Qualifications for membership
Qualifications to be elected as a member of the House of Assembly are now regulated by article 65 of the Constitution (there are no similar restrictions in relation to the two appointed members). Broadly speaking this requires that the candidate must be a second generation Belonger, and must either be domiciled in the British Virgin Islands or have completed a period of residence.
In order to be elected as a member of the House, a person must either be a Virgin Islander (as defined) over the age of 21, and otherwise qualified to vote in the Territory. For these purposes a "Virgin Islander" means a Belonger who is either.
- a person who was born in the British Virgin Islands to a mother or father who was a British Overseas Territories Citizen (by birth or descent);
- a person who was born in the British Virgin Islands to a mother or father who was also a Belonger (by birth or descent); or
- a person who was born outside of the British Virgin Islands to a mother or father who was also a Belonger (by birth or descent) provided that one of his or grandparents also belonged to the British Virgin Islands by birth.
A person may also be qualified to stand for election if they were qualified to stand under the previous Constitution. The restrictions under the earlier constitution were much more relaxed (a person only needed to be a Belonger, over the age of 21, and resident and domiciled in the British Virgin Islands), and preserving them was intended to preserve the right of any sitting members of the House from accidentally being disqualified. However, the wording used suggests that any person who was so qualified on the day the 2007 constitution came into effect remains so qualified (i.e. any Belonger who was born before 1986 and was resident and domiciled in the British Virgin Islands on the date the 2007 constitution came into effect).
However, a person shall be disqualified from being elected (regardless of where they are born) if they are not domiciled in the British Virgin Islands unless:
- In the case of a person who has never been domiciled in the British Virgin Islands, they have resided in the Territory for at least 5 years immediately before the date of their nomination for election; or
- In the case of a person who was formerly domiciled in the British Virgin Islands, but have lived outside of the Territory for at least 10 years, they have resided in the Territory for at least 3 years immediately before the date of their nomination for election.
The High Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine any questions relating to the eligibility of a person to stand for election as a member. An application to the court may be made by any person who is (a) a registered voter in the relevant district, (b) a person who was a candidate in that district, or (c) the Attorney General.
Curiously, there are no residency or similar restrictions as to who may stand for any particular district seat. Accordingly, a candidate could stand for election in a district where they did not live, and theoretically, had never been to.
Disqualifications from membership
A person is disqualified from being elected as a member of the House if:
- They hold any public office;
- They are declared bankrupt in any country;
- They are adjudged to be of unsound mind in any country;
- a sentence of death has been imposed upon them, or if they have served a term of imprisonment of at least 12 months within the previous five years;
- They are disqualified or suspended under the laws of the British Virgin Islands relating to elections offences; or
- They are a party to, or a partner in a firm, or director or manager of company, with any contract with the Government for a public service (unless they have published a notice in the Gazette or other British Virgin Islands newspaper disclosing the nature of the contract and their interest).