By Moustafa Daly
St Lucia, one of the fastest growing eastern Caribbean economies, launched its citizenship-by-investment program back in 2016, becoming one of the latest such programs to be launched in its region. The program quickly proved to be popular amongst investors, attracting more than $130 million in investments until 2021, and receiving 1,134 applications between 2016 and 2021, as per official government figures.
Facing increasing competition from nearby markets, St Lucia’s government has just announced updating its CBI regulations, with the most notable change being reducing the real-estate investment threshold by $100,000, down to $200,000 from the previous figure of $300,000 – with investors having to hold the property for at least five years to continue being eligible for the citizenship.
Having taken effect starting January 1st, 2023, the new regulations also entail a due diligence fee of $7,500 for developers applying for approved real estate projects, a replacement fee for lost or damaged certificates of $500, and, should investors who had been citizens for at least 12 months seek to include their newborns, they would have to pay a $5,000 fee, up from $500 previously.
Another notable change is introducing a new bond option for investors, namely National Action Bond, which will enable interested investors to invest $300,000 in a five-year bond in order to be eligible for citizenship. This option will enable investors to include any number of dependents with no extra cost. If an investor with no dependents is seeking the bond option, the minimum amount in this case is set at $100,000.
What do the changes to St Lucia’s CBI program indicate?
“The changes were driven by two main goals,” explains Keith Isaac, chief operating officer at St. Lucia-based Polaris Citizenship and Investment Consultancy. “First, St Lucia’s CBI real estate offering had been, from a pure financial perspective, noncompetitive. Hence, the reduction in minimum investment places St Lucia as one of the most, if not the most, fiscally viable CBI real estate offerings globally.”
The island has taken steps to improve tourism.
“Also, St Lucia has made great strides in increasing flights to the island in the post-pandemic era, thereby attracting more tourists. This needed to be complimented by an equal increase in the island's luxury room stock, and these recent changes will likely incentive new and reputable developers to choose St. Lucia,” Isaac said.
“I believe that the change will increase St. Lucia's competitiveness in the CBI space as now investors shall not only have the opportunity to obtain citizenship and invest in an island known for consistent returns on real estate and tourism based investments,” Isaac further elaborated.
The move to reduce the minimum investment was hailed by Asha James, an authorized agent and lawyer at St. Lucia-based Clarion Law firm.
“These changes will improve the attractiveness of Saint Lucia CIP products. As an Authorized Agent, I look forward to new initiatives in this space, as we see a growing demand for Saint Lucia as an investment destination,” she explains.
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