By Moustafa Daly
The global residency and citizenship by investment industry traces its roots back to the 1980s. Among the pioneering programs that kickstarted the industry was the program of St Kitts and Nevis, which was launched in 1984.
Seeking to utilize its relatively strong passport, which allows for visa-free travel to many desirable locations including the Schengen Area, St Kitts launched its citizenship by investment program to offer global investors a passport that offers convenient global mobility, among other benefits.
In the following decades, nearby Caribbean nations, most enjoying similar visa-free travel privileges as St Kitts, also began launching their own RCBI programs as the industry witnessed an expansion on the global scale. In the 2010s, most countries in the Caribbean had launched their own programs, making the region arguably one with the highest geographical concentration of such programs in the world.
At first, the programs ran largely based on the policies of the governments that design them, but as the industry expanded, more attention was shed on these programs as entities like the EU and the U.S. began scrutinizing them.
The pandemic caused a surge in the RCBI industry, particularly in the Caribbean but also in the EU. The Russian war in Ukraine constituted a turning point for these programs, as the U.S. and European countries moved to ensure cutting Russian oligarchs’ access to their borders, and preventing these programs from becoming unchecked backdoors into their territories.
On a visit to the capital of St Kitts last February, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs Anna Morris has announced that her government, along with those of five Caribbean nations, will be committing to six fundamental CBI principles.
The principles include conducting personal interviews with CBI applicants, tighter and regular financial due diligence, working with international law enforcement to retrieve revoked passports, and, most significantly, banning Russians and Belarusians from gaining access to their passports.
These principles are expected to up the due diligence of these programs and thus alleviate the concerns of the U.S. and the EU – both of which have stated they don’t intend to end the industry in those countries but rather regulate it.
But what are the Caribbean nations with the most popular and successful programs? We bring you the breakdown of the top CBI programs in the region.
Benefits of Saint Kitts and Nevis’ program
St Kitts and Nevis, also known as the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis, is a dual-island nation nestled in the Caribbean Sea. Recognizing the potential economic advantages of attracting foreign capital, St. Kitts and Nevis introduced its citizenship by investment program in 1984, pioneering the concept of citizenship acquisition through investment.
The St Kitts and Nevis citizenship by investment program offers two primary investment options for prospective applicants:
Sustainable Growth Fund (SGF): The SGF is a government fund established to support sustainable development initiatives in St Kitts and Nevis. By contributing to this fund, applicants gain eligibility for citizenship. The minimum investment required for a single applicant is $150,000, with additional fees for dependents. The St Kitts government is currently making a limited time offer that reduces the amount to $125,000 until June 31, 2023.
Real estate investment: The real estate option allows candidates to qualify for citizenship by purchasing property valued at $400,000 or more from a CBI-approved real estate developer. In the case of multiple applicants, they can jointly apply for CBI by investing in the same property at the threshold of $400,000. However, each applicant must contribute a minimum of $200,000 towards the investment to meet the eligibility criteria.
St Kitts and Nevis citizenship offers a range of benefits for global investors. With visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to over 156 countries, including the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and numerous Commonwealth nations, citizens enjoy seamless travel opportunities. Moreover, St Kitts and Nevis allows dual citizenship, providing the flexibility for individuals to retain their current citizenship while reaping the advantages of St Kitts and Nevis citizenship.
Another notable advantage is the favorable tax regime. St Kitts and Nevis operates on a territorial tax system, exempting citizens from personal income tax, wealth tax, inheritance tax, and capital gains tax. This tax environment fosters business growth and facilitates wealth preservation.
What does Saint Lucia offer?
Launched in 2015, Saint Lucia’s CBI program offers individuals the opportunity to obtain second citizenships in St. Lucia through various investment options. The program was established to attract foreign capital and boost economic growth. The program has attracted more than $130 million in investments until 2021, and received 1,134 applications between 2016 and 2021.
The Saint Lucia citizenship by investment program offers several investment options:
National Economic Fund (NEF): The NEF is a government fund designed to finance public projects and stimulate economic development in St. Lucia. By making a financial contribution to the NEF, applicants can become eligible for citizenship. The minimum investment required for a single applicant is $100,000, with additional fees for dependents.
Real estate investment: Investors have the option to invest in pre-approved real estate projects in St. Lucia. The minimum investment threshold for this option is $200,000, and the property must be held for a minimum of five years.
Enterprise project investment: This option encourages direct investment in approved enterprise projects, such as specialty restaurants, boutique hotels, or agribusinesses. The minimum investment amount for this option is $3.5 million, and creation of at least 3 jobs is mandatory to qualify.
Much like St Kitts’ program, the St. Lucia CBI program offers similar benefits for individuals and families – primarily visa-free access to 146 countries, including the Schengen Area.
The country also has a favorable tax environment and access to regional markets. High quality of life and developed educational and healthcare infrastructure also make it an attractive option for investors.
Grenada and its special E-2 connection
Established in 2013, the Grenada CBI program provides individuals and their families with a range of investment options. One main advantage of this program is that it allows passport holders with access to the E-2 visa to the U.S. – however, in this case, they need to take up permanent residence in Grenada for three years at minimum.
The Grenada citizenship by investment program offers several investment routes:
National Transformation Fund (NTF): By contributing to the National Transformation Fund, individuals can qualify for citizenship. The minimum investment required for a single applicant is $150,000. The NTF is designed to finance important national development projects, including sustainable tourism initiatives and infrastructure development.
Real estate investment: Investors can invest in government-approved real estate projects, such as luxury resorts and hotels. The minimum investment threshold for this option is $220,000, and the property must be held for a minimum of four years.
In addition to similar advantages offered by other Caribbean programs that include visa-free travel 146 countries and favorable tax regimes, the Grenada passport stands out in that it offers a route to the E-2 investor visa to the United States. The E-2 treaty allows Grenada citizens, after at least three years of permanent residence in Grenada, to establish and operate businesses in the United States.
The CBI program of Antigua and Barbuda
Launched in 2013, the Antigua and Barbuda CBI program has been quite successful. It has attracted over $200 million in foreign investment since its launch. Initially, the most popular route to citizenship – the donation route –used to cost $200,000. However, in 2017, it was reduced to $100,000 to boost the program’s competitiveness in the region.
The program offers three routes to citizenship:
The National Development Fund: The twin-island’s most popular CBI route offers families of up to four individuals citizenship in exchange for a $100,000 donation to the nation’s National Development Fund. There is a $15,000 fee for any extra dependent, which may include offspring or elderly parents, and the application process entails an extra $25,000 in processing fees.
Real estate purchase: Investors can secure citizenship through Antigua and Barbuda’s program by investing a minimum of $200,000 in qualifying real estate projects, predominantly comprising condos, hotels, and resorts. In addition to the investment, a $30,000 fee applies for families of four or fewer, with an additional $15,000 per extra dependent. It's important to note that property resale is restricted for at least five years following citizenship acquisition. Over 40 development projects have received CBI funding, offering a range of attractive opportunities for prospective investors.
Business investment: Obtaining citizenship through business-related investments is also an option, requiring a minimum investment of $1.5 million. Investors can reduce costs by pooling their investments; multiple investors can achieve citizenship through a single business venture, provided they collectively invest at least $5 million, with each investor committing a minimum of $400,000 to the project. Similar to real estate investors, business investors must pay $50,000 in processing fees for a family of four, plus $15,000 for additional dependents. Moreover, divesting from the investment is prohibited for at least five years after obtaining citizenship.
Antigua and Barbuda citizenship comes with a number of advantages including virtually no income or inheritance tax, no residency requirements, a well-developed infrastructure and good quality of life, and a passport that grants visa-free entry to over 150 countries worldwide, including the Schengen Area, Singapore, and the UK.
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