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A STATEMENT OF THE
LAWS OF HAITI
In Matters Affecting
* Second Edition
Revised and Enlarged
CHARLES FERNAND PRESSOIR
GEORGES BAUSSAN FILS
Lawyers of Port-au-Prince
Division of Law and Treaties
Department of International Law
PAN AMERICAN UNION WASHINGTON, D. C., 1955
Copyright, 1955, by
THE PAN AMERICAN UNION
This is one of a series of studies edited and published by the Division
of Law and Treaties of the Pan American Union, for the purpose of provid-
ing businessmen, lawyers and other interested persons in the United States
with a summary of the basic legislation in force in each Latin American
Republic. Emphasis is given to laws and regulations pertaining to com-
The general accuracy of the text is ensured by the fact that it is based
upon information supplied by competent practicing lawyers in the country
concerned. The material received is then carefully translated and edited
by Taylor W. Gannett of the Division's Staff, and Paul A. Colborn, Assist-
ant Chief. Needless to say, however, in a specific undertaking, counsel
should be consulted, since it may be necessary to study the full text of leg-
islation, regulations, and court decisions, or changes may have taken place
The present volume on Haiti is a revised edition of one published in
1947 by the Inter-American Development Commission. Not only has the
original subject matter been brought up to date but the contents have been
considerably expanded. In its preparation, M. Charles Fernand Pressoir
contributed the material on constitution and government, nationality and
immigration, rights and duties of foreigners, commercial companies,pub-
lic lands, taxation, patents and trademarks; M. George Baussan Fils con-
tributed labor and social legislation, negotiable instruments, and marriage
and its dissolution; M. Pierre Chauvet contributed the materialon mining
A Supplement will be issued to this work when a sufficient number of
changes are noted, to cover developments subsequent to the main edition.
Chief, Division of Law and Treaties
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I CONSTITUTION AND GOVERNMENT
1. Constitution 1
2. Organization of the State 1
3. The State Powers 2
4. Suffrage and Elections 3
5. Enactment of Laws 3
6. Municipal Government 4
II NATIONALITY AND IMMIGRATION
1. General Principles and Legislation 5
2. Naturalization 6
3. Immigration 7
4. Promotion of Immigration 9
III RIGHTS AND DUTIES OF FOREIGNERS
1. Civil Rights and Obligations 10
2. Political Rights and Obligations 11
3. Rights of Foreigners to Engage in Commerce and Industry 11
4. Rights of Foreigners in the Liberal Professions 12
5. Foreigner Workers: Percentage, etc. 12
6. Investment of Foreign Capital 12
IV COMMERCIAL COMPANIES
1. Legislation and General Principles 14
2. Juridical Personality 14
3. Civil and Commercial Companies 14
4. Categories of Companies 15
5. Supervision and Control of Companies 18
6. Taxes Applicable to Companies 18
7. Foreign Companies 19
V PUBLIC LANDS, FORESTRY, AND WATER LEGISLATION
1. Public Lands 20
2. Forest Legislation 21
3. Water Legislation 21
VI MONOPOLIES AND EXCLUSIVE PRIVILEGES
1. Monopolies 23
2. Concessions and Privileges 23
VII MINING LEGISLATION
1. General Principles 24
2. Prospecting Regulations 24
3. Regulations on Exploitation 25
4. Cement Industry 27
5. Gold 27
1. General Principles 28
2. Income Tax 28
3. Other Taxes 31
4. Regional and Municipal Taxes 35
IX LABOR AND SOCIAL LEGISLATION
1. Legislation and General Principles 36
2. Protection of Labor 36
3. Regulation of Wages and the Minimum Wage 38
4. Health and Safety Regulations 38
5. Labor Contracts 39
6. Labor Unions 41
7. Strikes and Lockouts 43
8. Occupational Risks 45
9. Other Benefits 47
10. Labor Authorities 47
X NEGOTIABLE INSTRUMENTS
1. Bills of Exchange 48
2. Promissory Notes 50
3. Checks 51
4. Bills of Lading 52
5. Bottomry Contracts 52
XI BANKING LEGISLATION 53
XII EXCHANGE AND OTHER CONTROLS 55
XIII INSURANCE LEGISLATION 56
XIV PATENTS AND TRADEMARKS
1. Patents 57
2. Trademarks 58
3. Commercial Names 60
4. Unfair Competition 61
5. Treaties and Conventions Applicable 61
1. Legislation and Definition 62
2. Persons and Works Protected 62
3. Formalities, Duration, and Fees 63
4. Protection of Foreign Works 63
XVI CONTRACTS 64
XVII PROPERTY 65
XVIII DESCENT AND DISTRIBUTION; WILLS 66
XIX MARRIAGE AND ITS DISSOLUTION
1. Marriage 68
2. Divorce 70
3. Annulment of Marriage 71
1. Merchants 73
2. Insolvency and Bankruptcy 73
3. Domicile 74
4. Limitation of Actions and Prescription 74
5. Private and Notarial Instruments 75
6. Execution of Foreign Judgments 76
APPENDIX Bibliography 77
CONSTITUTION AND GOVERNMENT
The Constitution in force is that of November 25, 1950, which was promulgated in
the Moniteur Officiel No. 138, on November 30 of that year.*
In accordance with article 1, Haiti is a republic. Port-au-Prince is the capital and
the seat of Government. The Constitution provides that the seat of Government may be
transferred elsewhere, according to circumstances.
The Constitution is divided into ten Titles (Titres), as follows: Title I The Ter-
ritory of the Republic; Title II, Chapter 1 Rights; Chapter 2 Public Law; Title III,
Chapter 1 Sovereignty, and the Powers to which its Exercise is delegated; Chapter 2 -
The Legislative Power or National Representation: Section I The Chamber of Deputies;
Section II The Senate; Section III The National Assembly; Section IV Exercise of the
Legislative Power; Chapter III The Executive Power; Section I The President of the
Republic; Section II The Election of the President of the Republic; Section III The Sec-
retaries of State; Section IV The Council of Government; Chapter IV The Judicial
Power; Chapter V Proceedings against Members of the State Powers; Title IV The
Communes; Title V The Primary Assemblies; Title VI Prefectural Organization; Ti-
tle VII Finances; Title VIII The Public Force; Title IX General Provisions; Title X
Amendment of the Constitution.
2. Organization of the State
As stated above, Haiti is a Republic. Article 1 of the Constitution declares also
that it is "indivisible, sovereign, independent, democratic and social."
Articles 32, 33, and 34 of the Constitution state the following:
"Article 32 National Sovereignty is vested in the whole body of citizens."
"Article 33 The exercise of this sovereignty is delegated to three Powers:
the Legislative Power, the Executive Power, and the Judicial Power. They consti-
tute the Government of the Republic, which is essentially CIVIL, DEMOCRATIC, and
* The full text of this constitution in English may be obtained from the Pan American
"Article 34 Each Power is independent of the two others in its duties, which
it performs separately.
None of these may delegate its duties, or depart from the bounds set for it.
Responsibility is attached to each of the three Powers."
3. The State Powers
Executive Power. In accordance with articles 76 and 77 of the Constitution, the Ex-
ecutive Power is exercised by the President of the Republic elected for a term of sixyears.
He must be at least 40 years of age.
The powers and duties of the President of the Republic are enumerated in article 79
of the Constitution:
1) He appoints and recalls the Secretaries of State and also public officials and
2) He is charged with supervising the execution of treaties;
3) He causes the laws to be sealed with the Seal of the Republic, and promulgates
them within the periods prescribed by articles 67, 68, and 69 of the present
4) He is charged with enforcement of the Constitution, and the Laws, Acts, and
Decrees of the Legislative Body and the National Assembly;
5) He makes all Regulations and Orders necessary for this purpose, but may
never suspend or interpret the Laws, Acts, and Decrees themselves, nor dis-
pense with their enforcement;
6) He makes appointments to public positions or offices only by virtue of the Con-
stitution or by express provision of law and under the conditions it prescribes;
7) He provides, according to the laws, for the internal and external security of the
8) He makes all treaties or international conventions, subject to the sanction of
the National Assembly, to which he likewise submits all executive agreements
9) He has the power to dissolve the Legislative Body, in accordance with article
51 of the present Constitution;
10) He has the right of pardon and commutation of punishment, with respect to all
final sentences, except in case of impeachment by the Courts or by the Cham-
ber of Deputies, as provided in articles 112 and 113 of the present Constitution;
11) He may grant amnesty only in political matters and according to provisions of
In accordance with article 83 of the Constitution, all acts of the President of the Re-
public, with the exception of decrees nominating or recalling Secretaries of State, must
be countersigned by the interested Secretaries of State.
Legislative Power. Under article 35 of the Constitution, the Legislative Power is
exercised by two representative Chambers: a Chamber of Deputies and a Senate, which
together form the Legislative Body. The Deputies are elected for four years and the
Senators for six years.
Judicial Power. According to articles 97 to 104 of the Constitution, the Judicial
Power is exercised by a Court of Cassation, the Courts of Appeal, and the lower courts,
the number, organization and jurisdiction of which are regulated by law.
The lower courts at the present time are the Civil Courts and the Justices of Peace.
There are also the Land Courts (Tribunaux Terriens) and the Military Courts.
4. Suffrage and Elections
Article 4 of the Constitution provides that every Haitian, regardless of sex, at least
21 years of age, may exercise political rights, if he fulfills the other conditions prescrib-
ed by the Constitution and the laws.
However, the right of women to vote is temporarily exercised only in municipal elec -
tions and women may hold only municipal offices. The law must provide for the full and
complete exercise of all political rights by women within a period not to exceed three years
after the next general municipal elections. Upon the expiration of this period, there can
be no impediment to the exercise of these rights.
The fitness of women to hold civil public administrative positions is recognized.
Nevertheless, the law regulates the conditions under which women are temporarily sub-
ject with respect to family affairs and marriage, the subject remaining open to any re-
forms deemed expedient to attain a system of absolute equality between the sexes.
5. Enactment of Laws
In accordance with article 50 of the Constitution, the Legislative Body meets in or-
dinary Session for three months. Extraordinary Sessions may likewise be convoked.
Article 57 provides that the Legislative Power shall make the laws on all matters of
public interest. Their initiation pertains to-either of the two Chambers as well as to the
However, the budget law, laws providing for the assessment, distribution, and man-
ner of collecting duties and taxes, and laws for the purpose of creating revenues or in-
creasing revenues of the State or for increasing expenditures of the State must be voted
upon first by the Chamber of Deputies.
In the event of disagreement between the two Chambers concerning the laws men-
tioned in the preceding paragraph, each Chamber selects by ballot, in equal number, an
interparliamentary committee which shall settle the disagreement finally.
If disagreement arises with respect to any other law, such law will be deferred un-
til the following session. If in this session, and even in the event of a change of the Cham-
bers, the law having been reintroduced but no agreement reached, each Chamber shall
appoint by ballot and in equal number, an interparliamentary committee charged with de-
ciding on the definitive text to be submitted to the two Chambers, beginning with thatwhich
first passed the law. And if these new discussions are without result, the bill or propos-
al of law shall be withdrawn.
The Executive Power has the sole right to initiate laws concerning public expendi-
tures, and neither of the two Chambers has the right to increase all or a part of the ex-
penditures proposed by the Executive Power.
Article 71 of the Constitution provides that "the laws and other acts of the Legisla-
tive Body and of the National Assembly become official through publication in 'Le Moni-
teur' and are inserted in the printed and numbered bulletin entitled 'Bulletin des Lois'
6. Municipal Government
Within the Haitian State, there are the Communes, governed by articles 117 to 124
of the Constitution. A Commune. is autonomous. The members of the Communal Council,
its deliberative body, are elected for a term of four years.
The enactments, known as arretes, made by the Communal Councils, must be ap-
proved by the Department of the Interior, in accordance with the laws.
NATIONALITY AND IMMIGRATION
1. General Principles and Legislation
Article 5 of the Constitution of 1950 states that the rules governing nationality are
prescribed by law. These are the Law of August 22, 1907 and the Law of February 13,
1925. The 1907 Law deals with individuals and the 1925 Law with companies.
Nationality of persons. Article 1 of the Law of August 22, 1907 provides that Hai-
tian nationality is acquired by birth, by naturalization or by special privilege bestowed
The following are Haitians by birth:
1) Anyone born in Haiti or elsewhere of a Haitian father;
2) Anyone born in Haiti or elsewhere of a Haitian mother, but not recognized by his
3) Anyone born in Haiti of a foreign father, or if not recognized by the father, of a
foreign mother, provided he is of the African race. Haitian nationality thus ac-
quired cannot be withdrawn by subsequent recognition by the foreign father.
4) All persons recognized as Haitians on the date of the Law (August 22, 1907).
Articles 3 and 4 of the Law specify the conditions for the acquisition of Haitian na-
tionality, other than by naturalization, by persons who, although born in Haiti, are not
Haitians by birth.
Article 9 provides that a foreign woman married to a Haitian becomes a Haitian,
but a Haitian woman married to a foreigner retains her Haitian nationality. Article 15
provides in addition that a Haitian woman whose husband becomes naturalized as a for-
eigner after marriage shall retain her Haitian nationality unless she is naturalized as a
foreigner. Children born before such naturalization remain Haitians.
Article 17 of the Law of 1907, as amended by a Law of February 21, 1947, enumer-
ates the grounds on which citizenship is lost.
Nationality of companies. This subject is covered by articles 4 and 5 of the Law of
February 13, 1925, published in the Haitian Fiscal Code, page 658. Reference is made
on this same page to article 19 of the Code of Private International Law of the Americas.
By article 4, a corporation society6 anonyme) organized in Haiti is of Haitian nation-
Under article 5, which provides that a partnership societye en nom collectif) organ-
ized in Haiti is of Haitian nationality, at least one half of the company capital must belong
Naturalization is governed by the Decree-law of July 1, 1941.
Conditions and procedure. According to article 1 of the Decree-law, ten consecu-
tive years of residence in Haiti is required for naturalization. This period is reduced
to five years in the case of a foreigner who has married a Haitian woman, and to three
years for members of the Catholic clergy residing in Haiti, under article 4 as amended
by the Law of December 28, 1943.
An application for naturalizationmustbe submitted to the Department of Justice, upon
payment of a fee of $20. The application must be accompanied by the following supporting
Residence permit (permis de sejour)
Certificate of residence signed by a Justice of Peace and the Mayor
Receipt from the Tax Bureau showing payment of the fee of $20.
Following an investigation by the Department of the Interior as to the moral quali-
fications of the foreigner, the Department of Justice submits the application, with its
opinion, to the President of the Republic for final decision. If it is approved, a presi-
dential order (arrate de naturalisation) is published in the official journal.
Rights of naturalized citizens. As in previous Constitutions, the Constitution of
1950 declares that in the matter of civil rights, all Haitians are equal before the law. But
article 5 of the Constitution states that naturalized Haitians may not exercise political
rights until ten years after naturalization.
Loss of nationality. Article 17 of the Law of August 22, 1907, as amended by the
Law of February 21, 1947, lists the following grounds on which Haitian citizenship is lost:
1) Naturalization in a foreign country;
2) Abandonment of the country in time of imminent danger;
3) In case of a conflict of nationalities, by the manifest choice or actual enjoyment
of a foreign nationality;
4) Unauthorized acceptance of a public position or a pension granted by a foreign
5) Any services rendered to the enemies of the country or any traffic with such
6) Final and definitive conviction to punishment for life that is both corporal and
Legislation. The present Law on Immigration and Emigration is that of September
19, 1953, published on page 153 of the Supplement Fiscal et Economique of 1953.
Categories of admissible aliens. There are four classes of visas available for en-
try into Haiti, in accordance with article 4 of the Law of September 19, 1953. These are
issued by a Haitian diplomatic or consular representative, as follows:
Tourist or Visitor's Visa
In addition, certain tourists, in particular those of American or Canadian national-
ity, may come to Haiti without a visa for a period of thirty days by payment of a fee upon
arrival amounting to $1 for each tourist card (carte touristique), in accordance with arti-
cle 16 of the law of September 19, 1953.
Requirements to be met for entry. These requirements are enumerated in articles
5, 6, 7, and 8 of the law cited.
A transit visa gives the bearer the right to remain in Haiti for not more than 72
A tourist or visitor's visa gives the bearer the right to a stay in Haiti of not over
The non-immigrant visa is granted to any foreigner employed by the Haitian State;
by an agricultural, industrial, or commercial enterprise; or a person authorized to reside
in Haiti for some specified period of more than three months. The visa is valid for the
duration of the employment but does not qualify the bearer to engage in business for his
personal profit, that is, in outside private activities.
The residence visa gives the bearer the right to an unlimited stay in Haiti, without
prejudice to provisions governing expulsion that might be applied to the bearer of such a
In accordance with article 17 of the Immigration Law, to obtain a non-immigrant or
residence visa, a foreigner must give to the consular official the information required on
customary forms, in particular, data concerning his capital, means of subsistence, etc.
He must present evidence of a deposit of $10, 000 in a bank established in Haiti or present
an affidavit executed by a Haitian citizen.
United States tourists may obtain a tourist card for $1 upon arrival in Haiti. It is
valid for 30 days, and may be renewed for another 30. The visitor must also have proof
of his citizenship a health certificate, a smallpox vaccination certificate, and a round-
trip ticket or a ticket to some other country.
Fees and taxes.
Transit visa -- no fee
Tourist or visitor's visa -- consular fee, $2.
Non-immigrant and residence visas -- fee of $6.
Inadmissible aliens. Article 5Z of the Immigration Law enumerates the categories
of inadmissible aliens, such as idiots, insane persons, persons afflicted with a conta-
gious disease, anarchists, etc.
Obligations after arrival. In accordance with article 28 of the law, regardless of
its category avisamust have been issued not more than 60 days prior to the date of ar-
Article 29 provides that an alien admitted as a non-immigrant or resident must ap-
pear within 48 hours after his arrival and submit an application for his residence permit
(permis de sejour), before the Department of the Interior, in Port-a-u-Prince, or at a
Prefect's Office (Bureau du Prefet) in the provinces.
Regulations governing the residence permit are contained in articles 31 to 39.
An annual fee of $7 or $10, according to whether the interested party has resided
in the country for more than ten years or less than ten years, is charged, under article
31. The fee for renewal of the residence permit must be paid each year between October
1 and 31.
Under article 40 of the law, a foreigner who is temporarily in Haiti bearing a visi-
tor's, tourist, or transit visa, is prohibited from engaging in any commercial activity
during his stay in the country. However, commercial representatives who have an agent
established in Haiti are not included in this prohibition.
Regulations for leaving the country. Article 43 of the law provides that every alien
bearing an entrance visa covering a stay of more than 72 hours in Haiti may not leave the
country without obtaining an exit visa from the Department of the Interior.
This visa is valid for a single voyage only and is annulled if not used within period
of one month. It will not be issued until a notation has been made in the passport by an
official of the General Tax Administration attesting that a fee of 10 gourdes ($2) has been
The exit visa fee will not be collected by the Tax Administration excep. by express
authorization from the Immigration and Emigration Service.
After obtaining the exit visa the bearer must register with the Police.
The foregoing provisions do not apply to diplomatic officials, persons travelling
with a tourist card, or nationals of countries with which Haiti has signed agreements
dispensing with visa requirements.
Every alien leaving Haiti must first make settlement of any taxes due the Haitian
State as a result of his stay in Haiti.
4. Promotion of Immigration
There is no special legislation in Haiti to promote immigration. However, invest-
ments of capital are protected by the Law of October 8, 1949 concerning new industries,
and the Law of June 22, 1948 governing the hotel industry.
RIGHTS AND DUTIES OF FOREIGNERS
1. Civil Rights and Obligations
General. In the matter of civil rights in general, a foreigner enjoys the same
rights as a Haitian, except with respect to ownership of property and the practice of cer-
tain liberal professions. To this effect, article 6 of the Constitution states that every
foreigner residing in Haiti enjoys the same rights accorded to Haitians, with the excep-
tion of measures rendered necessary against citizens of countries in which Haitians do
enjoy the same protection.
Ownership of property. There are no restrictions with respect to the ownership of
personal property, with the exception of restrictions on the carrying of firearms, for
which a license from the Army is required.
On the contrary, there are, strict rules governing the ownership of real property,
based on both the Constitution and the Law of February 13, 1925. One basic principle is
that the right to own real property is accorded to foreigners for residential needs.
However, a foreigner residing in Haiti may not be the owner of more than one dwel-
ling in the same locality. In no case may a foreigner engage in the business of renting
buildings. Foreign building construction companies are excepted from this rule and have
a special status regulated by law.
The right to own real property is likewise accorded to foreigners residing in Haiti
and to foreign companies for the needs of their agricultural, industrial, commercial, or
educational enterprises within limits and under conditions specified by law.
This right terminates two years after a foreigner has ceased to reside in Haiti or a
company has ceased operations in the country. The law of February 13, 1925 specifies
rules to be followed for the transfer and liquidation of such property belonging to foreign-
ers. Any citizen has the right to denounce violations of these provisions.
Hence, a foreigner may not own property in Haiti except for his own use. He can r
not rent such property to others or to companies. The constitutional provision prohibit-
ing a foreigner from engaging in the business of renting buildings is in practice enforced
under the terms of article 15 of the Law of February 13, 1925.
This law requires that in any acquisition of real property by a foreigner or foreign -
company there must be evidence of residence in Haiti, accompanied by a statement indi-
cating the profession or occupation of the purchaser and the reasons for the acquisition
of the property.
With respect to inheritance of property there are several situations that may arise,
depending on whether the heirs are foreigners, or Haitians, or whether there is a dispute
between foreign and Haitian heirs.
Article 6 and 7 of the Law of February 13, 1925 states that if there are foreign
heirs or legatees or a surviving foreign spouse, the respective rights of such persons,
if they are all foreigners, are governed by the personal law of the deceased. The com-
petent court will be that having jurisdiction at the residence of the deceased in Haiti.
If all heirs are Haitians, their shares shall be determined by the competent Haitian
court, in accordance with Haitian laws on inheritance.
If there are both Haitian and foreign heirs, the last two paragraphs of article 6pro-
vide that if among the heirs or legatees there is a foreigner who did not reside in Haiti at
the time the estate was opened for settlement, the property going to him will be sold at
public auction unless the Haitian co-heirs or co-legatees decide to retain the property. In
such cases, the Haitian heirs must reimburse the foreign heir to an amount determined
by expert appraisers selected by the parties or appointed by a court.
In the event the foreign heir or legatee resides in Haiti, he cannot receive in kind
the real property left to him unless it is to be used for one of the purposes by which for-
eigners are permitted to own real property. In this connection, article 7 of the law pro-
vides that if there are only foreign heirs or foreign neirs jointly with Haitians, to whom
real property will pass, the division of such property will be made in accordance with
paragraphs 3, 4, and 5 of article 6.
2. Political Rights and Obligations
A foreigner has no political rights in Haiti, since article 3 of the Constitution states
that "the aggregate of civil and political rights constitutes citizenship". Article 5, more-
over, states that foreigners naturalized as Haitians are not permitted to exercise politi-
cal rights until ten years after the date of naturalization.
3. Rights of Foreigners to Engage in Commerce and Industry
There are no restrictions with respect to engaging in industries, and these may be
engaged in throughout the Republic. The only requirement, in addition to a license (pa-
tente) obtained from the Commune, is a license (licence) to be obtained from the Govern-
ment upon payment of the prescribed fee.
Under the provisions of article 1 of the Decree-law of September 22, 1939, a for-
eigner may not operate a small business establishment and may not in any case engage
in commerce in the towns of the interior. To this effect, the Decree-law cited provides
that a foreigner may engage in business as a consignment merchant, but only at the ports
of entry, which include Port-au-Prince and eleven other ports.
Article 2 of the Law of September 25, 1925, provides that foreigners, in their ca-
pacity as consignment merchants may engage in business as wholesalers, or wholesale
and retail trade combined.
In all cases apatente and licence are required.
4. Rights of Foreigners in the Liberal Professions
Foreigners may practice any of the liberal professions in Haiti with the exception of
that of lawyer or notary, which are reserved to Haitians. There are certain restrictions,
contained in the Law of July 9, 1940, relative to the medical profession. While it is true
that foreigners in Haiti may practice as physicians, pharmacists, dentists, and midwives
they must obtain validation of their professional diplomas obtained abroad. In addition,
the law limits the number who may practice to 5 physicians, 2 dentists, 2 pharmacists and
5. Foreign Workers: Percentage, Etc.
In accordance with article 12 of the Law of September 19, 1952, governing labor con-
tracts, in all establishments employing labor, regardless of whether the owners are Hai-
tians or foreigners, at least 95 percent of the workers must be Haitians, hence only 5
percent may be foreigners.
Article 13 of the law cited provides that a foreigner must obtain a certificate or work
permit from the Labor Bureau, valid for one year but renewable. Foreigners performing
functions of direction or administration are exempt from this requirement.
The certificate issued by the Labor Bureau is distinct from the fees for patente and
licence to be paid to the Tax Bureau and the licence to be obtained from the Department of
6. Investment of Foreign Capital
There are no restrictions on the investment of foreign capital except in relation to
ownership of real property, already discussed.
In fact, a series of measures have been enacted seeking to attract foreign capital.
Specifically, there is the Law of October 8, 1949 designed to encourage the establishment
of entirely new industries and others, and the Law of April 15, 1940 protecting the hotel
With respect to new industries, the 1949 law provides that any enterprise organized
to develop entirely new industrial activities in Haiti shall be entitled to the followingprivi-
1) Reduction in fees for the communal patente, the licence for foreigners and the
income tax, in the proportion of 50 percent for the first year and20 percent for
the succeeding four years;
2) Exemption from customs duties on exports of their products;
3) Exemption from customs duties on imports on machinery and equipment needed
for the enterprise, together with replacement parts; raw materials not produced
in the country; materials necessary for wrapping and packing manufactured ar-
A Law of October 24, 1954 provides that these privileges will be granted for a pe-
riod of six years.
In regard to the promotion of the hotel industry, the Law of June 22, 1948 provides
that hotels with a capacity of at least 15 rooms shall be exempt from customs duties and
the income tax for a period of five years.
1. Legislation and General Principles
Article 19 of the Commercial Code provides that company contracts contractss de
society) are governed by civil law (articles 901, 902, 925, 1601 et seq., 1631, 1641, and
1642 of the Civil Code), by laws relating to commerce (articles 54, 492, and 624 of the
Commercial Code), and by agreements between the parties. All articles from 1601 to
1642 of the Civil Code relate to this subject.
Article 1642 states that "the provisions of the present law are applicable to com-
mercial companies only to the extent that they are in no way contrary to the laws and us-
ages of commerce -- Commercial Code, articles 14, 18 to 64, 435".
In accordance with article 1601 of the Civil Code a company is a contract in which
two or more persons agree to contribute something in common, for the purpose of shar-
ing in the profit that may result.
By article 1603, a company contract must be in writing. This provision is reiterat-
ed in the Commercial Code.
2. Juridical Personality
By both doctrine and jurisprudence companies are moral persons and therefore pos-
sess juridical personality. Hence a footnote to article 1601 of the Civil Code cites a rul-
ing of the Court of Cassation of France, dated February 23, 1891, which states: "In law,
and as long as civil companies as well as commercial endure, they constitute moral enti-
ties that are the owners of their capital (fonds social); consequently, the mortgage estab-
lished by a member of a civil company onreal property that was not a part of the undivided
jointly owned property of the partners but the exclus ve property of the company, must be
annulled as void and inoperative. "
3. Civil and Commercial Companies
In accordance with article 1 of the Commercial Code of Haiti, a merchant (commer-
gant) is anyone who performs commercial acts as his customary occupation.
Article 2 of the Commercial Code lists the following as commercial acts:
1) Any purchase of goods or produce for resale, either in the same state or after
they have been processed or fabricated, and any purchase of personal property
for the purpose of renting its use;
2) Any manufacturing enterprise, commission business, or transportation by land,
sea or air;
3) Any enterprise for provisioning of supplies, agencies, business offices, or pub-
4) Any operations in exchange, banking, and brokerage;
5) All operations of the public banks;
6) All obligations arising between businessmen, merchants, and bankers;
7) Transactions in bills of exchange between any persons;
8) All construction enterprises, all purchases, sales, or resale of vessels or air-
planes for navigation on the high seas or coastal trade or for air transportation;
9) All maritime or air shipments;
10) Any purchase or sale of rigging, equipment or provisions for ships;
11) All chartering of vessels and bottomry loans;
12) All insurance and other contracts relating to maritime or air commerce and
insurance covering risks on land;
13) Any agreements and conventions concerning wages and rental of equipment;
14) All contracts for the services of vessels or airplanes.
From this enumeration it can be readily determined whether a company is a com-
4. Categories of Companies
The types of companies recognized by Haitian law and having legal personalities
distinct from the personalities of their individual members, are the general partnership
societye en nom collectif), the limited partnership, societye en commandite), which may
have one of two forms -- the simple limited partnership or the stock-issuing partnership
(en commandite participation), and the corporation societye anonyme). A type of organ-
ization having no legal personality is the joint venture societye en participation).
These several forms may be briefly described as follows:
1) A general partnership is formed by two or more persons for the purpose of doing
business under a firm name. Only the names of partners may be included in the firm
name. The partners are and remain jointly and severally liable with all their property
for all the partnership debts (articles 21, 22, and 23 of the Commercial Code).
2) A limited partnership is formed by a contract between one or several associates
who are jointly and severally liable, and one or more associates known as limited or
silent partners (commanditaires) who are mere contributors of funds. It operates under
a firm name which must contain the names of one or more of the fully liable partners (ar-
ticle 24 of the Commercial Code). A limited partner is liable for the firm's losses only
to the extent of the funds he has contributed to the firm (article 26.).
3) A corporation does not operate under a firm name, but under a name which indi-
cates the purpose of the enterprise. Its members are liable only for the amount of their
interest-in the corporation (articles 30, 31, and 34 of the Commercial Code). This form
of business organization becomes definitively established only after at least half its capi-
tal has been subscribed, and payment therefore has been made by each shareholder in cur-
rency, securities or otherwise in full, if the amount subscribed by him is not over $20,
and at least one fourth thereof if the contribution is $100 or over. Subscription and pay-
ment must be shown by a statement executed before a notary which must be published in
the Official Journal along with the certificate of incorporation,statutes (by-laws) and the
approving decree issued by the President of the Republic (article 35 of the Commercial
Code). A corporation can not exist without authorization by the aforementioned Presi-
dential decree (article 38 of the Commercial Code).
4) A joint venture is an association formed in the manner and under conditions a-
greed upon between the parties concerned, without the knowledge of third parties (article
51 of the commercial Code).
The two forms of organization most frequently used are the general partnership
and the corporation. If a maximum of moral and pecuniary security is desired the for-
mer is the best; the latter however best serves the purposes of enterprises requiring a
considerable investment of capital contributed by a large number of subscribers each of
whom is willing to risk a limited amount in the undertaking.
Foreigners may organize commercial concerns in Haiti and participate in their oper-
ation; they may do so merely as partners or as members of a board of directors. How-
ever as mentioned earlier, they may engage in commerce only in the ports of entry of the
Haitian laws do not take into consideration the domicile or residence of a foreigner.
There are no restrictions on the amount of capital that may be invested by a for-
eigner in commercial concerns established in Haiti.
The Departments of Labor, Commerce, and National Economy, and the Director
General of Agriculture control the organization and operation of commercial and industrial
With respect to general partnerships there are no legal provisions relative to control
of the capital. On the contrary, corporations are subject to provisions of a special Law
of September 12, 1951.
In accordance with article 3 of this law, the instrument executed before a notaryfor
the organization of a corporation should indicate not only the deposit of all or a part of the
corporate capital but also the bank in which the deposit is made. In addition, in accord-
ance with article 4, any corporation shall be considered as dissolved if it loses more than
one half of its capital.
Article 7, with respect to foreign companies desiring to operate in Haiti, requires
that the application for authorization must be accompanied by a certificate from a bank
established in Haiti attesting to the deposit of a bond as guarantee for its operations.
The amount of reserves is purely a matter of the accounting practices of the enter-
The details governing the management of a general partnership may be specified
in the instrument of organization, in accordance with articles 23 and 25 of the Commercial
For corporations, the details governing their management are determined by the in-
strument of organization and statutes (by-laws), but in addition, these details must con-
form to provisions of the Commercial Code and the Law of September 12, 1951.
In accordance with article 2 of the law cited, the managers are liable only to the ex-
tent of the agency powers conferred on them.
The 1951 Law has recently been amended, by a Law of July 17, 1954, but only in
As a general rule, a corporation is governed by a board of directors (conseil d'ad-
ministration) with a chairman (president), secretary, treasurer, etc.
In conformity with universal principles, Haitian legislation provides for a general
assembly of shareholders. Details concerning such assemblies are governed by the terms
of the instrument of organization and the statutes (by-laws).
Article 35 of the Commercial Code provides that any share-issuing company may
create preferred shares (actions de priority) by action of the general assembly of share-
holders. The article cited also states that unless there is a provision to the contrary in
the statutes, preferred stock and common stock have equal voting rights in the general
In accordance with article 1634 of the Civil Code a company is terminated either by
the expiration of the period covered by the company contract or by the decision of one or
more partners that they no longer desire to be associated.
In the case of corporations, governed by the rules established by the general assem-
bly of shareholders, normally it is the statutes (by-laws), annexed to the instrument of
organization, that indicate what proportion of the capital is necessary to have the right to
demand dissolution. A usual current clause is to the effect that at least three fourths of
the capital shall be required to demand dissolution and that the majority must be two thirds
of the members present.
The general assembly appoints the liquidators and fixes the conditions for the liqui-
As previously mentioned, there are no limitations on the participation of foreigners
in the organization of companies.
5. Supervision and Control of Companies
By virtue of the Law of September 12, 1951, the Department of Commerce exer-
cises control over merchants in general as well as corporations. The Department may
at any time request examination of the books of a company.
The instrument of organization and statutes of a corporation must be submitted to
the Department of Commerce, and if found acceptable that Department requests the Pre-
sident of the Republic to issue an order (arrate) authorizing the corporation to function.
Article 7 of the Law of 1951 requires that every corporation shall submit a certi-
fied copy of its annual statement of balance to the Department of Commerce.
6. Taxes Applicable to Companies
As a general rule the basis of taxation for business organizations are the same as
for individuals. In summary, the taxes to be paid are the following:
1) Communal taxes, in accordance with decree-law of September 23, 1935, as indi-
cated under "Schedule of business fees and taxes" and subsequent titles;
2) Governmental taxes, as indicated under "Schedule of taxes on individual incomes',
Special licenses (distinct from licenses for foreigners not applicable here) depend
on the type of industry and because of the small amount involved are little more
than a statistical fee;
3) Income tax, in which the rate for individuals ranges from 3 to 15 percent and for
corporations from 12 to 15 percent (article 7 of the decree-law of May 2, 1942,
as amended August 13, 1942.
Taxes on shares of stock
1) Registered shares
a) A tax of 1 percent is collected once on all shares actually issued, in accord-
ance with the provisions of article 24 of the law of August 11, 1903, which
reads as follows: "Every certificate or share of stock in a firm, company or
enterprise of any kind, financial, industrial, commercial or civil, whether
for a fixed amount or for a certain quota, whether paid in full or not, and re-
gardless of the date or organization of the company, firm or enterprise, shall,
upon promulgation of the present law be subject to a tax of 1 percent of the par
value of each share. Payment shall be made by the company, firm or enter-
prise, regardless of its status".
b) An annual tax of $0. 25 per $100 payable one fourth quarterly on October 15,
January 15, April 15, and July 15.
c) A transfer tax of $0. 10 per $100 on transferred shares payable quarterly on
transfers made during the preceding quarter.
Article 2 of the Law of August 1, 1921, stipulates that "Beginning with the
fiscal year 1921- 22 the transfer tax on nominative shares as provided in article
36 of the law of August 11, 1903, shall be ten centimes (0. 10) gold per hundred
dollars. Such shares shall in addition pay a yearly tax of twenty five centimes
(0. 25) in gold or gourdes per hundred gourdes or dollars under the same condi-
tions as bearer shares."
2) Bearer shares
Bearer shares are subject to taxes indicated under (a) and (b) of registered
shares, but not being registered, are not subject to the transfer tax indicated un-
As heretofore stated, in accordance with article 38 of the Commercial
Code, in order to operate or exist in Haiti a corporation must be authorized by
decree of the President.
7. Foreign Companies
Distinction between foreign and Haitian companies. Whereas Haitian companies
enjoy all rights pertaining to civil persons in Haiti with respect to real property, foreign
companies according to the law of February 13, 1925, may become owners of real prop-
erty only in connection with their business.
A second distinction made in law between Haitian and foreign companies is that for-
eign companies are authorized to engage in commerce only in the open ports of the coun-
Distinction between corporations and other business organization.
According to law of February 13, 1925, corporations formed in accordance
with Haitian law and having their headquarters in Haiti are regarded as Haitian.
2) Other business organizations
The criterion adopted for other organizations is the amount of capital in-
vested; article 5 of the law of February 13, 1925, states that they are not re-
garded as Haitian unless at least one half the capital belongs to Haitians.
No distinctions are made in Haitian law among various foreign companies
or enterprises with regard to their commercial activities.
Foreign firms must meet the same requirements as Haitian firms with
the exception that the license fee is double that imposed on a Haitian firm, and
an additional license is required. Otherwise, foreign concerns have the same
rights as Haitian business organizations.
Special provisions contained in the decree-law of June 24, 1940, in regard
to banks are applicable to both domestic and foreign concerns. The same is true
of laws relating to maritime insurance and public transportation.
PUBLIC LANDS, FORESTRY, AND WATER LEGISLATION
1. Public Lands
In accordance with article 1 of the Law of July 26, 1927, the national domain is di-
vided into the public domain and private domain of the State. The distinctions between
them are outlined in articles 2 and 3 of the law.
The public domain is inalienable and imprescriptible. It consists of all property
which, without belonging to any individual, is destined for the use of all in common or
for the service of society in general, such as streets, highways, etc.
The private domain of the State is likewise imprescriptible, and enumerated as fol-
lows, in article 3:
1) Building and other real or personal property pertaining to or reserved for the
services of the Government and public agencies;
2) All vacant or ownerless property;
3) Real or personal property which reverts to the State by reason of lack of heirs
within the degrees of inheritance, or of legatees or a surviving spouse;
4) Property washed up by the sea;
5) Portions of the public domain of the State which, through changes in status, come
within its private domain;
6) Any property of which the State becomes owner by acquisition, exchange, or
In the application of the law of 1927 cited above, the private domain of the State is
administered by the General Tax Administration (Administration Generale des Contribu-
tions). This agency may lease lands under renewable one-year leases or under nine-year
leases. Foreigners and Haitians have equal rights to obtain such leases.
The agency may also execute long-term leases ranging from 9 to 30 years, forprop-
erty situated in rural areas. The conditions required are outlined in articles 2 and 4 of
the Law of December 21, 1922.
Lands within the domain of the State may be rented on long-term leases only if it is
shown that it is likely to result in the establishment of an enterprise of a type that will
develop the agricultural resources of the country by the employment of effective methods.
Such leases will be granted only to persons or companies who submit evidence of
their financial capacity and the necessary conditions to carry out the agricultural develop-
ment of the country, in accordance with the aims of the law.
The individuals or companies to whom long-term leases have been granted may not
sell or assign their rights to third parties or to other companies except with the prior
authorization of the Council of Secretaries of State. Any transfer made without such au-
thorization is null and void.
There is no Haitian legislation concerning land settlement colonisationn) in the gen-
eral economic sense of the term, with the exception of special provisions of a social in-
terest to Haitians.
The following laws may be cited:
January 12, 1934: Law concerning "Rural Family Holdings" (Bien Rural de Famil-
September 13, 1939: Law governing grants, under the "rural family holdings" sys-
tem, of plots of land, to become permanent after one year.
September 12, 1947: Law authorizing the Government to grant concessions of land
from its private domain in the Ile de la Gonave and the Lagon Bleu to inhabitants of
September 8, 1948: Law conferring ownership on farmer occupants of State lands
located in 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th class towns and in the quartersrs, if they have
occupied them for at least 5 years (previously 20 years) and have buildings thereon.
2. Forest Legislation
The only law relating to forests is that of February 3, 1926. This law provides that
certain portions of the national domain may be declared a National Forest Reserve. This
requires an executive decree by the President of the Republic, followed by usual publicity
The lands included in the National Forest Reserve are inalienable. They are admin-
istered by the Department of Agriculture and the revenues derived from these forests are
collected by the Tax Administration.
3. Water Legislation
Water rights in Haiti are governed by article 522 of the Civil Code, borrowed from
the French Civil Code. This article states that anyone whose property borders on a
stream of water, other than a canal, may make use of it, as its flow past, for irrigation
If the water traverses a property, the owner may make any use of the water flow-
ing therein, but with the requirement that in leaving his property, it shall be restored to
its normal course.
In contrast to legislation in some other countries, Haiti does not grant exclusive
water rights in a river or other stream. On the contrary, the State itself has established
irrigation canals and by payment of a yearly tax anyone may utilize the water from these
canals, provided that it is restored to its outlet.
The irrigation tax is governed by articles 3 and 4 of the Law of September 20, 1952
and an executive order of March 17, 1953. The latter includes a schedule of the charges
MONOPOLIES AND EXCLUSIVE PRIVILEGES
Article 56 of the Constitution of 1950 asserts that no monopoly may be established
in Haiti except in behalf of the State or the Communes. However, this same article adds
that, in the exercise of this privilege, the Haitian State or the Communes may associate
with or confer its privilege on private companies or associations.
In such cases, the concession contract must be approved by the two Chambers of the
Legislative Body. In practice, neither the State nor any of the Communes are exercising
any monopoly in Haiti at the present time, but contracts, approved by the Legislative
Body, have conferred monopolies on various companies and associations.
As article 56 states that no monopoly may be granted to any private individual, the
concession holder must be some form of company.
With respect to public services monopolies, this is a matter for local or regional
decision. There is, for example, a company under contract to furnish electricity for
the city of Port-au-Prince and its environs, and another for the city of Cap-Haitien.
Various companies have monopolies in different cities and towns, while in others the
State itself operates such services.
2. Concessions and Privileges
The current legislation on this subject is contained in the Law of October 8, 1949,
relating to the promotion of new industries.
Provisions of this law have been discussed elsewhere, pages 12-13.
1. General Principles
Mines and quarries are governed by Decree-law No. 337 of December 20, 1943, and
are considered to be commercial companies. This decree-law is consolidation of provi-
sions relating to mining and is now the only legislation in force on the subject.
Under the law, mines and quarries that may be worked only in underground galleries
form a part of the private domain of the State. Mines and quarries that can be worked
above ground belong to the surface owner.
The subject matter of this chapter is confined to those in the private domain of the
2. Prospecting Regulations
Prospecting for minerals is governed by articles 16 to 30 of the Decree-law cited
With the exception of the surface owner, who has the right to make excavations in
his own property, a prospector may undertake work of excavation, prospecting and drill-
ing only under a permit issued by the Secretary of State for Public Works, with the con-
sent of the Council of Secretaries of State.
Under the law there are two types of prospecting permits (permis de reserches) -
simple and exclusive.
A simple prospecting permit is issued upon payment of a tax of 500 gourdes. It is
valid for one year but may be renewed for a like period without additional charge.
It grants the right to carry out any works of prospecting and drilling at any place
in the Republic. It may not be transferred without the authorization of the Council of
Secretaries of State,
If the holder of a permit undertakes works for discovering or protecting deposits,
he must compensate the surface owner for any damages. In certain cases (article 28) he
may not undertake works without the authorization of the Secretary of State for Public
All permit holders enjoy the same rights.
Substances extracted by the holder of a prospecting permit may not be sold or util-
ized without authorization by the Secretary of State for Public Works.
An exclusive prospecting permit is granted to cover one or more specified sub-
stances upon payment of a tax of 1, 000 gourdes. It is valid for a maximum of three years
and gives exclusive right to make investigations in a definitely delimited area.
3. Regulations on Exploitation
Mines and quarries may be exploited in three ways: by the holder of a provisional
exploitation permit, by a concession holder, or by the State directly, through the agency
of the Bureau of Mines.
A provisional exploitation permit is a temporary authorization granting the right
to operate a mine. It is granted by the Secretary of State for Public Works solely to
holders of a prospecting permit who wish to undertake preliminary work, upon payment
of a tax of 1,000 gourdes. This permit is valid for one year, but may be renewed bypay-
ment of a tax of 500 gourdes per year.
An application for a provisional exploitation permit must be accompanied by a sketch
of the land on which the exploitation is to take place. The permit, when granted, enumer-
ates the rights and obligations of the holder.
A provisional exploitation permit may be transferred only to the holder of a pros-
It may be annulled by the Secretary of State for Public Works, if it has expired and
has not been renewed, or if the work for which it was granted has not been duly carried
Mining concessions are governed by articles 43 to 77 of the Decree-law of 1943. A
concession gives to the holder the exclusive right of exploitation, and the holder is the
owner of any products obtained.
Every concessionaire must deposit in the National Bank of Haiti a bond or guarantee
of not less than 25, 000 gourdes, for a mining concession, or 5,000 gourdes, for a conces-
sion for a quarry.
If operation of the mine or quarry is not commenced within the period fixed in the
concession, the concession is forfeited and the deposit is retained by the State. Other-
wise, the deposit is reimbursed to the concession holder.
The system of granting concessions for mines and quarries may be briefly summa-
rized as follows:
1) The Government is entirely free in its choice of the concession holder; the sur-
face owner, discoverer, or others have no acquired rights.
2) The concession is temporary, being granted for a maximum of 60 years in the
case of mines, and 40 years in the case of quarries.
3) The mine granted in concession is regarded as a new property and it may be
mortgaged. This new ownership, however, may not be subdivided into smaller
plots or shares without the prior authorization of the Government.
4) The operation of a mine is subject to the control of the Bureau of Mines, a sub-
division of the Department of Public Works.
5) The concession gives the right to occupy and utilize any part of the surface nec-
essary for the exploitation, and also includes the right of expropriation. It also
gives the right to establish means of communication as well as to construct
quays and docks according to the needs of the operations.
6) Free customs entry is accorded to the concession holder for articles necessary
for installation of the works to be undertaken. However, spare parts and acces-
sories and materiel for replacement are subject to import duties. Instruments,
materials and medicines necessary for the establishment of hospitals or dispen-
saries to be maintained by the concession holder are also granted free entry.
Necessary payments. A concession holder must make the following payments in con-
nection with his concession:
1) To the State:
a) A fixed charge of a minimum of 1 gourde per year per hectare. However, the
contract of concession may stipulate that a rebate will be paid to the conces-
sion holder from payment of the surface tax on that portion of the concession
actually exploited, beginning on thedate of such exploitation.
b) A payment, or royalty, in proportion to the gross value of the ore extracted.
2) To the surface owner:
A payment for use of the subsoil (redevance trefonciere), which shall not be
less than 5 percent nor more than 10 percent of the proportional payment (royalty)
paid to the State.
3) To the discoverer:
a) A payment which shall not be less than 10 percent of the proportional payment
made to the State.
b) Reimbursement of the expenses necessary to arrive at the discovery.
Haitian law contains no restriction or prohibition with respect to foreigners either
in prospecting or the exploitation of mines and quarries.
Although the only law governing mining activities is the Decree-law of December
20, 1943, article 5 of this law states that the exploitation of hydrocarbons, coal and
other combustible mineral substances shall be governed by a special law. However, up
to the present time the Government has never introduced a bill on this subject in the
Legislative Chambers, with the exception of bills relating to gold and cement.
In the matter of taxation, the Decree-law of November 14, 1940 imposed an intern-
al tax of 0.78 gourdes ($0. 156 U.S. cy.) per gallon of 3. 7853 liters of gasoline derived
from crude petroleum refined in Haiti. This tax is equal to the customs duty on imported
In addition to the taxes mentioned above, mining enterprises must obtain a patente
(or licence, if the enterprise is foreign) and are subject to the income tax, in accordance
with provisions discussed in that chapter.
4. Cement Industry.
Under the Law of February 22, 1948, the State has reserved to itself the exclusive
manufacture of cement, with the understanding that this privilege may be granted as a
concession to a private company.
In accordance with these provisions a contract was signed between the Haitian Gov-
ernment and an Italian company, La Italcementi Fabbriche Riunite Cemento, under which
the State has conferred a monopoly in the manufacture of cement for a period of 25 years
to this company.
Under the provisions of the Law of August 31, 1942, the National Bank of the Repub-
lic of Haiti has the exclusive right to purchase and export gold in the form of coin, money,
mineral, golddust, or bars, throughout Haitian territory. These provisions do not apply
to gold jewelry or other articles manufactured from gold.
Any person who purchases or attempts to purchase gold without having received a
license granted by the National Bank of Haiti is subject to imprisonment of from four to
six months and to a fine equivalent to five times the value of the gold purchased, but such
fine may not be less than 100 gourdes ($20). The gold will be confiscated and reverted
to the Public Treasury. Anyone who sells or attempts to sell gold is subject to imprison-
ment of from one to three months and a fine of 50 to 100 gourdes ($10 to $20).
Any person who exports or attempts to export gold is subject to a fine of 300 to 1000
gourdes ($60 to $200) or imprisonment of from six months to one year, or to both penal-
The National Bank of Haiti fixes the selling price of gold per gramme.
The Public Treasury is empowered at any time to reimburse the National Bank of
Haiti for the price of gold purchased and this then becomes the exclusive property of the
The Law of August 31, 1942 covers only the purchase and exportation of gold. The
exploitation of this mineral continues to be governed by the mining law discussed above.
Any interested party can obtain a concession for the mining of gold, under the provisions
of that law.
1. General Principles
Two distinct agencies are entrusted with the collection of taxes in Haiti: the Cus-
toms Service (Service des Douanes) and the General Tax Administration (Administration
Generale des Contributions).
The latter agency collects not only the national internal taxes of the State but also
the communal taxes, for the account of the towns and adjacent territories.
2. Income Tax
The income tax is governed by a single law, that of September 12, 1951. Income
subject to tax is considered in two categories, earnings of industry and commerce and
individual incomes. The tax is imposed on the basis of schedules of rates.
The rates applicable in all cases are as follows:
0 to 15,000 5%
15,001 to 40,000 10% on the excess over 15,000 gourdes
40,001 to 70,000 15% 40,000 "
70,001 to 100,000 20% 70,000 "
100,001 t- 200,000 25% 100,000 "
200,001 and above 30% 200,000 "
Earnings of industry and commerce. As in previous legislation, there are two
bases of taxation: a) he rental or lump sum (forfaitaire) basis; and b). the balance
The lump sum basis beares no relationship to the profits or losses of a merchant
or industrialist, hence his books are not examined in order to determine the tax. The
rental of the building occupied for his particular commerce or industry is multiplied by
5 and the figure thus obtained represents the taxable income. For example, if a mer-
chant pays $100 a month rent, that amounts to $1200 a year, which multiplied by 5 gives
$6,000. Without deductions for general expenses, etc., this amount is taken to repre-
sent the net income and the tax is a certain percent of that sum.
The tax levied on this basis is payable in advance, beginning on October 1 of each
fiscal year,andis payable one half by October 30 and the other half by the following A-
On the balance sheet basis, the income tax is calculated from the balance sheet of
the taxpayer at the end of the financial year, determined by an examination of his books
and other accounts.
In accordance with article 11 of the law, the balance sheet and profit and loss
statement must be submitted to the General Tax Administration within the 90 days pre-
ceding the close of the financial year. However, an extension of not more than 90 days
may be granted to taxpayers whose headquarters or principal business establishment is
located in a foreign country.
The rule in such cases is that they pay a tax in advance on the lump sum basis and
submit their balances at the end of the financial year on the basis of which the Government
may present a bill for taxes on any excess in income.
An exception is made of corporations. Theypayno taxon the lump sum basis and are
taxed entirely on the basis of the balance sheet to be submitted.
Article 12 of the law governs the deductions that may be made from the balance
sheet. These constitute payments for normal charges and expenses which are deductible
from gross profits in calculating net taxable profits. These are the justifiable, ordinary
and necessary payments directly relating to the industry or commerce of the taxpayer,
or inherent in such commerce or industry. Charges and expenses which do not fulfill
these conditions are not deductible, and this includes certain items expressly listed as
non-deductible in the tax law. These are listed as follows:
1) Taxes paid or advanced for employees or associates, as for example, their per-
sonal patente or licence;
2) Rental expenditures of employees or associates;
3) Fines and surtaxes incurred;
4) Taxes paid in a foreign country;
5) Salaries and office expenses in a foreign country;
6) Travelling expenses of employees and associates while on leave;
7) Travelling expenses of the families of employees and associates, while on leave
It should also be noted that article 12 contains provisions favoring the reinvestment
of profits in industry and agriculture.
This provides that any reinvestment of 25 percent of the profits of an agricultural
or industrial enterprise are deductible from the taxable income in the year following such
reinvestment. The maximum deduction allowed is 100,000 gourdes ($20,000) and the in-
vestment must be for the purpose of increasing the output of the enterprise.
The deduction is not allowed unless the General Tax Administration has been notified
in advance and the reinvestment made under the direct control of that Administration.
In addition, all merchants, industrialists and commercial companies are authorized
to maintain a reserve against losses, amounting to 10 percent of the annual net profits and
this is exempt from the income tax. However, if this reserve is not touched for a period
of three years, the amount on hand is added to the taxable income of the fourth year.
Individual incomes. Professional men (lawyers, doctors, etc.) pay in advance a
tax on the lump sum basis, not later than October 30 and April 30 of each year. Subse-
quently, after the close of the fiscal year on September 30, they have the period from Oc-
tober 1 to January 31 in which to file the final declaration.
Wages and salaries are subject to a withholding tax at the source, followed by a fi-
nal declaration. The amounts collected at the source on wages and salaries must be paid
to the Tax Administration in the periods from January 1 to 15, April 1 to 15, July 1 to 15,
and October 1 to 15, for the previous quarter.
With respect to rentals, etc. there is no withholding at source, but only a final de-
claration. All final declarations must be submitted during the period from October 1 to
The law provides for personal exemptions, family deductions and deductions for ex-
penses of illness, to be made on the final declarations. Dividends are subject to the tax
on individual incomes.
Article 21 states that the individual income tax is imposed on all wages and salaries
in general of any kind, those of commercial employees, public officials, persons engaged
in the liberal professions or in any other lucrative non-commercial occupations, on the
income of money-lenders, persons receiving income from securities, and any persons
who receive income from any other source not included in industrial or commercial earn-
In the case of dwellings leased free of charge to relatives, friends, or others, the
estimated annual rental value used as a basis for the tax on rents represents the taxable
The salaries of partners in commercial and industrial companies form a part of
their over-all individual incomes and are subject to the monthly withholding tax at the source
the same as in the case of employees. The salaries of self-employed merchants and indus-
trialists are not subject to a withholding tax and are declared and taxed in accordance with
the provisions of article 22 of the law and other rules governing individual incomes.
Dividends. In the case of dividends, a company must withhold at source a tax of 5
percent in all cases. Dividends are not included in the tax declaration of individual income.
A company must submit the amounts collected, with supporting documents, to the
General Tax Administration between the 1 st and 15th of the month following payment of a
dividend, under penalty of being held personally responsible for the amount due. Any in-
fraction involves the customary surtax of 10 percent per month or fraction thereof in ar-
rears, and the issuance of a court order against the company.
Under article 23 any employer who fails to withhold the monthly tax installments is
personally liable for the amounts to the Public Treasury. In all cases, the employer is
subject to customary surtax of 10 percent per month or fraction of a month of delay, com-
mencing on the 16th of the month following that for which the tax should have been with-
held, and he is also subject to legal action.
3. Other Taxes
Excess profits tax. In Haiti there is no general excess profits tax but there are
two special taxes, one relating to coffee and the other to sisal. With respect to coffee,
article 14 of the Law of December 4, 1946 provides that the Office National du Cafe al-
lows a 5 percent profit to exporters of coffee. Any excess net profit over this 5 percent
is to be shared by the State through the imposition of a tax, in accordance with the follow-
Per bag of 80 kilograms Share in total Share in total
30% on the 1st dollar excess 0.30 0.30 0.70 0.70
35% 2nd 0.35 0.65 0.65 1.35
40% 3rd 0.40 1.05 0.60 1.95
45% 4th 0.45 1.50 0.55 2.50
50% 5th 0.50 2.00 0.50 3.00
55% 6th 0.55 2.55 0.45 3.45
60% of the excess over $7 0.60 3.15 0.40 3.85
The Law of December 13, 1946 governs the tax on profits from sisal, based on the
cost price per half kilogram and the selling price obtained by the exporter, which is to be
shared in the following manner, as indicated in the table below:
The State Exporter
Up to 2 centimes gold nothing 100%
From 2 to 3 centimes gold 20% 80%
From 3 to 4 centimes gold 30% 70%
From 4 to 5 centimes gold 40% 60%
Above 5 centimes gold 50% 50%
The amounts so taxed are declared and collected at the time of declaring and paying
the income tax after issuance of a balance sheet, under the same conditions. Within the
meaning of the law, the cost price includes both direct and indirect expenses.
Every exporter of sisal is required to submit an annual statement to that effect, to
the General Tax Administration, accompanied by his balance sheet and profit and loss
statement, together with a special statement relating to sisal prices as governed by this
law, that is any exporter must keep a special account relating to transactions in sisal.
A law is also in existence imposing an excess profits tax on grain, but this has never
Tax on capital, There is no such tax in Haiti.
Consumption and sales taxes. There is no sales tax in Haiti which is paid directly
by the purchaser. However, there are taxes on the production of alcohol, oil, and carbon-
ated beverages. These amount to excise taxes.
Customs duties. Haitian customs legislation is covered in two basic laws, that of
September 4, 1905 and the Law of July 26, 1926. There are taxes imposed on both im-
ports and exports.
For the period ending September 30, 1953 the duties on imports amounted to
70, 000, 000 gourdes ($14, 000, 000) while the customs duties on exports totalled 22, 000, 000
The policy of the Haitian Government in the matter of customs is to reduce as far
as possible the customs duties on machinery, raw materials, etc., as a benefit to indus-
It may be noted, in connection with customs policy, that Haiti has adhered to the
Protocols signed at Annecy and Torquay.
Stamp taxes. Stamp taxes play an important part in commercial affairs in Haiti, as
they are applied to most commercial documents, in particular, to promissory notes and
bills of exchange and drafts. Bills of exchange, promissory notes, as well as transfers
of funds, are subject to a stamp tax amounting to 20 centimes per 100 gourdes or fraction
thereof (or $0. 04 per $20). The minimum tax is 40 centimes ($0. 08).
This tax is imposed by the Law of September 17, 1953, amending article 3 of the Law
of September 22, 1932.
It should be noted that under the latter law checks issued in Haiti and drawn on a
bank established in Haiti are taxed at a fixed charge of 10 centimes ($0. 02).
Commercial books must also bear tax stamps, at fixed rates. This applies to the
daily journal, and inventory ledger, but the main ledger (grand livre) is not taxed.
Real property taxes. There is no tax in Haiti on land alone, that is, land without
usufruct (nue proprikt6). However, there are two taxes, one for the benefit of the State
and the other for the communes, on buildings.
The tax paid to the State is termed the internal tax on building properties, imposed
under article 1 of the Law of September 10, 1953.
Under this law, the tax on land containing buildings is levied in accordance with the
1) 1 percent of a total annual rental value ranging between 300 gourdes and 1,200
2) 2 percent of any excess rental value between 1, 200 gourdes and 6,000 gourdes,
3) 3 percent of any excess rental value between 6, 000 gourdes and 9,000 gourdes,
4) 4 percent on any excess rental value over 9, 000 gourdes.
Certain exemptions are provided for in the law.
A similar tax, for the benefit of the Communes, is three times as high as the tax
indicated above. It is imposed by the Law of September 7, 1948.
Inheritance and gift tax. The tax imposed on transfers of real property by gift or
through inheritance is double the amount of tax levied on personal property so transferred.
This tax is levied under articles 40 and 41 of the Law of July 4, 1933.
The tax is proportional with the degree of relationship between the deceased and
heir or the donor and donee. In the direct line of ascent or descent, the tax is 1 percent
on real property and 1/2 percent on personal property. The rate increases in accord-
ance with the distance of the relationship. In the case of persons who are unrelated, the
tax is 8 percent on personal property and 16 percent on real property.
Licenses for commerce or industry. To engage in either commerce or industry, a
foreigner must obtain a national license (licence) and a local permit (patente), paid as na-
tional or local taxes, respectively. The Law of August 11, 1903 governs licenses and the
Decree-law of September 23, 1935 governs the local licenses or permits.
To obtain a license or permit, the applicant must make separate applications for
the permit and license, paying the fee for the license and the corresponding stamp tax.
The amount of the fee to be collected for the permit depends on the amount of the license.
The applicant next applies to the Secretary of State for Commerce requesting issu-
ance of the license, enclosing the receipts from the local Tax Office for the license fee and
stamp tax. Upon receiving his license, the applicant returns with it to thelocal Tax Office
and pays the fee for his permit.
A foreigner who wishes to engage in business as a consigment merchant must as a
general rule obtain two licenses and permits. In order to sell goods consigned to him he
requires authorization to engage in wholesale as well as retail merchandising.
Permits are subject to a surcharge of 20 percent for social welfare and to a stamp
tax not exceeding 10 gourdes ($2). Under the provisions of article 63 of the Law of August
11, 1903, as amended by the Law of August 16, 1913, the license is surtaxed 25 percent
in gold to be added to the amount of the fee paid by the foreigner for the permit, but not
including the surcharge for social welfare or the stamp tax.
Except where there is some stipulation to the contrary in the schedule of rates an-
nexed to the Decree-law of September 23, 1935, the fee payable by a foreigner for a per-
mit (patente) is double the amount payable by a Haitian.
The fee for a permit varies according to the class of the municipality. The capital,
Port-au-Prince, is in the first class. Cap-Haitien is in the second class. The schedule
given below indicates what a foreigner must pay to engage in business in Port-au-Prince,
the amounts being shown in gourdes and dollars:
Permit of consignment merchant 350. 00 70. 00
Social Aid 70.00 14.00
Stamp Tax 10.00 Z.00
License for consignment merchant 437. 50 87. 50
Stamp Tax 10.00 2.00
Permits for wholesale and retail merchant 120.00 24.00
Social Aid 24.00 4.80
Stamp Tax 2.00 0.40
License for wholesale and retail merchant 150.00 30.00
Stamp Tax 10.00 2.00
Grand total, when applicable 1,183.50 236.70
In addition to the fees payable for business permits and licenses, other taxes are
payable on certain classes of commerce and industries. In addition to the regular license,
a special license is required to sell alcohol or tobacco, to manufacture essential and
other ,ls, margarine, soap and matches. In contrast to the cost of a regular license
payable by a foreigner, this special license fee is the same for both Haitians and foreign-
ers, except for alcohol and tobacco, for which it is double.
This fee is mainly for statistical purposes and as a rule is not high. For example,
the special license fee, provided for by the Law of July 7, 1935, for the manufacture of
matches, margarine, and vegetable oils is 25 gourdes ($5). The tax on soap was abolish-
ed by the Law of July 19, 1954.
Other categories of taxes. A number of other specific internal taxes are collected,
that may be roughly classified as excise taxes and others. The excise taxes include the
following: tax on alcohol from sugar cane, alcohol from other raw materials, spirituous
liquours, wines, cigars and cigarettes, edible oils, lard, sugar, prepared tobacco, manu-
Other internal taxes include taxes on: leases of public lands, irrigation, insurance,
identity cards, tourist cards, post office boxes, consular fees, civic affairs, registration
of mortgages, civil registry, mining exploitation, court records, vehicle registration, the
"Moniteur", trademarks and related matters, naturalization, stamped paper, passports,
fines and penalties, driving permits, residence permits for aliens, radios, passenger
tickets, postage, transfers of property, sales at public auction, visas of ships' manifests,
special vehicle tax. Three of these categories are actually fees covering the cost of
services rendered rather than taxes: leasing of public lands, irrigation, and subscription
to the "Moniteur".
4. Regional and Municipal Taxes
There are no regional or local taxes other than those collected by the General Tax
Administration for the benefit of the Communes. The two most important are: the patente
or permit payable by both foreigners and Haitians in order to engage in commercial ac-
tivities, and the real estate tax payable on the rental value of buildings.
LABOR AND SOCIAL LEGISLATION
1. Legislation and General Principles
Haitian labor and social legislation has shown significant development in recent
years. Articles 16 and 17 of the Constitution of 1950 provide as follows:
"Freedom to work is exercised under the control and supervision of the State
and is regulated by law.
However, save for those exceptions and distinctions established by law, all
importers, commission agents, and manufacturers' agents are prohibited from en-
gaging in retail trade even through an intermediary.
Every worker has the right to a fair wage, to training through apprenticeship,
to the protection of his health, to social security, and to the well-being of his family
to the extent that the economic development of the country permits.
It is a moral obligation of employers to contribute, according to their means,
to the education of their illiterate workers.
Every worker has the right to participate, through his delegates, in the collec-
tive determination of working conditions and to protect his interests through trade-
Annual vacations with pay are compulsory. "
These basic principles contained in the Constitution do no more than reaffirm cer-
tain provisions of law already in existence, or foretell a wider field of application for so-
The Law of November 4, 1946 established the Labor Bureau (Bureau du Travail) and
the Law of February 22, 1948 broadened the scope of its services. Various laws, discus-
sed in the text of this chapter, have since been enacted, the latest being the Law of Sep-
tember 18, 1953.
2. Protection of Labor
Working hours. In accordance with the terms of article 1 of the Labor Law of
March 4, 1942, the normal working hours are 8 hours per day or 48 hours per week.
However, without exceeding 10 hours a day, the parties may agree among themselves to
distribute the 48 hours per week in some other manner than 8 hours per day.
Work must terminate at 5 P.M. during the period from October 1 to May I and at
4 P.M. between May 1 and October 1. This restriction on hours is not applicable to mari-
time and airline agencies, to factories in continuous operation, or to grocery stores. Such
establishments, however, must provide for operating in shifts or for the payment of over-
A minimum rest period of one hour and a half, preferably in the middle of the day,
must be accorded to every employee.
Overtime hours of work must be compensated by a 50 percent increase in wages.
Overtime work, however, is not permitted in dangerous or unhealthful work, in ac-
cordance with the Law of August 16, 1936.
Work performed at night must be remunerated at a higher rate than day work. Night
work is defined as work performed between 6 P. M. and 6 A. M. under the Law of Sep-
tember 12, 1947.
Weekly rest periods. In accordance with the Law of May 5, 1948, every worker is
entitled to a weekly rest period of 24 consecutive hours, to be granted preferably on
Sunday. An employee is likewise entitled to leave, without reduction in pay, on holi-
days and other workless days (de chomage) authorized by order of the President of the
However, the following classes of workers are excluded from the provision's govern-
ing the weekly rest period:
1) Persons performing work made necessary by damage caused by force majeure
or casus fortuitus, which cannot be deferred.
2) Persons engaged in work which by its nature must be performed to prevent inju-
ry to the public interest, to agriculture, stockraising, or an industry which can-
not be interrupted.
3) Persons performing work which is seasonal in character, and which is dependent
upon the irregular action of the forces of nature.
4) Persons performing work necessary for the proper operation of an enterprise
and which cannot be deferred.
5) Persons working as domestic servants and in hospitals.
In all such cases, the employer is required to grant the employee one full day of
rest each week. Domestic servants must be granted two full half-days of rest per week.
Article 9 of the Law of May 4, 1948 provides that work performed on Sundays and
holidays must be compensated at the same rate as for overtime, that is, at an increase
of 50 percent.
Paid vacations. Annual paid vacations, as required under the Constitution, are
provided for employees by the Law of May 4, 1948. The law provides for a vacation of
fifteen days for each full year of service. Employees are also entitled to fifteen days of
sick leave without reduction of wages, if supported by a medical certificate.
The annual vacation is divisible into twelfths, and in the event of resignation or dis-
missal a worker is entitled to payment of an amount equal to the number of +welfths of
earned leave if this has not been taken.
Work by women. Certain special provisions have been enacted for the benefit of
women workers, contained in article 5 of the Law of December 16, 1947.
Night work by women is prohibited, except for: work as domestic servants in pri-
vate homes; work in hospitals, clinics, etc.; work in theaters, entertainment, restau-
rants, etc.; as well as certain cases which, for special, justifiable reasons, may be
authorized by the Department of Labor. However, no woman may be employed longer
than six consecutive nights.
In addition, a woman worker must leave her work three weeks before the presumed
date of childbirth, unless she obtains a medical certificate attesting to the harmless na-
ture of her work. Women workers need not resume work until three weeks after child-
birth. These provisions are contained in article 17 of the Law of December 16, 1947.
During the nursing period a woman worker is entitled to two extra rest periods a day, of
a half hour each.
Work of minors. No minor under 15 years of age may be employed, in accordance
with the Law of August 16, 1934.
Under the Law of July 25, 1947, the work-day of minors under 18 years of age may
not exceed 6 hours per day or 36 hours per week. Night work by persons under 18 years
of age is prohibited. Such workers are also entitled to a rest period of two hours after
each period of three consecutive hours of work.
3. Regulation of Wages and the Minimum Wage
The minimum wage fixed by the Law of December 19, 1947, for all employees, day
laborers, etc., with the exception of domestic servants, is 3. 50 gourdes ($0. 70) per day.
Any agreement entered into between employer and employee on a lower basis will be void-
ed and the employer violating such provision is subject to a fine of from 100 to 500 gourdes
($20 to $100).
A Decree of the President of the Republic dated January 20, 1951established a Su-
perior Council on Wages (Conseil Superieur des Salaires), consisting of six members, two
of whom shall be representatives of the Government, two of employers, and two of work-
ers. This Council is charged with making a study of the factors affecting wages and sub-
mitting its recommendations to the Secretary of State for Labor.
Minimum wage and salary scales have been established for various commercial en-
terprises such as groceries, drygoods stores, bazaars, souvenir shops, and also for
construction workers. An order by the President of the Republic of May 1, 1952 raised
the minimum wage to 5 gourdes ($1) per day for all workers and day laborers employed
by the State and in public services.
4. Health and Safety Regulations
In accordance with article 19 of the Law of August 10, 1934, every employer, whether
an individual or a company, employing more than one hundred workers is required to main-
tain a dispensary in charge of a Haitian physician, equipped to provide first aid to victims
of accidents and to look after the health of the workers. Outside of cities, the physician
must be on duty during all working hours.
5. Labor Contracts
Under the provisions of article 1 of the Law of September 16, 1952, a labor contract
is any agreement, regardless of the name given to it, by which one person binds himself
to render his services to another in return for remuneration of any kind or form, or who
agrees to perform a specific task or undertaking (ouvrage ou oeuvre) for a price agreed
upon between the parties.
An individual labor contract may be express or implied, oral or written, and may
be for a specified or indeterminate time. If the contract is oral, it may not exceed one
year; if it is written, it may not be made for a period of more than three years. However,
a contract, either oral or written, may be renewed indefinitely by tacit agreement.
The following persons have legal capacity to make a labor contract:
1) All persons having civil capacity.
2) Minors over 18 years of age. Minors under this age may not be employed ex-
cept by authorization of the Bureau of Labor, at the request of responsible par-
3) Married women, with the authorization of their husband or a court.
Foreign workers must obtain a permit from the Bureau of Labor before they can be
hired. This permit is granted for one year only, but may be renewed for five consecu-
Foreign workers representing their employer in directive or administrative func-
tions are exempt from the requirement of a permit, and this exemption also applies to
those who have resided in the country for at least ten years and-persons under an employ-
ment contract with the State.
In all establishments, whether Haitian or foreign, the proportion of Haitian workers
employed may not be less than 95 percent.
A labor contract produces mutal obligations. The obligations of an employer, under
the terms of article 41 of the Law of September 16, 1952, are as follows:
1) To pay the full stipulated remuneration when due;
2) To respect the personal dignity of the worker, taking care not to inflict any ver-
bal or physicalill treatment or to demand any work not stipulated in the contract;
3) To place at the disposition of workers, the working premises, machinery, and
tools in working order and with adequate conditions of safety;
4) To comply fully with the obligations imposed by labor and social legislation;
5) To comply with all other obligations specifically stipulated in the labor contract.
Article 40 of the law cited enumerates the obligations of the worker:
1) To report for work punctually;
2) To perform his work with care, efficiently, and in accordance with the terms of
the labor contract, and to observe due diligence;
3) To keep his employer informed of any defects noted in materials or equipment,
which are susceptible of causing damage to the enterprise;
4) To treat his employer and fellow workers with respect and consideration;
5) To obey the directions or orders of his employer or person in charge of direct-
ing the work;
6) To maintain loyalty to the enterprise or operations, taking care not to divulge
manufacturing or commercial secrets, or to compete with his employer;
7) To compensate the employer for any damage caused by his personal fault to the
premises, materials or equipment, or to cultivation;
8) To comply with all other obligations specifically stipulated in the contract;
9) To cooperate, by all means at his disposal, in the strict compliance with all
legal provisions and regulations concerning labor.
Either party has the right to terminate a labor contract at any time. However, in
accordance with article 29 of the Law of September 19, 1953, the party desiring to termi-
nate the contract is required to give the other party written or oral advance notice, al-
though such advance notice is not necessary until a worker has been employed at least
three consecutive months. Afterwards, the required intervals are as follows:
8 days if the worker has rendered services for 3 to 12 months.
15 days after work rendered from 12 months to 3 years.
One month after service of from 3 to 10 years.
Two months after services for more than 10 years.
If such advance notice has not been given, the other party must be compensated by
an amount equal to the wages for the period required.
Articles 24 and 25 of the Law of September 16, 1952, however, list certain circumn
stances under which an employer or employee may terminate the labor contract without
In brief, an employer has this right when he has grounds for complaint as to the
irregularity, bad conduct, serious lack of compliance with obligations, obvious incom-
petence, imprisonment after final sentence, and affliction with a contagious disease on
the part of the worker.
On the other hand, a worker may terminate a labor contract without incurring liabi-
lity if he has grounds for complaint as to proven ill treatment by his employer; if his
wages aie not paid in full; if the employer causes damage to his equipment; if the em-
ployer, members of his family, or representatives are afflicted with a contagious di-
sease; if due to the absence of adequate sanitary conditions the health of the worker is
endangered; and if the employer commits a serious breach of the obligations imposed
by the contract.
Other grounds for rescision of a labor contract without liability by either party
are: the death of the worker or employer, force majeure, and bankruptcy resulting in
complete cessation of activities.
A labor contract also terminates, without liabilities, by the expiration of its term,
accomplishment of the undertaking in the case of a contract for the completion of a spe-
cific work, for reasons expressly stipulated in the contract, or by the mutal consent of
Upon the expiration of a labor contract, regardless of the reason, an employer is
required, at the request of the worker, to furnish free of charge a certificate indicating
the date of employment and date of termination of services and the nature of the employ-
It should be noted that a change of employer has no effect on a labor contract, the
new employer assuming responsibility for the obligations arising from the contract with
the preceding employer and which the parties cannot renounce without liability for dam-
ages for non-observance, delay or abusive rupture of the contract.
There is no Haitian legislation concerning collective contracts.
6. Labor Unions
Article 1 of the Law of February 22, 1948 recognizes the right of workers to asso-
ciate for the protection of their legitimate interests, and that this right is guaranteed
and protected by the State.
Article 3 of the law defines a labor union syndicate ) as any permanent association
of workers, employers, or of persons practicing a profession or engaged in an indepen-
dent activity, joined together exclusively for purposes of the study, coordination, pro-
tection, or amelioration of their common economic, social and moral interests.
By virtue of this law, therefore, both employers and workers are authorized to
form unions. However, no trade union of workers may be formed with less than 15
members, and any union of employers, to be valid, must consist of at least 5 members
belonging to the same branch of commercial, industrial, or agricultural activity.
Trade unions legally registered with the Labor Bureau have juridical personality
and are authorized to acquire any personal property. With respect to real property, they
may acquire only such buildings as are intended for the direct and immediate purposes of
The different classes of authorized unions are the following:
Occupational unions (syndicats professionals)
Company unions (syndicats d'enterprise)
Industrial Unions (syndicats industries)
Mixed unions (syndicats mixtes ou d'emplois divers)
A member of a board of directors or delegate of a trade union must be an adult
Haitian, who can read and write, not convicted of an offense involving inflictive or in-
famous punishment, engaged in the occupation or trade or employee of the establish-
ment concerned for at least one year, or the holder of a diploma or certificate of profes-
sional ability in the same field.
The board of directors represents the union legally and any civil obligations con-
tracted by the board for the union are binding on that union.
Certain obligations are imposed on trade unions, such as submitting information
concerning their activities to the Department of Labor, to maintain registration and ac-
counting books, to report to the Labor Bureau on any changes in their by-laws, to re-
port annually the names of their members, and to maintain permanent representatives
for relations with employers and with the Labor Bureau.
In the event that it is shown in a complaint regularly drawn up by the Department
of Labor that a union is engaged in unlawful activities against persons or property, the
Secretary of State for Labor has the authority to suspend the union for a period not to
exceed one month. However, such a suspension may not be made during a labor dis-
pute or a legal strike.
Any trade union may dissolve itself if the purpose for which it was organized has
been accomplished. Such action requires a two-thirds vote of its members at a general
In the event of the dissolution of a trade union, the assets may never be distributed
among the members, but shall be used for the purposes specified in its by-laws, or if
there is no special provision on the matter, they are turned over to the federation of
which the union was a member, or, if it is not a member of a federation, to some social
Several unions may merge to form a single new union. Various unions likewise
may form a federation and several federations may form a single confederation.
All federations and confederations must submit to the Department of Labor a copy
of their by-laws, a list of the member unions, and a list of their boardof directors.
Under penalty of a fine of from 500 to 1,000 gourdes ($100 to $200), every employer
is prohibited from preventing an employee from joining a union. Penalties against unions
are limited to fines, suspension, or dissolution. Unions, federations, or confederations
who fail to comply with the provisions of the law are subject to a fine of from 10 to 100
gourdes ($2 to $20).
7. Strikes and Lockouts
The right to strike is recognized for workers, if conducted in accordance with pro-
cedure prescribed by law.
Under the terms of the Law of September 16, 1952, all workers, either directly or
through their trade union, and all employers, must attempt to settle their disputes by
direct negotiation. An employer is not authorized to refuse to engage in discussions. In
the event of agreement, a report of the proceedings should be drawn up and a copy submit-
ted to the Department of Labor.
Conciliation. In the event that direct negotiations are unsuccessful, the delegates
of the workers or of the union s should draw up a detailed list, in triplicate, of their de-
mands, one copy being submitted to the Labor Bureau, one to the employer, and the third
for the conciliation committee.
After the transmittal of the list of demands the dispute is considered open for dis-
cussion and within 48 hours after receipt of the demands an employer is required to re-
ceive the workers' delegates in order to form a conciliation committee of three, to con-
sist of one member appointed by each of the two parties and a third selected by the other
two appointed members, who will serve as chairman. In the event that the first two ap-
pointed members cannot agree on the third conciliator, the latter will be appointed by
the Labor Bureau. However, agreement between the two representative members is
necessary for an accord, unless the third member is an official of the Labor Bureau.
If an accord is reached, the dispute is declared ended and failure to comply with
the terms of agreement is subject to a fine of from 100 to 1,00.0 gourdes, in the case
of an employer, or 5 to 50 gourdes, in the case of a worker.
In case the conciliation committee fails to reach an agreement, a report is drawn
up and a copy transmitted to the Labor Bureau. The delegates representing the two par-
ties may then mutually agree to submit the question to arbitration.
If no agreement is reached and there is no decision to resort to arbitration, a strike
or lockout may be called after advance notice of 48 hours. If the strike or lockout is not
declared following this period, the parties may again resort to the procedure of concilia-
Arbitration. Arbitration is initiated under the following circumstances: a) when-
ever a conciliation committee has been unable to reach an agreement and the parties ap-
peal to the Labor Bureau for arbitration; b) whenever the Labor Bureau intervenes
in the settlement of a strike or lockout; c) whenever a labor dispute arises in a public
utility or public service enterprise.
In a case of arbitration, the parties are bound to submit their dispute in writing to
the Labor Bureau, and within five days this agency must proceed to form an arbitration
committee. Each party may name a maximum of three delegates as representatives.
The decision of the arbitration committee is binding on the parties for whatever period
it specifies, which may not be less than six months.
An employer who fails to abide by an arbitration decision is subject to a fine of
from 200 to 2,000 gourdes ($40 to 400), and an employee who refuses to do so may be
fined 24 to 100 gourdes ($4.80 to $20).
The arbitration decision must be rendered within fifteen days after the arbitration
committee was organized. In the event the decision is not accepted, a strike or lockout
may be started in 48 hours.
Strikes. A strike may be legal or illegal. A legal strike is the temporary abandon-
ment of work peaceably undertaken by a group of at least five workers. It cannot be de-
clared except in the event of breakdown in the conciliation procedure and after the advance
notice of 48 hours required by law.
Strikes are not permitted in public services and public utilities.
Any strike which does not conform to these provisions is considered illegal.
A legal strike suspends the labor contract during the time it is in progress, where-
as an illegal strike terminates the contract without liability on the part of the employer.
If, as the result of an investigation by the Labor Bureau or examination of the facts
by an arbitration committee, it is found that the responsibility for a legal strike may be
charged to the employer, the employer at fault must pay wages for the days on which the
workers were on strike.
Lockouts. A lockout also may be legal or illegal. It is legal whenever it is order-
ed by the employer in a peaceful manner and with the intention of protecting his economic,
social, or moral interests. It consists of the complete shutting down of the establishment.
Advance notice of 48 hours must be given to the workers of any shutdown for the period of
During the time a legal lockout is in effect, the labor contracts are suspended and
workers may not claim payment of wages or indemnities for the period.
A lockout is illegal if it does not meet the above-mentioned conditions. It renders
the employer liable for the payment of all benefits and legal indemnities included in the
labor contract and he is also subject to a fine of from 100 to 1,000 gourdes ($20 to $200).
A strike or lockout shall in no way prevent workers from receiving their wages or
indemnities for accidents, illness, maternity, vacations, or similar benefits.
In the event of a legal strike or lockout, the Secretary of State for Labor, through
the intervention of the police authorities, may see that the establishment is kept shut
down. In the event of an illegal strike or lockout he may order the resumption of work.
Whenever the effects of a strike or lockout may be harmful to the general interest,
the establishment may be requisitioned. In such cases, it will be operated under the con-
trol of the State and all expenses of any kind will be charged to the establishment.
The right to a strike or lockout cannot be renounced.
8. Occupational Risks
The Law of October 10, 1949 established the Haitian Social Security Institue (Insti-
tut d'Assurances Sociales d'Haiti -- IDASH).
The following classes of workers are covered by social security;
1) Employees and officials of the State and of agencies controlled by the State (Com-
munes, banks, etc.)
2) Employees, workers, and day laborers (journaliers) in agricultural, industrial,
and commercial enterprises and in general any manual or intellectual worker
who renders services, for remuneration, to an employer by virtue of an express
or tacit labor contract.
3) Teachers and supervisors in private educational establishments.
4) Domestic servants paid in kind or in money.
Social security is compulsory and all employers are required to maintain a register
of wages and salaries and a register of workers covered. If such registers are not main-
tained, the board of directors of the Institute (IDASH) shall itself fix the quotas to be paid
by the employer.
The amount of the quota is 1 percent of the total wages and salaries paid in anyform.
This quota may be raised to 2 percent by decision of the board of directors of the Institute,
if approved by the Secretary of State for Labor.
This quota is chargeable strictly to the employer and may not be charged in whole
or in part to an employee..
Accidents will not be considered as work accidents if they occur while a worker is
intoxicated, if intentionally provoked by the victim, if resulting from an attempt of sui-
cide, from a punishable offense, or from a disturbance in which the victim voluntarily
Under the terms of article 50 of the social security law, an employer who insures
his workers is relieved from the liability incurred by a work accident. However, if it is
proved that the employer personally provoked the accident or that it resulted from a seri-
ous fault or negligence obviously chargeable to him, the Institute (IDASH) may demand
that he pay in full all benefits and expenses paid by the Institute.
In the event of a work accident, the Social Security Institute assumes the rights of
the worker and may exercise these rights against any parties responsible for the accident.
The benefits payable by the Institute to a worker consist of medical attention as well
as a daily indemnity beginning on the fourth day after the accident and continuing for the
duration of the disability.
The indemnity paid will be equal to two thirds of the basic wages of the insured
worker for each working day. However, this indemnity may in no case be more than
500 gourdes per month nor less than 70 gourdes.
If the disability is permanent but partial, the insured worker is entitled to a month-
ly income to an amount in proportion to the degree of disability. Whenever the disability
is not more than 10 percent, no income is paid by the Institute. If disability is more than
10 percent but less than 35 percent, the Institute pays the income in cumulative install-
ments of three to six months. In cases of disability of 35 percent or more, the Institute
may replace the payment of installments by an indemnity in a lump sum, but this maybe
done only after the status of the disability has been permanently determined.
In the event of the death of the worker, the following benefits are paid:
1) Compensation for funeral expenses to an amount equal to basic wages for one
month or to the basic wages for the last four weeks to which the worker was en-
2) A basic income equivalent to 50 percent of the income to which the deceased
would have been entitled for total permanent disability payable to the widow;
3) If there is no legitimate spouse, 40 percent of the aforementioned income is pay-
able to the woman with whom the deceased resided in a marital status during a
year preceding his death, on condition that both parties during their life in com-
mon were free from any marriage bond;
4) An income equal to 30 percent of the income to which the deceased would have
been entitled in case of total permanent disability, payable to each legitimate
or natural recognized child under 16 years of age, this benefit being continued
until the beneficiary attains that age.
The income payable to the orphans, alone or with a widow or concubine, may not
surpass 80 percent of the income to which the deceased would have been entitled in the
event of total permanent disability.
Social security benefits for illness and maternity, although provided for in the so-
cial security law, have not yec been put into effect by the Government. The law contem-
plates that coverage for such benefits will be compulsory for the same classes of persons
as are indicated above for social security.
The quotas to be charged for sickness and maternity benefits are to be 4 percent
of the basic wages of the insured worker, of which 2 percent is to be paid by the employ-
er. However, if the basic wages are less than 110 gourdes per month, the entire quota
is payable by the employer. If it ranges between 110 and 150 gourdes per month, three
fourths of the quota will be payable by the employer. If the benefits are to cover depend-
ents of the insured worker, he must pay a supplementary quota equal to 3 percent of
the wages, entirely chargeable to the worker.
Medical attention will be provided from the first day of illness for a maximum period
of 27 weeks for a worker and 13 weeks for his dependents. The Institute may extend this
period in certain special cases. Hospitalization shall not exceed 30 days in any one
year, but the Institute may authorize the extension of this period. During the period of
disability the insured worker is to receive a pecuniary allotment equal to 50 percent of
his basic wages, but this allotment may not be less than 55 gourdes per month.
In cases of pregnancy and childbirth, the Institute of Social Security will furnish
medical attention. The pecuniary benefits will be the same as indicated in the preceding
paragraph. Criminal abortion deprives the worker of the right to indemnity.
Whenever an illness results in the death of the insured worker, compensation for
funeral expenses, equivalent to the basic wages for one month, will be paid to the de-
pendents of the deceased or to his spouse, or to ascendants who were supported by him,
or if there are none of the preceding, to the person who shows that he paid the expenses
of the last illness and funeral.
9. Other Benefits
There are no legalprovisions for the payment to privately employed persons of
benefits such as severance compensation, retirement and pensions, old age and disabili-
ty pensions, unemployment insurance, or family allotments.
Government employees and employees of the Social Security Institute are entitled
to a pension if they have served for twenty years and have reached the age of 55. Those
who have served for at least 25 consecutive years are entitled to a pension before they
have reached that age.
No pension may be less than 40 gourdes ($8).
A retirement pension islikewise authorized for such employees who have served at
least ten years and suffer from some infirmity which renders them unable to perform
their duties. This pension shall be equal to one third of the highest salary which they
received. The amount of the pension varies according to the position held by the em-
10. Labor Authorities
The Labor Bureau (Bureau du Travail) is charged with coordinating all activities
relating to labor. This Bureau is a division of the Department of Labor and was estab-
lished by the Law of October 3, 1946.
The rules governing the different kinds of negotiable instruments are contained in
the Commercial Code, articles 112 to 229. The negotiable instruments covered are
drafts (or bills of exchange -- lettres de change), notes (billets a ordre), checks, bills of
lading (connaissements), and bottomry contracts contractss a la grosse).
1. Bills of Exchange.
A bill of exchange must include in its title, in the language in which it is drawn,
some designation indicating that it is a bill of exchange. It contains a pure and simple
order to pay a sum certain, the name of the drawee, indication of the date of maturity,
the place where payment is to be made, the name of the beneficiary, the date
and place where drawn, the signature of the drawer, and the value in money or other
A bill of exchange may be drawn at sight, at a specified time after sight, at a speci-
fied time after its date, or at some specified date. A bill of exchange in which the date
of maturity is not indicated is considered payable at sight.
If there is no indication of the place of payment, the place designated beside the
name of the drawer is regarded as the place of payment and thedomicile of the drawee.
If the place where the bill was drawn is not indicated, that shall be taken to be the place
indicated beside the name of the drawer.
A bill of exchange may be drawn to the order of the drawer, on the drawer, or for
the account of a third party. It may be payable at the domicile of a third party.
A rate of interest may be stipulated only in bills payable at sight or at a specified
time after sight. The rate must be indicated, and the interest begins to run from the date
of drawing, unless there is some other stipulation to the contrary.
The drawer of a bill of exchange is the guarantor of its acceptance and of its pay-
ment. Provision of funds must be made by the drawer or by the party on whose account
the bill of exchange is drawn.
Ownership of the funds provided belongs by law to the successive holders of the
bill of exchange. Acceptance of the bill presumes that there has been provision of funds.
Every bill of exchange is transferable by endorsement. Endorsement may not be
partial, it must be a pure and simple endorsement. An endorser, unless there is some
stipulation to the contrary, becomes the guarantor of acceptance and payment.
Acceptance is likewise pure and simple, but the drawee may restrict it to a certain
portion of the full amount of the bill.
A bill of exchange must be presented by its holder for acceptance before the date
it becomes due; such presentation must be made on an ordinary working day. In the event
of the death of the drawee, the presentation is to be made to the executor of the estate or
to the heirs of the deceased.
The holder of a bill of exchange is excused from presentation for acceptance if the
drawee is.in default; or if he is a person presumed to be legally incompetent to partici-
pate in a bill of exchange.
A drawee who accepts a bill of exchange engages to pay it upon its maturity. A bill
of exchange may be accepted through the intervention of a third party.
Payment of a bill of exchange may be guaranteed, in whole or in part, by a third
party by accommodation. The party signing by accommodation becomes jointly and sev-
erally liable for payment, along with the drawer and endorsers.
A signer for accommodation who pays a bill of exchange-acquires the rights result-
ing from the bill.
All parties who have signed, accepted, endorsed, or accommodated a bill of ex-
change are jointly and severally liable to the holder. They cannot plead "benefit of dis-
cussion" ,* and the holder may take action against them collectively or individually, at his
A bill of exchange at sight is payable upon presentation. Such presentation must be
made within one year from the date of the bill. This period may be changed-by the drawer
or shortened by the endorsers.
The maturity of a bill of exchange drawn at a specified time after sight is determin-
ed either by the date of acceptance or the date of protest. In the absence of a protest, a
non-dated acceptance is presumed to have been given on the last date allowed for presen-
tation for acceptance.
In the case of a bill of exchange falling due several months after its date or after
sight, the bill matures on the corresponding date in the month when payment is to be
made. In default of a specific date, the bill falls due on the last day of the month.
Objection to the payment of a bill of exchange is not admissible except in the event
of ;ts loss or of the bankruptcy of the holder.
The holder of a bill of exchange drawn in an island of the West Indies or other near-
by territory and payable in Haiti either at sight, at a specified time after sight, or on a
specified date, is held to require acceptance or payment within the month of its date, un-
der penalty of losing the right to recourse against the endorsers and even against the
drawer if the latter has made provision of funds.
* "Discussion" is a proceeding by which a creditor is required to exhaust the property
of the principal debtor before having recourse to persons secondarily liable.
A period of two months from the date is allowed for bills of exchange drawn on the
North or South American Continents. The period is three months for bills drawn in Eu-
rope, Asia, Africa and the Pacific islands.
In the event of war the periods allowed are doubled.
Any stipulations to the contrary, however, may be agreed upon between the interest.
Refusal of payment must be established by a protest for failure of payment. The
holder, however, may be excused from potest if the phrase "return without expense" or
"without protest" is written on the document by the drawer, endorser or accommodator.
The holder must nevertheless present the bill for payment within the periods prescribed.
The holder of a bill of exchange after expiration of the time limits for presentation,
for protest, for presentation for payment, or for effecting some action as guarantee, is
deprived of his rights against the endorsers, the drawer who made provision of funds, and
other obligated parties, with the exception of the acceptor. If the bill was net presented
for acceptance within the period stipulated by the drawer, the bearer is deprived of all
rights of recourse.
All actions resulting from a bill of exchange expire after five years from the date
of maturity, under the statute of limitations.
Actions of the holder against endorsers or the drawer expire in two years from the
date of a regularly executed protest, or from the date of maturity, if the bill contained a
"no protest" clause.
Actions by endorsers against each other or against the drawer expire one year after
the date of payment by an endorser.
2. Promissory Notes.
A promissory note (billet 'a ordre) must contain a phrase stating that it is to the
order of someone, a promise of payment of a sum of money, the date of maturity, the
place of payment, the name of the payee, the place where it is signed, and the signature
of the maker. In the absence of any of the foregoing stipulations, the note is considered
to be merely a promise.
All provisions governing bills of exchange which are not incompatible with its nature
are applicable also to a promissory note, in particular the provisions governing endorse-
ment, maturity, payment, recourse, protest, reexchange, copies, alterations, accom-
modation, joint liabilities, and limitation of actions.
The maker of a promissory note has the same obligations as the acceptor of a bill
A check must contain the designation that it is a check, the date and place of issu-
ance, a puie and simple order to pay a sumr certain, the name of the drawee, the place
of payment, the payee, and the signature of the drawer.
A check may be payable to a designated person, to the order of someone, or to
bearer. A check is civil or commercial according to whether it is signed by a non-mer-
chant or a merchant.
A check must be paid by the drawee at sight. It must be presented for payment
within thirty days from its date, if issued and payable in the same town, within forty-five
days if it is payable in some other town in Haiti, and within ninety days if issued on a
foreign country or vice versa. The periods are doubled in the event of war.
The non-payment of a check presented for payment within these prescribed periods
must be established by a protest, executed in the same form as for a bill of exchange.
The protest must be executed within twenty-four hours following presentation of the check
to the drawee. The holder must give notice of this action to all parties against whom this
recourse is taken, within eight days, if it is a check payable in the same town; within fif-
teen days plus allowance for distance (1 day for each 40 kilometers) if payable at some
other town in Haiti; and within 30 days plus allowance for distance, if issued in Haiti on
a foreign country or vice versa.
If the check is unpaid, the persons who were notified of the protest will be summon-
ed before a competent court within fifteen days following notification, plus allowance for
A holder of a check who does not demand payment within the periods mentioned loses
his right of recourse against the endorsers and against the drawer whose provision of
funds is terminated by act of the drawee after expiration of the prescribed period.
Any physical or juridical person may guarantee the payment of a check or pay it by
A check may not be attached except by a creditor of the holder. Payment of a check
may not be contested except in the event of its loss or of the bankruptcy of the holder.
Anyone issuing a check without provision of funds in advance commits the crime of
Aside from penalties prescribed in the Penal Code, anyone guilty of the above of-
fense is subject to a fine of not less than 300 gourdes ($ 60). If the guilty party is a
merchant, he will lose his license (licence) and permit (patente). A merchant convicted
of issuing a check without funds is prohibited from engaging in commerce for a period of
five years following the conviction.
Bankruptcy of the drawee, if it occurs within the periods allowed for presentation
of a check for payment, leaves intact the funds provided for the payment, which shall not
be included in the mass of the bankrupt estate.
Other punishable violations of the provisions governing checks are the following:
issuance of a check without date, or placing it in circulation or payment thereof without
the date; placing on a check a false or incorrect date; indicating as the place of issuance,
some other than the true place; payment of a check for which funds were not provided.
The fine shall be 2 percent of the amount, assessed against the drawer and first
endorser- one percent against other endorsers; and 1/2 percent against the drawee. The
fine may never be less than 25 gourdes.
Actions against the drawer, endorsers and other persons obligated by a check expire
under the statute of limitations six months after the expiration of the period permitted for
presentation of the check.
Actions by the several obligated parties against each other likewise expire in six
months after the date of payment or the date when the party was sued.
Crossed checks are authorized under Haitian law.
All provisions of the Commercial Code governing bills of exchange with respect to
guarantees, recourse, etc., are applicable to commercial checks.
4. Bills of Lading
A bill of lading must show the name of the shipping company and of the vessel, the
name and address of the addressee; the tonnage of the vessel; its place of departure and
destination; the freight charges; the nature, weight, or volume of the goods; and the mark.
ings, countermarks, and number of packages. A bill of lading must have a serial number
and is to be copied on the consular invoice.
A bill of lading may be to the order of someone, to bearer, or to a specified person.
5. Bottomry Contracts
A bottomry contract, if it is to the order of someone, may be negotiated by endorse-
ment. Such negotiation has the same effects as in other commercial transfers.
Note: Haitian legislation contains no special legal provisions governing foreign ne-
The only general law relating to banks is the Law of August 14, 1952. Articles 19
to 53 of the Commercial Code, to which article 1 of the law refers, do not apply specifi-
cally to banks alone but are provisions which govern companies in general, such as the
categories of companies, shares, etc.
There are three banking institutions in operation in Haiti: the National Bank of the
Republic of Haiti (Banque Nationale de la Republique d'Haiti), with offices in the capital
and in the provinces; the Royal Bank of Canada, with an office in the capital only; and the
Haitian Agricultural and Industrial Credit Institute (l'Institut Haitien de Credit Agricole
The National Bank of the Republic of Haiti occupies a special position. It operates
by virtue of a purchase contract and by special accords and laws, including the Law of
July 12, 1947 relating to internal loans and the Law of September 16, 1953 concerning the
fiscal department of the bank.
The National Bank performs various functions, such as serving as the bank of issue,
the treasurer of the Government, fiscal agent for loans, and as a commercial bank.
The Haitian Agricultural and Industrial Credit Institute is owned by the State. It
functions under the provisions of the Law of September 12, 1951. The authorized capi-
tal, under this law, is 25,000,000 gourdes, of which 5,000,000 gourdes were initially
subscribed (3, 750, 000 gourdes by the Government and 1, 250, 000 gourdes by the National
Bank of the Republic of Haiti), in accordance with an amendment dated September 5, 1952.
The principal purposes of this bank are as follows:
1) To encourageincreasedproductionof foodstuffs;
2) To encourage an expansion of cultivation and of suitable export industries;
3) To promote the development of production of certain products that are imported
4) To permit the profitable exploitation of natural resources not utilized at the pre-
5) To encourage the introduction of modern techniques in agricultural and industrial
6) To provide more readily accessible credit to small producers;
7) To encourage the creation and development of credit agencies;
8) To furnish all technical and financial aid in general that may contribute to eco-
In addition to normal banking operations connected with credit activities, the bank
may operate silos, warehouses, etc. and may directly operate an agricultural or indis-
trial enterprise or participate in such operations.
The banking law of August 14, 1952 provides that any new bank, in order to function,
must be authorized by a presidential decree and must have a capital of at least 500, 000
gourdes ($100, 000).
Article 2 of the law contains the regulations governing reserves for both sight de-
posits and time deposits.
For sight deposits there are the following requirements:
1) Cash reserves in the vaults or in sight deposits in the National Bank of Haiti a-
mounting to at least 20 percent of the total sight deposits.
2) Commercial paper with a maturity of less than one year to an amount such that
the total value of these securities, plus the deposits and advances in account cur-
rent and the available reserves shall at all times be equal to at least 75 percent
of the total sight deposits;
3) For the remaining 25 percent, the collateral may be represented by securities
of different kinds regularly quoted on the world exchanges, or by mortgage loans
or bonds of the Haitian State.
The requirements governing time deposits are as follows:
1) Cash reserves in the vaults or deposited at sight in the National Bank of Haiti,
amounting to at least 10 percent of the total time deposits;
2) Commercial paper with a maturity of less than two years to an amount such that
the total value of these securities, plus the deposits and advances in account cur-
rent and the available reserves shall always represent at least 50 percent of the
total time deposits;
3) For the remaining 50 percent, the same security coverage as required for sight
There are no special provisions governing foreign banks, any such institutions being
equally subject to the Law of August 14, 1952.
In addition to the requirement of governmental authorization in order to operate,
banks are subject to control by the Government only to the extent that they are required to
submit a monthly report of their operations to the Department of Finances.
EXCHANGE AND OTHER CONTROLS
The legal currency of Haiti is the gourde which is exchangeable at the legal rate of
5 gourdes for one dollar, United States currency.
This rate is based on a Convention signed between the Haitian Government and the
National Bank of the Republic of Haiti under which the paper money previously in circula-
tion was retired at that rate by the Bank, which was thereafter authorized to issue bank-
notes reimbursable in United States dollars at the 1 to 5 ratio.
There is no exchange control in Haiti, and as a consequence no control of imports.
The Government exercises control over the quality of coffee exported. In addition,
a special office -- the Department of the National Economy -- controls the exports of
products of the so-called "small industry", such as articles made of mahogany, sisal
There are no legal provisions specifically governing insurance in Haiti, with the
exception of the Law providing for social security and the provisions concerning mari-
time insurance contained in articles 375 to 410 of the Commercial Code.
All forms of insurance are in use in the country.
Foreign insurance companies desiring to operate in Haiti must obtain recognition
and authorization from the Government. This involves fulfilling virtually the same re-
quirements as for the organization of a Haitian corporation.
The procedure consists of submitting the statutes (by-laws and articles of incorpo-
ration) of the company to a notary public who then prepares a formal public instrument.
Applicationfor authorization is then made by the company to the Secretary of State for
Commerce. The application must be accompanied by the notarial instrument and a copy
of the statutes. The company must also post a bond, the amount of which is to be fixed
by agreement between the Secretary of State for Commerce and the Secretary of State for
If the application is accepted, the Secretary of State for Commerce submits it for
approval by the President of the Republic. The executive order of the President of the
Republic together with the statutes of the company are then published in the "Moniteur",
the official government organ.
Insurance is subject to a tax of 3 percent on all policies. Insurance companies pay
the usual civic tax (contribution civique), the licence and patente fees, stamp taxes, and
The income tax applicable to insurance companies is based on the following schedule
From $ 0 to $ 3,000 5%
3,001 to 8,000 10% on excess over $ 3,000
8,001 to 14,000 15% 8,000
14,001 to 20,000 20% 14,000
20,001 to 40,000 25% 20,000
Over 40,001 30% 40, 000
PATENTS AND TRADEMARKS
Patents brevetss d'invention) are governed by the Law of December 14, 1922. In
accordance with article 1 of the law, any new discovery or invention in any branch of in-
dustry gives to its author, whether Haitian or foreigner, the exclusive right to exploit it
to his own profit, under the conditions and for the time prescribed by law. This right is
granted by the title or patent (brevet) issued by the Government.
Article 2 defines inventions as including the following: a new system for the manu-
facture of industrial products, a new machine or mechanical or manual device useful in
the manufacture of such products, the discovery of a new industrial product, an applica-
tion of known means for the purpose of obtaining better results, and any new, original
and ornamental design for an industrial product.
The grounds on which the issuance of a patent may be refused are enumerated in
article 3, as follows:
1) Whenever the invention or discovery has been made public in any country, prior
to the date of the invention made by the applicant;
2) Whenever such invention or discovery has been registered, published, or de-
scribed in any country, one year prior to the date of the application for registra-
tion in Haiti;
3) Whenever they have been found in public use or placed on sale one year before
the date of the application for registration in Haiti;
4) Whenever the invention is in any way contrary to the law or to good morals.
A patent for an invention may be issued for a period of five, ten, or twenty years.
A request for a patent should be submitted to the Department of Commerce, accompanied
by a description, in French, of the discovery, invention, or application claimed; and by
the designs, plans, samples, models, or other pertinent documents. All items submitted
are to be signed by the applicant or by his legal representative.
When issued, the patent is published in the "Moniteur", the official gazette of Haiti.
In accordance with article 4 of the law, the fee to be paid for the issuance of a five-
year patent is $25; for a ten-year patent, $50; and for a twenty-year patent, $100.
Patents for inventions may be altered and they may be transferred or assigned to
other persons. An application for any of these changes in status is subject to a fee of $5,
in accordance with articles 9 and 10 of the law. An assignment must be made by notarial
Foreign inventions may be protected in Haiti by following the same procedure as in-
dicated above for Haitians.
Trademarks in Haiti were previously governed by the Law of December 18, 1922
and the Law of March 1, 1937. These Laws have. been replaced by the Law of July 17,
1954, published in the"Moniteur"of August 16 of that year, and effective on November
Article 1 of the law provides that any manufacturer, merchant, or company has the
right to designate his merchandise or products by means of special trademarks, a distinc-
tion being made as to manufacturers' marks and commercial marks (marque de fabrique
and marque de commerce). Such persons likewise may use special trademarks to distin-
guish the hiring or advertising of services offered to the public. Known as marques de
service, these are governed by the same regulations as other trademarks. Titles of ra-
dio and television programs, for example, as well as the names of members of the cast,
may by covered by service trademarks, even if the programs do advertising for others.
The authorized forms of trademarks include: names in some distinctive form, em-
blems, impressions, stamps, seals, vignettes, reliefs, letters, ciphers, monograms,
labels, special combinations of colors, signatures, ornamental designs, fabricated words
or names, portraits in general, any special device or designation that a manufacturer,
merchant, or company may adopt or apply to his products in order to indicate their indus-
trial, commercial, or agricultural activities and to distinguish their products from others
of the same kind.
The same conditions are applicable to titles and inscriptions which, although not
used on articles for sale, constitute the particular designation of some business firm,
service, or company.
Article 2 prohibits the use as a trademark of any of the following: the national or
municipal flags or coat-of-arms; immoral or obscene figures; distinctive marks already
registered or that may give rise to confusion with some other trademark; portraits or
names of living persons without their consent, names, phrases, or devices that constitute
the commercial name, or an essential part thereof, or the characteristics of a person en-
gaged in commerce or in the production of articles of the same kind as those covered by
the trademark applied for.
In determining whether two trademarks are susceptible of creating cca-fusion exam-
ination will be made as to whether they engender a doubt as to the identity of the manufac-
turer and whether they show similarity when applied to products of the same kind. The
possibility of confusion will be considered more on the basis of their similarities than on
thedifferences existing between the two marks. They are not to be compared by placing
them side by side but rather by viewing them in succession and deciding whether the im-
pression given by the second trademark reminds the investigator of the first one viewed,
by reason of its general over-all appearance.
Registration will also be refused or cancelled for trademarks which lack any distinc-
tive characteristics or which consist exclusively of works, symbols, or devices which are
used in commerce to designate kind, class, quality, quantity, us age, place of origin, season of
production, or which are or have come to be, at the time of application for registration the
general or usual designationfor articles, either inpopular languageor in commercial practice.
In such cases, in determining the distinctive character of a trademark, consideration
shall be given to all existing circumstances, especially with respect to the length of time
the trademark has been in use, and to the question as to whether the general term has, in
fact, acquired a secondary meaning but actually identifies only the goods or products of the
applicant in the minds of consumers.
In accordance with article 19, trademarks may be granted for 34 classes of products,
each class of which requires a separate registration. These classes are enumerated in a
table annexed to the law. This list is identical with the international classification and as
now used in France.
The list and the classification may be supplemented or altered by a presidential
order, with the approval of the Council of Secretaries of State, whenever experience
shows this to be necessary.
The registration of a trademark is optional except in the case of medicinal and phar-
maceutical products, for which registration is compulsory.
Procedure. To obtain the registration of a trademark, the interested party or his
representative should submit an application on stamped paper to the value of 10 gourdes.
This application should be accompanied by three facsimiles of the trademark. The ap-
plication should contain the name, occupation, domicile or place of business of the appli-
cant a detailed description of what constitutes the trademark, as well as the designation
of the class of products in connection with which the mark is used. A cliche must be
furnished if the mark does not consist of a word, a number, or a simple combination of
the two. An extract of the application is then published in the "Moniteur". If within a
period of two months from the date of publication no objection to registration of the trade-
mark is received, an official notice of deposit is drawn up by the Department of Commerce
and an extract thereof is published in the "Moniteur".
Article 4 prescribes the procedure to be followed in the event opposition is filed. If
an opposition is received, the Department of Commerce will immediately notify the appli-.
cant or his representative. The applicant must present his defense within a period of one
month if he is domiciled in Haiti, or within two months if established abroad. These peri-
ods may be extended upon the applicant's request.
If the parties do not come to an agreement, the case is decided by the Commercial
Chamber of the Civil Court of Port-au-Prince. If the party who has filed opposition loses
he may not file the same opposition again and is liable for damages. In all cases the los-
ing party is liable for the expenses of the procedure.
An opposition will not be accepted if the opposer does not at the same time applyfor
registration of the litigated trademark in cases where it is not already registered.
In accordance with article 5, the registration of a trademark (manufacturing or com-
mercial) is valid for a period of ten years. A trademark is renewable, but in order to
maintain it in force, the proprietor must, during the first three months of the sixth year
of registration or renewal, submit to the Department of Commerce all documents showing
that the trademark is still in use, or if not, a declaration, supported by evidence, made
before a notary, stating the valid reasons why it is temporarily not in use.
Use of trademarks. In accordance with article 9, the exclusive possession and use
of trademarks belongs to the person who has registered it according to law.
Fees. As already mentioned, the application for registration of a trademark must
be on stamped paper to the value of 10 gourdes. The extract of the application is published
in the "Moniteur" upon payment of a fee of 25 gourdes ($5). The official notice of deposit
(proces-verbal de depot) requires a fee of 150 gourdes ($30).
Transfer, sale, etc. Transfers, assignment, corrections, and additional copies are
covered in articles 10 to 18 of the law. In accordance with article 11, a request for reg-
istration of a transfer or assignment must be made on stamped paper valued at 10 gourdes,
while the issuance of the official notice costs 100 gourdes.
In accordance with article 13, any amendment or rectification must be made on
stamped paper of the 70 centimes denomination, together with a fee of 30 gourdes.
The issuance of an additional copy of the official notice of registration, or of an as-
sigment of the trademark, according to article 14, is subject to a fee of 30 gourdes.
Article 15 deals with the procedure to be followed for the renewal of trademarks
which were first registered in accordance with the provisions of the Law of December 18,
Article 16, calls for the payment of a fee of 15 gourdes for notification of any change
of address of the proprietor of a trademark.
Protection of foreign trademarks. Article 18 of the law provides that a special reg-
ister is to be kept of trademarks registered with the International Bureau at Berne, in ac-
cordance with the Madrid agreement.
If a trademark registered with the International Bureau conflicts with another trade-
mark registered in Haiti subsequent to the ratification by Haiti of the Madrid agreement,
questions of priority shall be settled by taking into account the date of deposit in the coun-
try where the first application was made.
3. Commercial Names
Commercial names are governed by articles 26 to 36 of the law cited. In accord-
ance with article 29, an application for registration must be submitted to the Department
of Commerce on stamped paper to the value of 5 gourdes. Article 30 prescribes that the
fee to be paid for issuance of the notice of deposit is 150 gourdes.
Article 32 defines what is comprised in the protection granted to a commercial name,
such as the prohibition against third parties making use of or registering an identical com-
mercial name for the same kind of business, etc.
Registration of a commercial name must be renewed every ten years.
4. Unfair Competition
Violations and resulting penalties are covered by articles 20 to 25 of the law cited.
These include fines, confiscation, sale, etc.
5. Treaties and Conventions Applicable
Madrid Agreement on Trademarks of April 14, 1891, sanctioned by the Decree
of August 27, 1953 (published in the "Moniteur" October 12, 1953).
Convention of Paris of March 20, 1883, sanctioned by the Decree of August 27,
1953 ("Moniteur" October 17, 1953).
Convention of The Hague of November 6, 1925, regulating the international de-
posit of industrial models and designs, sanctioned by the Decree of. August 27,
1953 ("Moniteur" October 29, 1953).
Madrid Agreement of April 14, 1891,suppressing false marks of origin on goods,
sanctioned by the Decree of August 27, 1953 ("Moniteur", November 2, 1953).
Convention on inventions, patents, designs and industrial models, signed in 1910
at the Fourth International Conference of American States.
Convention for the protection of commercial, industrial, and agricultural trade-
marks and commercial names, signed in 1923 at the Fifth International Confer-
ence of American States.
General inter-American convention for trademark and commercial protection,
signed in 1929 at the Pan American Trade Mark Conference.
1. Legislation and Definition
The subject of copyright in Haiti is governed by the Law of October 6, 1885. Arti-
cle 5 of this law provides that the authors of literary and artistic works have the exclu-
sive right during their lifetime to sell, authorize to sell, distribute, perform, translate
into a foreign language or authorize others to translate any of their works, or to transfer
their ownership, wholly or in part. Any method may be used that is suitable for the repro-
duction of each type of work.
The authors have the right to prosecute those who infringe upon them, with the sole
requirement of depositing the number of copies required by regulations.
The copyright office is the Bureau for Registration of Intellectual Property (Bureau
d'Enregistrement de la Propriete Intellectuelle) which is a division of the Department of
State for the Interior, at Port-au-Prince.
2. Persons and Works Protected
In accordance with Haitian law, the persons protected by copyright are: the authors
of literary and artistic works; the proprietors of posthumous works, by inheritance or
any other title; the widow and children of an author, or if lacking, any other heirs or as-
With respect to works protected, article 1 of the law provides that the term "liter-
ary and artistic works" includes: books, pamphlets, all types of writing, all kinds of dra-
matic works, musical compositions with or without words, and instrumental arrangements,
drawings, paintings, works of sculpture, engravings, lithographs, geographic maps, plans,
scientific sketches, and in general, all literary, artistic, and scientific works that can be
published by any method of impression or reproduction whatsoever.
Any publication of writings, musical compositions, designs, lithographs, paintings,
or any other production, printed or engraved, wholly or in part, in contravention of the
laws and regulations relating to copyright, is regarded as a crime of contrebande (a term
which embraces smuggling, infringement, and similar offenses). This applies equally to
the illegal performance of dramatic works by any director, producer, or theatrical asso-
3. Formalities, Duration and Fees.
The law requires the deposit in the copyright office, within one year of publication,
of five copies, for any work published by a Haitian in Haiti or in a foreign country.
As already mentioned, an author enjoys exclusive copyright during his lifetime.
This privilege then passes to his widow for the remainder of her life, and after her death
it passes to the author's children for a period of twenty years. If there are no children,
the copyright belongs to any other heirs or assigns for a period of ten years.
There is no fee required for the registration of copyright.
4. Protection of Foreign Works.
There is no provision in Haitian law relative to the protection of foreign works.
Haiti maintains copyright relations with other Latin American countries on the basis
of its ratification of the Convention of Washington of June 22, 1946, such ratification hav-
ing been deposited on August 25, 1953. The other parties to this Convention are: Argenti-
na, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Hon-
duras, mexico, Nicaragua, and Paraguay.
Article IX of this Convention provides that "When a work created by a national of
any Contracting State or by an alien domiciled therein has secured protection in that
State, the other Contracting States shall grant protection to the work without requiring
registration, deposit, or other formality. Such protection shall be that accorded by the
present Convention and that which the Contracting States now accord to their nationals or
shall hereafter accord in conformity with their laws."
Haiti is also a party to the Buenos Aires Convention of 1910. This governs relations
with Colombia, Panama, Peru, the United States, and Uruguay, and will continue to do
so as long as these countries do not ratify the 1946 agreement.
The various forms of contracts are governed by articles 898 to 901 of the Civil
A contract may be bilateral (synallagmatic), unilateral, cumulative, aleatory,
The conditions for the validity of a contract are:
The consent of the party who is obligated;
His capacity to make a contract;
A certain object as the matter of agreement;
A lawful purpose (cause licite).
Legally formed agreements are legally binding on those who make them (article
925). They may not be revoked except by mutal consent or on grounds authorized by law.
They must be executed in good faith.
The non-performance of legally formed agreements gives rise to action for damages
and interest against the defaulting party, except when resulting from force majeure or
v Contractual agreements have no effects except as between the contracting parties;
they are neither injurious nor profitable to third persons.
Sales may be made by legal act or by private seal. A sale is perfected as soon as
the parties agree on the thing to be sold and the price, even if the thing has not been de-
livered .-or the price paid.
Sales may be effected in any form and under any special conditions agreed upon by
the interested parties.
Under an agency contract, a person may always select the agent. Such procuration
or agency may be constituted by legal act or by private agreement. The contract is per-
fected by the acceptance by the agent. In principle, an agency is gratuitous, unless there
is an agreement to thecontrary. An agency agreement is revocable.
General principles. Property in general comprises personal property (meubles)
and real property (immeubles).
The Civil Code provides that in the case of personal property, lawful possession is
equivalent to title to such property.
In the case of real property, a title is necessary except when occupation for twenty
years by prescription can be proved, termed in French "la grande prescription".
The right to ownership of property is guaranteed by article 15 of the Constitution
which, however, provides for expropriation of property for reasons of public use utilitye
The article cited adds that the right of ownership does not extend to springs, rivers,
streams, mines, or quarries, all of which form a part of the public domain of the State.
Expropriation. The law in effect concerning expropriation is that of September 1,
1951. This law provides for the appointment of a Special Indemnity Commission, when-
ever the Department of Public Works finds that expropriation of property for public use
is necessary and urgent.
This Commission consists of three members, one of whom shall be a representa-
tive of the property owner, the others being a Communal official and a representative of
the General Tax Administration.
If the amount of compensation fixed by the Commission is accepted, it is deposited
in theNational Bank of the Republic of Haiti to the order of the property owner. If the a-
mount fixed is not accepted the case is taken before a Juge des Referes for decision. The
decision of this court is not subject to appeal.
Mortgages. The mortgage system of Haiti is the same as that of France. Personal
property may not be mortgaged, but a vessel may be.
Mortgages may be conventional (by agreement) or judicial.
A mortgage by agreement must be executed by a notarial act. The first act to be
executed is the mortgage obligation, followed by the registration (bordereau d'inscription)
in the Mortgage Bureau (Bureau de la Conservation des Hypotheques). In accordance with
article 1921 of the Civil Code, such registration maintains a mortgage for ten years.
Judicial mortgages arise out of court judgments.
DESCENT AND DISTRIBUTION; WILLS
An estate may be accepted purely and simply or with benefit of an inventory. No
one is required to accept an estate that has been left to him.
The acceptance may be express or tacit. Renunciation of an estate may never be
presumed. It must be done formally before the clerk of a civil court in the district in
which the estate has been opened for settlement.
Intestate estates. If the deceased left no descendants, nor a brother or sister or
their descendants, the estate is divided into two equal parts, one half going to ascendants
in the paternal line and the other to ascendants in the maternal line.
Ascendants inherit, to the exclusion of all others, any property given by them to
their deceased children or other descendants without offspring, when such property, in
its original state, is included in the estate.
If such property has been sold, the ascendants shall receive the value thereof that
is due them. They also inherit the right of redemption that the donee would have.
In the event of the prior death of the mother and father of a person dying without is-
sue, the brothers and sisters or their descendants are the heirs, to the exclusion of as-
cendants and other collateral relatives. They inherit either as principal heir or by re-
If the father and mother survive a person dying without issue, the brothers and sis-
ters or their representatives inherit only one half of the estate. If only a father or mother
survive, the brothers and sisters, etc., will receive three fourths of the estate.
The division of the one half or three fourths of the estate, in accordance with the
preceding rules, shall be in equal parts among them, if they are full brothers and sisters.
If they are half brothers and sisters, the division will be made in halves for the two lines,
paternal and maternal, of the deceased. When of mixed status, the full brothers and sis-
ters share in both lines, while the half brothers and sisters take only in the portion going
to their respective line. If there are brothers and sisters only in one line, they inherit
the entire estate to the exclusion of other relatives in the other line.
If there are no brothers or sisters or their descendants, and ascendants only in one
line, the estate is divided into halves, one half being divided among the surviving ascend-
ants and the other half going to the nearest relatives in the other line.
If there are several collateral relatives of the same degree they share per capital.
If the deceased leaves no relatives within a degree having a right to inherit his estate,
(within the sixth degree) the property passes to surviving undivorced spouse. If there is
likewise no surviving spouse the estate passes to the State.
Wills. A will may be holographic, secret or executed by public act, in accordance
with article 778 of the Civil Code.
A holographic will must be written entirely in the hand of the testator.
A public will is one that has been executed by two notaries and two witnesses or by
one notary and four witnesses.
A secret will is one that is presented sealed for legalization by the notary. Sixwit-
nesses are required.
All persons of sound mind and at least sixteen years of age may make a will but
minors are subject to certain restrictions.
Witnesses must be adult males, Haitian nationals, and in possession of their civil
rights. Legatees cannot be witnesses, nor their relatives to the fourth degree, and clerks
of notaries are likewise barred.
In the country districts, only one or two witnesses, that is half of the number re-
quired to be present, need sign the will.
The request for probation of a will must be submitted to the Bureau de la Conserva-
tion des Hypotheques within six months after the death if the testator died in Haiti, or with-
in twelve months if he died in a foreign country.
A Haitian in a foreign country may make a holographic will or a will in any form that
is legal in the country where it is made.
Wills made abroad cannot affect property located in Haiti unless they are registered
at the testator's last known domicile therein. If the will contains provisions that relate to
real property in Haiti, they must be recorded at the place where such property is located.
A testator may not freely dispose of his entire property but only such portion of
his estate as is not reserved to forced heirs by law. The portion of which he may freely
dispose is one half if he leaves one legitimate or two natural children or if he leaves as-
cendants in both the paternal and maternal lines. The free portion is reduced to one third
if there are two legitimate children or three or more natural children; and it is one fourth
if there are three or more legitimate, children. He may freely dispose of two thirds of
his estate if he leaves only one natural child, and three fourths of the estate if there are only
ascendants in one line.
Executors. Article 831 of the Civil Code provides that a testator may appoint one
or several executors.
In the event that the settlement of an estate gives rise tolegal action over the terms
of the will, the estate is placed in sequestration (sequestre) and i' administered, during
the course of the legal suit, by the General Tax Administration, in accordance with the
Law of April 21, 1940.
Descent and distribution are governed by articles 578 to 632 of the Civil Code; wills
by articles 723 to 749 and 776 to 881; and executors by articles 954 to 979.
MARRIAGE AND ITS DISSOLUTION
The provisions governing marriage in Haiti are contained in articles 63 to 75 and
133 to 214 of the Civil Code.
Age. The legal age of marriage is 18 for males and 15 for females. However,for
grave reasons the President of the Republic may grant a dispensation with respect to age.
A son who has not attained 25 years of age and a daughter under 21 years of age can-
not marry without the consent of their father and mother. In the event of disagreement,
the consent of the father is sufficient.
In the event that one parent is deceased or unable to express his will, the consent
of the other parent is sufficient. If both parents are dead or unable to express their
wills, the grandfathers and grandmothers may replace them in giving consent.
If there are no parents and and no grandparents, or none of these can express their
wills, minor sons and daughters under 21 years of age must obtain the consent of the
All the above provisions are applicable to recognized natural children. An unrecog-
nized natural child under 21 years of age may not marry until he has obtained the consent
of the family council.
The consent of the two parties is essential to the validity of a marriage.
Impediments and prohibitions. In the direct line, marriage is prohibited between
legitimate or natural ascendants and descendants and relatives in the same line.
In the collateral line, there is absolute prohibition of marriage between legitimate
or natural brothers and sisters, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, uncle and niece, or
aunt and nephew.
These prohibitions other than for brothers and sisters, may be waived, however, by
the President of the Republic, in exceptional cases.
In the case of brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, the prohibition may be waived
only when the union has been dissolved by the death of one of the spouses.
Marriage ceremony. A marriage must be celebrated publicly either before an of-
ficial of the Etat Civil at the domicile of one of the parties or before a minister of their
religion in accordance with the rites and requirements of that religion.
In accordance with the Law of December 16, 1929 and the Law of January 26, 1945,
a religious marriage produces all the legal effects of a civil marriage before an official
of the Etat Civil provided that all conditions required for a civil marriage have been met.
A minister of religion who performs a marriage is required to register the marriage
with the civil authorities and a copy of the act is to be transmitted to the official of the E-
tat Civil at the place where the marriage was performed.
Preliminary formalities. The official of the Etat Civil, or minister of religion must
first post a notice of the proposed marriage twice, with an interval of eight days, on the
doors of the office of the Etat Civil or church edifice, or announce the proposed marriage
during religious services.
If the marriage is not performed within a year of such notices, new ones are "re-
Objections to the marriage. Anyone who desires to object to a marriage must sign
an original and copy of his objection; if he is unable to write it may be done by a special
A civil official or minister may not perform a marriage to which objection has been
made until there has been either voluntary withdrawal of the objection or a court decision
The persons who may object to a marriage are the following: a) a person linked by
marriage to one of the parties; b) the father, or in his default, the mother, or in default
of both, any of the grandparents; c) if there are no ascendants, the brother and sister,
uncle and aunt, or first counsins, male and female, may object only when the required
consent of the family council was not obtained, or if their objection is based on the insani-
ty of the future spouse; d) a guardian, and only on the preceding grounds, if authorized to
object by the family council.
Marriage abroad. A marriage contracted by a Haitian in a foreign country is valid
if it was performed in accordance with the forms customary in the country where it took
place, provided however, that the Haitian has not violated any provision of Haitian law.
A foreign woman married to a Haitian assumes the status of her husband, but aHai-
tian woman who marries a foreigner retains her Haitian nationality, under the Law of Oc-
tober 22, 1942.
Rights and obligations of the spouses. The spouses contract mutual obligations to
feed, maintain and educate their children. The spouses owe each other mutual fidelity,
aid and assistance. The husband owes protection to his wife and the latter must obeyher
husband. A wife must reside with her husband and follow him wherever he deems it suit-
able to reside.
The husband is obligated to receive his wife and to supply her with all necessities
of life. To appear in court, a wife must obtain the authorization of her husband.
The written consent of the husband is likewise necessary when a wife, whether under
a system of community or separate property, desires to give away, sell or mortgage her
property or to acquire property by gratuitous or onerous title. In the event of unjustified
refusal by the husband, a competent court may grant such authorization.
If a wife is a merchant, she may contract obligations in matters concerning her busi-
ness without the authorization of her husband.
In case of absence or legal interdiction of the husband, the senior judge of the Civil
Court may grant necessary authorizations to a wife. If the husband is a minor, such au-
thorization is likewise necessary.
Nullification of an act basedonlack of authorization may be contested only by the
husband, the wife, or their heirs.
A wife, however, has the right to make a will without the authorization of her hus-
band or a court.
A husband may sue for divorce on the grounds of adultery by his wife. The wife may
sue for divorce on these grounds if the husband has kept a concubine in the conjugal home.
Either spouse may sue for divorce on grounds of violence, cruelty, or grave and
public slander by one spouseagainst the other. They may also request divorce in the event
of final conviction of a spouse after all parties have been heard, involving a temporary
punishment that is both afflictive and infamous.
In the event of the conviction of one of the spouses by default involving a penalty re-
sulting in the loss of civil rights, the other spouse may sue for divorce if the sentence
has not been revoked five years after its date.
The spouses may request divorce by mutual consent if the husband is over 25 years
old and the wife over 21; if more than 2 years and less than 25 have elapsed since the
wedding; and if the wife is less than 45 years old. They must arrive at an agreement re-
specting their property, custody of children, and other rights and obligations. When this
is done, they appear in person before the civil court of their domicile and state their de-
sire to be divorced, in the presence of-two notaries. The judge must try to reconcile
them, but if he fails, the parties must deposit the documents containing their agreement,
together with their birth and marriage certificates, and those of any children. The peti-
tion for divorce must be renewed in the first fortnight of the fourth, seventh and tenth
months after the first appearance, with the same formalities. After one year, the parties
make a final appearance, each accompanied by two friends who are more than forty years
of age. After certain other formalities, including the possibility of appeal, a divorce is
granted and registered in the civil registry.
A judicial separation may be transformed into a divorce three years after the judg-
ment. A separation may be obtained on the same grounds as divorce, except mutual con-
sent. An additional ground is civil interdiction.
A suit for divorce must be brought before the civil court at the place where the
spouses have their domicile. The Court may accept or reject the suit either on the basis
of written evidence submitted, justifying the grounds for the divorce, or on the basis of
an investigation which it may order.
When the final judgment permitting divorce has been rendered, the plaintiff is au-
thorized to appear before an official of the Etat Civil who pronounces the divorce decree.
During the course of the suit, the wife is authorized to leave the conjugal home. She
has the right to receive an allotment for aliments in proportion to the economic position
of the husband.
The provisional custody of the children remains with the husband, in principle.
However, the Court is always authorized to grant the custody of the children to the mother
if it is to their advantage.
Expenses of a suit for divorce are chargeable to the husband, as well as support of
In the division of community property, a divorced woman who within three months
and forty days after a final decree of divorce has never indicated her intention to accept,
is deemed to have renounced the property, unless during the period she has received a
continuance from the court.
Conflict of laws. There is no law on the recognition in Haiti of foreign divorces. In
following French legislation, and by article 7 of the Civil Code, Haiti inclines to apply the
national law to personal status. However, Haiti is a party to the Bustamante Code of Pri-
vate International Law, which follows the law of conjugal domicile (articles 52ff), with the
condition that the ground of the divorce must have been one that exists in the national leg-
islation. National courts should therefore recognize divorces granted abroad, whether of
Haitians or foreigners, unless they were based on grounds not recognized in the Haitian
Civil Code. Also, foreigners, by the same token, may be divorced in Haiti if they have
their conjugal domicile in that country; but such a divorce cannot be founded on grounds
happening prior to the acquisition of Haitian domicile unless such ground exists in the per-
sonal law of the spouses.
3. Annulment of Marriage
A marriage may be contested and annulled under various conditions, depending on
the persons involved.
A marriage contracted without the free consent of either or both of the spouses may
be contested only by the spouse whose free consent was not given.
If there was a mistake as to persons, the marriage may be contested by the spouse
who was mistaken.
An annulment will not be granted, however, when there has been continuous cohabita-
tion for three months after the spouse acquired full freedom or the mistake was recogniz-
A marriage contracted without the required consent may be contested by any person
who should have given consent, or by a spouse who required such consent. If, however,
there was express or tacit approval by those whose consent was necessary, or if one year
has elapsed without protest by such persons, an application for annulment will not be heard.
The same applies to action by a spouse if one-year has elapsed without protest after attain-
ing the age of consent.
A marriage contracted under any of the following conditions may be contested by
either of the spouses, by any interested party, or by the Public Ministry:
1) If the husband has not attained 18 or the wife 15 years of age;
2) If a second marriage was contracted before dissolution of the first;
3) If the marriage was contracted between legitimate or natural ascendants and des-
cendants related in the same line;
4) If a marriage took place between a legitimate or natural brother and sister,broth-
er-in-law and sister-in-law, uncle and niece, aunt and nephew, without the dis-
pensations prescribed by law.
In the case of a marriage between spouses not of the required age, the marriage may
not be contested if six months have elapsed after they acquired the legal age, or if a wife
has conceived before the expiration of the said six-months period.
A marriage which was not contracted publicly and performed by a competent official
of the Etat Civil may be contested by the spouses, the father and mother, ascendants, by
all persons having a real interest, and by the Public Ministry.
Under the provisions of article 187 et seq. of the Civil Code, a marriage declared
annulled nevertheless produces all civil effects both with respect to the spouses and to the
children if it was contracted in good faith. This is known as a putative marriage.
If good faith was present solely on the part of one of the spouses, the civil effects
are produced only in behalf of that party and of the children resulting from the marriage.
Action for annulment must be filed before a Civil Court at the domicile of the spouses.
In accordance with article 1 of the Commercial Code, a merchant (commercant) is
any person who performs commercial acts and makes this his customary occupation.
As a general rule, every merchant must pay a communal permit (patente) and if
he is a foreigner, also a license fee (licence).
A woman may not engage in commerce without the consent of her husband, in ac-
cordance with article 5 of the Commercial Code.
An emancipated minor may engage in commerce but must fulfill certain legal formal-
ities (article 3 idem.).
There is no commercial registry in Haiti.
2. Insolvency and Bankruptcy
A merchant who ceases payment of his obligations is in a state of insolvency. In-
solvency may be declared even after the death of the merchant. In such case, however,
this cannot be done until the year following his death.
An insolvent merchant may be declared a simple bankrupt or a fraudulent bankrupt.
The different kinds of bankruptcy are covered by articles 608 to 617 of the Commercial
In certain cases where a merchant's acts have been improper, such as excessive
personal or business expenses, loss of large sums through speculation, improper pre-
ference shown to a creditor, or insolvency without having met all obligations of a pre-
vious insolvency, accounting books not kept in good order, a merchant may be imprison-
ed. If he has been guilty of fraudulent acts he is subject to heavier penalties.
Bankruptcy may be declared either at the request of the insolvent, by demand of
the creditors, or by a court.
A sentence declaring bankruptcy takes effect on the date it is issued and the bank-
rupt merchant is removed from the administration of all his property, even of such
property he is entitled to receive although insolvent. After the sentence is rendered the
interests of the insolvent are managed by a receiver syndicc).
In accordance with article 91 of the Civil Code, the domicile of a Haitian is the
place of his principal establishment. In the event of a change of domicile, a Haitian na-
tional must make a declaration thereof before the Justice of Peace at the place he is leav-
ing and before the Justice of Peace at the place to which he is transferring his domicile.
Certain functions accepted by a Haitian national result in a transfer of domicile.
A married woman has the same domicile as her husband. Minors and persons un-
der legal interdiction have the domicile pertaining to their legal representative.
Foreigners in Haiti preserve their domicile in the country of origin but have their
residence in Haiti.
4. Limitation of Actions and Prescription
Prescription, under the Civil Code, has two concepts: acquisitive, that is, the ac-
quisition of property by prescription after a period of time; and liberative, or the expi-
ration of rights to legal action after a specified period (limitation of actions).
Prescription cannot be renounced in advance, but after it has been acquired, itmay
Recourse to prescription, that is, limitation of actions, may be taken at any time,
even for the first time in an appeal before the Court of Cassation.
Persons, such as creditors, who have an interest in having the statute of limitations
invoked, may do so, even if the debtor himself has waived it.
Limitation of actions applies only to matters of a commercial nature.
In principle, prescription does not run against minors or persons under interdic-
tion, and in certain other cases specified by law.
All actions, either real or personal, expire in twenty years.
Actions by teachers, professors, innkeepers, workers, and laborers expire in
six months. Actions by doctors, bailiffs, merchants who sell goods to non-merchant
individuals, and boarding-house keepers expire in one year.
Actions by public defenders expire in two years counted from the settlement of the
When the statute of limitations is invoked by a defendant, the plaintiff may require
that he affirm under oath that the debt has actually been paid.
Actions relating to administration of private income and annuities, aliments, rental
of dwellings and leases of land, interest on loans, and all obligations payable by the year
or at shorter periods expire in five years. Prescription of these forms of action runs a-
gainst minors and persons under interdiction. They can obtain redress against their
In the case of personal property, possession is valid title. However, if such prop-
erty has been lost or stolen, the owner can lay claim to it within three years. If the
article that was lost or stolen has been purchased at a public auction or in commerce, the
owner must reimburse the possessor thereof.
To acquire property by prescription, possession must be continuous, uninterrupted,
peaceful, public, unequivocal, and under claim of ownership.
Anyone who acquires real property in good faith and by just title becomes the owner
by prescription in ten years if the true owner resides in Haiti, and in fifteen years if the
latter is domiciled abroad.
5. Private and Notarial Instruments
Formal documents or instruments are not acknowledged as is the practice in the
United States but are executed in the form of notarial instruments.
,A private or notarial document is required for all obligations involving more than
16 gourdes. Private agreements are not valid unless executed in as many copies as there
are interested parties. If they contain an obligation to pay a sum of money they must as
a rule be in the handwriting of the obligor or he must add to his signature a statement of
the amount due, in his handwriting. Seals are not used.
Notaries are appointed by the President of the Republic and must be lawyers or sub-
mit other proof of thei- aptitude.
Notarial instruments must be signed before two notaries or before one notary and
two witnesses. A notary cannot execute a document in which a party is his relative in the
direct line or in the collateral line to the degree of uncle and nephew, or in which he has
Except in the case of simple receipts and certificates, the notary retains the origi-
nal instrument and delivers certified copies to the interested parties, these copies hav-
ing the same effect as the original.
There is a public registry for contracts, civil judgments, and other classes of docu-
ments. Sales and other alienations and mortgages of real property must be recorded in
a special registry.
Documents issued in a foreign country must be authenticated by a Haitian diplomatic
or consular official.
6. Execution of Foreign Judgments
Foreign judgments cannot be executed in Haiti unless there is an express agreement
between Haiti and the foreign State concerned.
Up to the present time there exists no agreement between Haiti and any foreign State
permitting' the execution in the respective territories of judgments rendered by the courts
Civil Code (Code Civil d'Haiti)
Edited by Abel N. Leger, Port-au Prince, 1931
Code Fiscal Hz.itien
Prepared by Charles Fernand Pressoir and published by the Administration
Generale des Contributions (Tax Administration), Port-au-Prince, 1953
Supplement Fiscal et Economique 1953
These two volumes contain not only laws relating to taxation but numerous
other laws of an economic character.
Rural Code out of print
Penal Code obsolete editions, due to frequent changes
Code of Civil Procedure obsolete editions, due to frequent changes
Commercial Code Edition of 1945, published by Imprimerie de 1'Etat, Port-
Bulletins des Arrats du Tribunal (now "de la Cour" de Cassation), published by the
Department of Justice, Port-au-Prince. Publishes judicial decisions.
Le Moniteur the Official Gazette of Haiti, publishes the texts of all laws, decrees
and other acts of the Government.
Recueil de Legislation Ouvriere a compilation of laws, decrees and regulations
relating to labor and social matters, edited by Franck Legendre, published
by Les Presses Libres, Port-au-Prince, 1954.
THE ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES is made up of twenty-one American
nations: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican
Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pana-
ma, Paraguay, Peru, the United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela. A definitive Charter
was signed at the Ninth Conference in Bogota in 1948. Dr. Carlos DAvila of Chile is
Secretary General. Dr. William Manger of the United States is Assistant Secretary
The purpose of the Organization of American States is to achieve an order of peace
and justice, promote American solidarity, strengthen collaboration among the American
States, defend their sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and to promote
through cooperative action their economic, social, and cultural advance.
The work of the Organization is carried out by the Inter-American Conference,
which meets every five years in a different American capital; the Meetings of Consulta-
tion of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, which can be called by any State to study problems
of a political nature, or when the peace and security of the continent are affected by a
situation to which the Rio Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance is applicable; and the Special-
ized Conferences on technical aspects of cooperation. The permanent body is the Council
of the Organization of American States, represented by an Ambassador from each of the
twenty-one governments, who meet in Washington at the Pan American building. This
Council also has three technical organs- the Inter-American Economic and Social Council,
the Inter-American Council of Jurists, and the Inter-American Cultural Council.
The Pan American Union not only acts as General Secretariat of the Organization,
but also carries out many projects of international cooperation in the juridical, economic,
social, and cultural fields within the spheres of the respective Councils. The General
Secretariat helps in preparations for the Inter-American Conferences, acts as custodian
of their documents and archives, serves as depository of instruments of ratification of
inter-American agreements and reports to the Council on the activities of the Organiza-
tion. Besides many technical studies such as the STATEMENTS OF LAW, the Pan Amer-
ican Union also publishes AMERICAS, a monthly magazine on inter-American affairs; the
ANNALS of the Organization of American States, a quarterly which records the official
activities of the Inter-American Conferences, the Meetings of Consultation, of the Council,
and the other agencies of the Organization. A catalog of all Pan American Union publica-
tions is available on request.