertheless, the local Ministry of Justice is still not complying with those court rulings. Further court action is currently carried out by our offices in order to make the Ministry comply with those rulings.
We will be able to assist you if you seek legal admittance to our island and/or if you see yourself confronted with a legal dispute pertaining to the above.
Real estate purchase:
The process of purchasing real estate is fairly easy, transparent, speedy, and safe on St. Maarten. Ownership will be acquired after the passing of a so-called notarial deed after which your property ownership will be registered at the local Lang Registry. Foreign citizens and residents are entitled to purchase and obtain full ownership of properties on the island. Title can be obtained to vacant lots, apartments (apartment rights or condominium rights), fee simple, long lease, among others. St. Maarten does not levy yearly real estate taxes unless the property is exploited commercially. The purchase of real estate may grant you, under certain conditions, residency rights (pensioner rights).
Why should I plan to carefully protect my local assets?
In our legal system it is fairly easy for a claimant to burden a property with a so-called ‘attachment’ during the period of litigation, even if the claim has been rejected after years of litigating. As such individuals and companies have seen their assets frozen for years and as a result thereof have suffered substantial damages. Therefore, if you plan to purchase assets in Sint Maarten, it is highly advised to obtain legal assistance in order to secure and protect your assets against possible current or future creditors with false and fabricated claims. We can assist you in protecting your assets and will put the best possible instruments and mechanisms in place to obtain this objective.
Stefan J. Fox, LLM
FOX & ASSOCIATES
Attorneys at Law
Cole Bay/Simpson Bay
Fedex Building (second floor)
P.O. Box 1005
Sint Maarten, Dutch West Indies
Tel: +(599) or +(721) 5445014/5445015
Fax: +(599) or + (721) 5442778
Notice: This page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice in any jurisdiction. Legal advice can only be obtained by meeting with and engaging competent legal counsel. The opinions expressed here are those of Fox & Associates and do not necessarily reflect the views of JMB Communications, its affiliates, or staff.