By Moustafa Daly
The Caribbean CBI programs have been getting increased scrutiny from the EU and the US over security concerns. Now the UK is joining in.
Speaking at a recent Washington DC conference, the UK security minister Tom Tugendhat announced that CBI programs that give questionable or potentially-criminal individuals access to the UK borders will be investigated.
The news come a year after the UK suspended its own investment visa, the Tier 1 Investor Visa, shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. The government then cited the same concerns Tugendhat has now reiterated about other programs.
“We found that it was so open to abuse that we had to stop it. So we've closed down tier one visas. And we're going through the process of making sure that none of those loopholes are left within our existing visa routine,” said Tugendhat at the conference.
“Sadly, that means that we've got to look at some other jurisdictions because there are some places that have visa waivers with the UK who are effectively offering this loophole. We simply cannot have visa waivers with backdoor economies, it just doesn't work,” he added.
It’s presumed that he’s mostly referring to Caribbean nations like Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, and Dominica, whose citizens enjoy visa-free travel to the UK and they also run popular CBI programs. Dominica offers the fastest route citizenship for as little as $100K in less than three months.
“Whenever I fly, you'll see in in-flight magazines, various different legal entities offering various different citizenship-by-investment offers. The island of Dominica was one of the ones that appeared in the in-flight magazine and all I can say is that the visa regime is being looked at,” he reportedly said.
But the review is not stopping at the Caribbean programs.
CBI programs in the Pacific and Central America also under scrutiny
The UK is not stopping at the Caribbean, as Tugendhat also announced that CBI programs in the Pacific and Central America will also be subject to the government’s review.
Paraguay is one country that may see its program scrutinized by the UK. It offers one of the cheapest CBI options for just $70,000 and its passport allows visa-free access to the UK – however its route to citizenship takes up to three years, which is similar to Brazil, also enjoying visa-free access to the UK, and offering its citizenship within three years for a $200,000 investment.
Adjusting access for Russian investors
The move comes under the umbrella of fighting off illicit finance and circumventing of sanctions by rich Russians, as per media reports.
On the same trip to the US capital, Tugendhat met with senior US security officials from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the FBI as they discussed cooperating on pushing back against “illicit finance from sanctioned Russians as they become more adept at evading international restrictions,” media reports.
This happened shortly before the US stressed the same concerns with five Caribbean nations last week, namely Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia and St. Kitts and Nevis – whose PMs held a roundtable with Anna Morris, the US deputy assistant secretary of treasury for global affairs, where they collectively agreed to six CBI principles that prioritize banning Russians from obtaining their citizenships.
The principles, billed as a ‘risk management framework’, also included running extra checks and conducting personal interviews with applicants, rejecting applicants who had been denied in other programs and working collaboratively to retrieve revoked passports.
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