Caribbean Citizenship: Act Now Before Investment Costs Double

In 1983, the small Caribbean islands of St Kitts and Nevis gained independence from Great Britain. The inhabitants chose to unite as one nation, known as the Federation of St Christopher (St Kitts) and Nevis.

With a population under 50,000, the fledgling nation’s economy was predominantly reliant on sugarcane cultivation. Yet, historical trends have revealed the sugarcane industry to be quite volatile and uncertain.

Investing in citizenship: how St Kitts and Nevis transformed its economy

The government of this new Caribbean country started a program that lets foreigners become citizens if they invest money in St Kitts and Nevis. The goal was to make the nation’s economy stronger and more varied. At first, only a non-refundable donation was accepted. Later, citizenship became accessible to those investing in government-sanctioned development projects. These investments being refundable was particularly appealing to prospective citizenship buyers. At present, acquiring any property in St Kitts and Nevis, as long as its value meets the required threshold, qualifies one for citizenship, with the investment remaining refundable.

The citizenship-by-investment program of St Kitts and Nevis turned out to be highly effective and granted the country its financial autonomy. Often, smaller nations struggle financially and resort to borrowing from other countries. This leads to growing sovereign debt that burdens their citizens. The above program has addressed that issue for St Kitts and Nevis.

The success of the initiative has inspired similar programs in other nations. As of 2016, five Caribbean countries have adopted citizenship-by-investment programs for foreign investors:

  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • Dominica
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Grenada
  • St Lucia.

Evolution of Caribbean citizenship-by-investment programs

In 2017, the Caribbean was struck by a succession of catastrophic hurricanes, followed by the Covid-19 pandemic, which devastated the tourism sector on numerous islands. Their economies were significantly impacted, and the nations with economic citizenship programs were particularly grateful for them.

The citizenship-by-investment schemes in the Caribbean were quite similar, offering comparable benefits and facing similar challenges. Consequently, governments initiated a price war to outcompete neighboring states, which resulted in a period of aggressive price reductions.

Previously, the standard cost for a second passport was USD 400,000. However, by the mid-2010s, certain countries had reduced their prices to USD 100,000. This price cut also included the fees for a licensed immigration agent who is required to submit the application on behalf of the investor, as well as administrative fees for processing the application and conducting due diligence checks.

Alongside the drop in initial passport costs, both non-refundable donation and refundable investment amounts decreased. Moreover, some countries shortened the duration of mandatory property ownership.

With the decrease in costs, the popularity of Caribbean passports surged. To date, approximately 88,000 foreigners have acquired Caribbean passports through investment programs.

European pressure on Caribbean economic citizenship

Offering citizenship to affluent foreigners in return for their investments is neither a cunning ploy nor an unlawful activity. The Caribbean economic citizenship initiatives are entirely legitimate and have received endorsement from the respective national Parliaments. These programs operate under well-defined legal frameworks and rules.

Clearly, the governments of St Kitts, Dominica, Antigua, Grenada, and St Lucia are entitled to determine their own methods of boosting national income, as they are sovereign nations acknowledged globally. Nonetheless, the EU authorities were displeased with the Caribbean’s CIPs.

Brussels bureaucrats have expressed concerns that Caribbean citizenship-by-investment programs could threaten European security. This perspective is perplexing, especially considering the apparent lack of attention to the millions of immigrants who enter Europe illegally each year. These people are not required to disclose their past upon arrival in the EU.

In contrast, the economic citizens, namely, fewer than 100,000 individuals who have obtained Caribbean passports over the past four decades following rigorous due diligence, seem to pose a greater threat in the eyes of these European officials than the illegal immigrants who undergo no security screenings at all. This makes us wonder if their reasoning is consistent.

European officials exerted pressure on Caribbean nations, aiming to eliminate their economic citizenship programs. When the initial efforts failed, they changed tactics.

By threatening to end visa-free agreements, they coerced these states into increasing the cost of passports to reduce demand. Caribbean nations that do not comply risk losing visa-free entry to the Schengen area.

Caribbean passport costs to rise: the Memorandum increases investment threshold

In the spring of 2024, the leaders of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, and St Kitts and Nevis agreed to a Memorandum that indicated their willingness to increase the minimum investment for citizenship to USD 200,000. As a result, certain investment requirements are set to double. It is anticipated that the amounts needed for investment in real estate and business (particularly in Antigua) will also increase substantially.

St Lucia has yet to endorse the Memorandum, attributing the delay to contractual arrangements. With several development projects in progress, developers in St Lucia are likely anticipating a surge in citizenship applications from potential buyers. Should the government increase the cost of St Lucian citizenship, it faces potential legal action from these developers. Still, St Lucia’s officials have committed to signing the Memorandum when circumstances permit.

For the time being, the opportunity remains to acquire a Caribbean passport for what it cost previously.

The cut-off date to buy a Caribbean passport at its current price of USD 200,000 is set for June 30, 2024. So, if you act quickly, you can still get citizenship at the current cheaper price.

For individual applicants, St Lucian citizenship is available for USD 121,050, which covers all administrative charges but not the immigration agent’s fee (which varies by agent). The cost for an Antigua and Barbuda passport stands at USD 149,800. A Dominican passport may be obtained for even less. However, Dominica’s citizens have recently lost the privilege of visa-free travel to Great Britain and Ireland.

Adding dependent family members to your Caribbean citizenship application will slightly increase the cost. The more significant concern is that the overall prices are set to rise substantially in the near future. While there is still an opportunity to apply, the window is closing quickly.

Would you like to speed things up? Contact Offshore Pro Group for personal legal advice!

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