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- United States – Bermuda: A Special Relationship
The United States has had strong ties to Bermuda for over 400 years. Located 650 miles east of North Carolina, the British Overseas Territory’s close proximity to the United States has made the island a valued partner throughout history.
In 1609, Bermuda was settled by English passengers who had been traveling onboard the Sea Venture heading to Jamestown, Virginia before the ship was steered off course by a hurricane and landed near the shores of Bermuda. The island was administered as an extension of Virginia until 1614 when a British company acquired rights before it officially became a British Overseas Territory in 1707.
The trading partnership between both countries was established in the early 1700’s as a result of Bermuda’s growing maritime trade operations and commercial business. William Higinbotham was appointed as the first U.S. Consul General to Bermuda in 1786 as the Agent for Commerce and Seamen by President James Monroe and Secretary of State Quincy Adams.
During the War of 1812 and World War II, Bermuda’s location became a strategic site for military and naval forces not only for the United States but for the United Kingdom and Canada as well. In 1941, the United States established two military bases – the U.S. Naval Air Station was located to the east on St. David’s Island and the Naval Air Station Annex was located to the west in the Great Sound. Both bases closed in 1995, and the property was returned to the ownership of the Bermuda Government.
Maintaining their bilateral relationship, the United States and Bermuda continue to rely on each other for international business and trade of goods. Many U.S. citizens live and work on the island, including many who are employed in Bermuda’s international insurance and re-insurance sector. Tourism is a vital component to Bermuda’s economy; over half a million American visitors arrive via air, cruise ship, or private sailing vessels annually.
The U.S. Consulate General provides U.S. citizen services and consular services to residents while engaging in public diplomacy and cultural programming. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection provides pre-clearance across U.S. borders at the international airport. Other government agencies work in cooperation with the Bermuda Government, including National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and others.