By Uglobal Staff
The two-island Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis is known for its touristy beaches and sunny climate. But it’s also home to the world’s longest running citizenship-by-investment program, since 1984.
Ranked number six among top citizenship-by-investment programs, St. Kitts and Nevis is a top destination for its quality of life and freedom of travel, as well as for tax purposes and business opportunities. By investing in the Commonwealth islands, applicants can obtain citizenship and a second passport offering visa-free travel to over 130 countries and territories, including the European Union.
Investors have the option to invest in real estate or contribute to the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation. Applicants can invest $400,000 or more in government approved real estate and pay government fees. They also have the option to donate $250,000 to the government’s social fund and pay fewer government fees.
In September 2017, St. Kitts and Nevis announced a cheaper Hurricane Relief Fund option under the citizenship-by-investment program. Investors can qualify by paying $150,000 for up to a family of four to the Hurricane Relief Fund, which is $100,000 cheaper than the social fund option. This scheme, which was open for six months, scheduled to close on March 30, 2018.
“By our account, there has definitely been an increase in participation in the citizenship-by-investment program, especially since the introduction of the temporary Hurricane Relief Fund option. This option was created as a result of the passing of the major hurricanes Maria and Irma through the Caribbean this past hurricane season,” said Farida L. Hobson, a partner at Theodore L. Hobson and Associates law firm in Nevis.
Citizenship processing typically takes about three months. St. Kitts and Nevis has a fast track scheme allowing applications to be accelerated to a 60-day processing period under an Accelerated Application Process (AAP), and can be approved in as early as 45 days.
“The time frame depends heavily on the applicant and how long it takes them to gather the required documents of certified copies thereof and complete the required forms,” Hobson said.
Investors are not required to reside in or maintain a residence in the country. Investors can retain dual citizenship and their citizenship in St. Kitts and Nevis is maintained for life and passed to descendants through citizenship by descent. Investors are not taxed on wealth, inheritance, foreign income, or capital gains.
“With the introduction of new similar programs in neighboring islands in the Eastern Caribbean, there is greater competition but that competition has only led to ensuring the program maintains a platinum standard, as it was the first of its kind and continues to set the pace and be the model for all others,” said Dia Forrester Gellineau, a partner at Daniel Brantley law firm in Nevis.
The Hurricane Relief Fund is the most popular option, said Dahlia Joseph Rowe of Nevis-based Joseph Rowe law firm. But, all three options have attracted investors worldwide to the two-island nation.
“Most of my investors are from China, but I am aware that there are a significant number of investors from the UAE, particularly Dubai. I believe it is really a matter of where marketing efforts are concentrated,” Rowe said.
The beach, golf resorts, and other properties of St. Kitts and Nevis have attracted many global investors. For the real estate option, Rowe said investors should be mindful of identifying a project where they can get value for money as some projects offer more value than others in terms of square footage, number of bedrooms, amenities, and proximity to the beach.
“There are some projects with units already built that some investors may prefer as they can view the finished product. This is important particularly so that the investor gets a good resale value,” Rowe said.
She said real estate is typically priced in the $400,000 range, as this is the minimum investment required to qualify under the citizenship program. Rowe said most of the projects are condominium style, but there are villa style developments for those who prefer a villa setting for a higher price.
“There are some projects where the developer enters into a construction contract with the investor for the construction of a villa to the investor’s liking and specifications. Stand alone villas can range anywhere from $500,000 to $4 million,” said Rowe.
Gellineau said the citizenship-by-investment program has added tremendous value to the entire federation. She said the people of St. Kitts and Nevis are able to see and feel the tangible use of the investment sums directly, which improves their overall quality of life.
“It is a medium for the governments’ funding of various sectors of the society such as education, health, arts, infrastructural development, and social development programs,” said Gellineau.
Hobson said the Hurricane Relief Fund is used specifically for the repairing and construction of public infrastructure and private property. She said the Sugar Industry Diversification Fund has provided grants and loans to locally owned small businesses.
“It has also helped the government to support the displaced sugary workers after the industry closed and has been used to support the development of other industries, thus helping with the creation and maintenance of employment opportunities,” said Hobson.