The world of citizenship by investment is changing fast…
Just last month, the U.K. government stopped visa-free travel for citizens of Vanuatu and Dominica—after what the British Home Secretary called “clear and evident abuse” of the citizenship-by-investment (CBI) scheme.
This has had a knock-on effect in the industry, with at least one CBI nation doubling the minimum investment required for its passport scheme, in an effort to show its program is only for serious and committed investors…
So, what’s going on?
And what does it mean for your citizenship-by-investment options in 2023 and beyond?
I’ve invited Nick Stevens, CEO of NTL Trust—a leading CBI service firm—to share his views with you…
Editor, Offshore Living Letter
Citizenship-By-Investment Insider Speaks Out
Dominica has lost its visa-free travel to the U.K…. while St. Kitts and Nevis just doubled its price.
As I write, further changes are expected in the short term.
Caribbean “second passport” or citizenship-by-investment (CBI) programs have been in the news a lot recently—partly because demand for a Plan B is soaring.
So, what is the best CBI program right now?
While they may all look similar, there are significant differences.
Cost and visa-free travel are headline-grabbers… but I always advise clients to look at some of the softer data points—like a program’s reputation, efficiency, and perception.
The Caribbean CBI Programs
There are five Caribbean CBI programs: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, and St. Lucia.
I also include Vanuatu—a geographic outlier, but close in many other respects to the “Caribbean five.” Vanuatu is a British commonwealth nation offering CBI for around the same investment amount.
Is Visa-Free Travel or “Passport Power” So Important?
Commentators spend a great deal of time pushing out index after index ranking passports against each other. Rankings are typically based on the number of countries that holders of this-or-that passport can travel to without a visa.
These rankings are highly subjective. Most investors probably don’t care about visa-free travel to, say, Malawi… so why care about one Caribbean country having visa-free access to 140 countries and another one having access to 135?
What’s more, the definition of a visa is blurry these days. Consider e-visas, visas on arrival, and systems like the U.S. ESTA, the U.K.’s ETA and the European Union’s forthcoming ETIAS—basically all online visas, even though they are called something different.
Visa requirements can and will change. Vanuatu lost its visa-free status to Schengen (EU), and Dominica and Vanuatu both lost visa-free access to the U.K. last month. Remember, though, both countries only gained their EU visa-free access in 2015, whereas Dominica’s CBI program has been going strong since 1993.
Therefore, the suggestion by some that CBI is being “closed down” by the EU or U.K. is, frankly, ridiculous.
Canadian Visa-Free Access Reinstated?
Antigua and St. Lucia both regained visa-free access to Canada last month, albeit with certain conditions, like holding a previous (expired) Canadian visa.
The United States has also come out in favour of CBI programs recently, recognizing the positive economic impact they have in otherwise poor Caribbean nations. Given the stark choice between “passport sales,” drug cartels, or shelling out billions in foreign aid, it’s clear that the America’s interests are aligned with CBI.
The bottom line is that when you are investing in citizenship, you are investing for a lifetime and for future generations. If you “buy” a citizenship just because of its visa-free travel, you might be disappointed. There are much more fundamental reasons why you should be acquiring multiple citizenships.
Cost of Citizenship by Investment—Prices Doubling?
Recently, St. Kitts and Nevis literally doubled its investment requirements overnight, from US$125,000 to US$250,000 for an individual. St. Kitts have returned to 2014 prices and are supposedly going after quality not quantity. The jury’s out on why they did this and whether their strategy will be successful.
As I write this, you can still apply to Dominica or St. Lucia as an individual for US$100,000, as opposed to US$250,000 in St. Kitts.
If you are applying with a family, cost varies enormously. Right now, Antigua is a great family-friendly option, with its “University of the West Indies” donation option allowing citizenship for a family of six for just US$150,000 including some tuition benefits.
If no-one in your family needs university tuition, you can donate it to a talented local student. This option works out some US$75,000 cheaper than Dominica for a family of six.
Passport Processing Efficiency
One intangible factor to consider is how efficient the application process is. As licensed immigration consultants, we experience this on a daily basis.
Processing efficiency is partly about speed. All programs carry out stringent background checks, but there is no reason why a normal background check, however deep, should take more than a few weeks, except in very exceptional circumstances.
Some politicians like to imply that if the process takes 6 or 12 months, they can somehow do better due diligence and they are more likely to root out criminals…
As a qualified due diligence professional myself, I take the view that if the process takes that long, it’s just evidence of operational problems and inefficiencies. And organizations with inefficiencies are generally more likely to miss key due diligence issues.
The other factor covers proper processing of the applications. Often we see applications returned by junior clerks with dumb questions.
This is a matter of training, but the dumb questions are annoying because they typically delay the process by a month or two each.
To give you an idea of what we are seeing now: In 2022, St. Kitts was working very smoothly, but during the first half of 2023 we started seeing long delays there.
Dominica and St. Lucia are comparatively fast.
Antigua had big processing delays the last few years, but has a new Chairman who has really shaken things up. They have little work and are ready to go.
Grenada is efficient but, as the last country to accept Russian applications (until March 2023) it is working through a big backlog.
Vanuatu is probably the fastest of the lot—just today we received citizenship for a client in under a month!
In my follow-up article (later this week), we’ll look at real estate investments, perception of the passport, and new interview requirements…
In the meantime, feel free to check out ntltrust or contact us for a free personalized consultation.
CEO NTL Trust