By Moustafa Daly
Anna Morris, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of treasury for global affairs, recently went to the capital of the Caribbean twin-island nation of St. Kitts & Nevis for a roundtable discussion with the prime ministers of five Caribbean island nations, Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and, of course, St. Kitts and Nevis.
The agenda? Establishing a collective and collaborative risk management framework for the islands’ popular citizenship-by-investment programs.
New rules for all Caribbean CBI programs
The framework includes six principles that all nations have agreed to uphold in their CBI programs; conducting personal interviews with applicants; running financial intelligence checks on applicants; audit their CBI programs regularly; rejecting applicants who have been denied from other Caribbean CBI programs; work collaboratively with international law enforcement to retrieve revoked passports; and finally, banning Russians and Belarusians from all programs starting March 31, 2023.
The Caribbean PMs have asked the U.S. for further discussions on its risk management framework regarding the processing of applications from Russians.
Additionally, the groups also “agreed to convene a technical discussion within the next four to six months to assess the status of implementation of the agreed six principles,” according to a released statement.
The U.S.’s interest in establishing rules for Caribbean RCBI programs stems from the fact that most of these nations have relatively relaxed visa processes with the U.S., with citizens from St. Lucia and Grenada being able to apply for a 10-year multiple entry visa to the States with little hassle, and Antigua and Barbuda citizens only having to complete an electronic visa application prior to boarding a U.S.-bound airplane.
Also, Grenada is an E-2 treaty country, which gives its citizens special access to the U.S. by investing into a business – and offers a stepping-stone route to EB-5 visas that can eventually lead to permanent residency.
The U.S. is not out to end CBI programs in the Caribbean
Despite pushing for increased CBI transparency and applicant vetting, the U.S. understands the importance of the programs for the islands’ economies.
“The U.S. recognized that the CBI Programs provide a legitimate service and have assisted in the survival of the participating economies by providing revenues, particularly considering the existential threat to our vulnerable small island states - emanating from the climate emergency - and the onslaught of recent adverse external shocks, including the ongoing war in Ukraine,” stated the Caribbean governments in a press release. “CBI revenues are invaluable for funding major infrastructural and development projects, and for building resilience.”
Thus, the U.S. made it clear that it acknowledges that dismantling these programs would ‘severely compromise the prosperity and prospects of the countries, triggering a plethora of negative social consequences domestically and potentially leading to an upsurge in criminality.’
The Caribbean nations ask U.S. to help with the EU
The Caribbean governments have asked the U.S. to work on helping them with similar agreements with European governments.
It’s noted that the EU has been harshening its stance over RCBI programs, pushing for more scrutiny of applications and establishing genuine links between an applicant and the country to which they’re applying for residency or citizenship.
EU’s primary concern is that many of these nations have relaxed visa processes with the EU, including Grenada and St Lucia citizens having visa-free access to the bloc. It fears that such programs can be used as a backdoor passage to the EU.
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