By Christopher Willis
The opportunity to acquire a second citizenship via one of the five Caribbean citizenship-by-investment (CBI) programs is becoming increasingly popular and the concept more mainstream. The programs have many similarities but also their own unique differences.
To start, it is important to emphasize the difference between residency and citizenship applications. For applicants who apply for residency, for example, in countries such as the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Portugal and Malta, the intent is usually to spend some amount of time in these countries, possibly to have their children educated there. There is a general intent to follow a path which can lead to citizenship, assuming all conditions are met. A CBI program, however, is a direct route to citizenship that gives the privilege of acquiring a new passport. It is the passport — and the benefits of holding it — that are attractive and desirable to many private clients.
This benefit is of particular relevance to citizens of countries that have passports with limited visa waiver agreements. As such, these citizens are used to having to apply for a visa and being at the mercy of a consulate for processing. This limits the ability to travel on short notice, not to mention the cost and inconvenience of being without your passport while the application is being considered. The increased mobility is a major consideration, as Caribbean passports allow visa-free travel to more than 140 countries, which include the Schengen Area, the U.K., Hong Kong, Singapore, Russia and the UAE.
There is also value with travelling on a less prominent passport if you travel regularly to sensitive parts of the world. In more extreme situations, political instability or conflict can impede one’s ability to renew a passport. Having a second passport provides a valuable Plan B. Unfortunately, certain people have an immediate disadvantage to others that’s purely a consequence of their country of birth. Obtaining a second residency and/or citizenship provides a solution and an accessible alternative. Other factors that applicants consider are security, educational opportunities and lifestyle.
How much does it cost?
The price for the CBI programs begins at $100,000 U.S. dollars for a single person. The fees increase proportionally based on the size of the applicant’s family. Some programs offer better value for the money for a single applicant while others do so for larger families. When considering which program to choose, it is important to carefully examine the features of each offering and determine which is the best fit. A trusted and experienced investment migration consultant can assist with this process.
Another important factor is to decide which qualifying option is best for the client: a contribution/donation or the purchase of real estate in an approved project. The Caribbean CBI programs have real estate offerings starting at $200,000 and, in some cases, that may be more attractive than just making a donation. Applicants should consider if they will use the property or if they wish to invest a bit more but be able to own a piece of the Caribbean and receive some returns. For those interested in having a connection to the U.S., the E-2 visa provides a path to those wanting to operate a business in the U.S. Grenada is the only Caribbean CBI country that is an E-2 treaty country.
Grenada, known as the Isle of Spice, is one of the most spectacular islands in the Caribbean. Grenada is a beautiful country of lush rainforests, numerous waterfalls and world-renowned beaches. Grenada is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Citizens of Grenada enjoy visa-free travel to 143 destinations, including China. Grenada is the only Caribbean country with this privilege.
Grenada is also a treaty country with the U.S. that allows citizens to be eligible to apply for the non-immigrant E-2 visa. This is on the basis that they will be making a substantial investment in a U.S. business, will maintain the business and endeavor for it to be successful.
Applications are processed in under five months and children up to age 30 may be included in the application without the need to be enrolled in full-time education — the only Caribbean CBI without such a requirement. Parents and Grandparents over 55 may also be included in the application and do not need to demonstrate that they are financially dependent on the principal applicant. Grenada has also recently announced that siblings of the main applicant and/or spouse can be included on the application as a dependent, on the condition that they are not married and do not have any children.
The Grenada citizenship-by-investment program requires an applicant to make a financial investment in return for citizenship. The applicant and his/her family are subject to strict government due-diligence checks. To qualify for citizenship, the main applicant must be over 18 years of age, meet the due-diligence requirements and select one of the following two investment options: a $150,000 non-refundable donation to Grenada’s National Transformation Fund; or a $220,000 minimum purchase of an approved business or property from an approved government real estate project.
The property must be retained for a minimum of five years. There is an additional flat government fee of $50,000 for the main applicant and up to three dependents. Any additional dependents will be $25,000 each. The property can also be sold on to secondary eligible citizenship applicants after the five-year holding period. Due-diligence fees are $5,000 for the main applicant and his/her dependents 17 and older. Government application fees are $3,000 for the main applicant and dependents 17 and above, and $2,000 for those 16 and younger.
The main applicant and their dependents must have clean personal backgrounds and excellent health. An applicant will be denied citizenship if he/she has been denied a visa to a country that has a visa-free travel arrangement with Grenada, is identified as a potential national security risk, has a reputational risk, or is subject to a criminal investigation. The government is committed to approving citizenship applications within 180 days of submission, assuming the application has no areas of concern.
Citizens of Grenada are eligible to apply for a non-immigrant E-2 visa to the U.S. However, it is important that applicants realize their application will be strengthened if create a nexus with Grenada. If the intention is to apply to the U.S. under this category, it is advisable that they opt for the purchase of eligible real estate to demonstrate their ties.
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