The United States Virgin Islands (U.S.V.I.; also called the American Virgin Islands), officially the Virgin Islands of the United States, are a group of islands in the Caribbean that are an insular area of the United States. The islands are geographically part of the Virgin Islands archipelago and are located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles.
The U.S. Virgin Islands consist of the main islands of Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas, and many other surrounding minor islands. The total land area of the territory is 133.73 square miles (346.36 km2). The territory's capital is Charlotte Amalie on the island of Saint Thomas.
Financial and business services account for nearly half of the islands' GDP. Legislation adopted in the mid-1980s enabled a rapid expansion of international financial services.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) removed the territory from its list of uncooperative tax havens in 2002, although a British government commission called on the Islands, along with other Territories and Crown Dependencies, to improve standards of regulation in an October 2009 report.
Named by Christopher Columbus in 1493, the islands were settled by the Dutch until 1666. The main island of Tortola was annexed by the Leeward Islands governor in 1672. The BVI as a whole became part of Britain's Leeward Islands colony in 1872.
The Leewards were administered under a federal system until 1956. After the Leewards had been de-federated, the BVI were granted separate colony status in 1960 and were awarded a limited degree of self-rule in 1967. Subsequent legislative amendments over the next few decades gradually extended the islands' autonomy.
In 2002 the British Overseas Territories Act granted British citizenship to the islanders, who can hold British passports and may work in the UK and EU. The territory has tightened its immigration regulations; illegal migrants have used the islands as a springboard to the US.
A new constitution adopted in 2007 established a greater degree of self-government. Under this constitution, the post of premier replaced that of chief minister as head of government.
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