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Top Caribbean Citizenship by Investment Programmes

April 26, 2017

What comes to mind when you think of the Caribbean? Crystal clear waters and sleek superyachts? Incredible sunsets over white, sandy beaches? Lazy, sun-drenched days? Those are all definitely true, but the Caribbean isn’t just an amazing holiday destination.

It’s also the home to many of the world’s earliest, and most enduringly popular, citizenship-by-investment programmes.

So let’s dive into why the global elite spend a reported USD 2bn on second citizenship each year, and why the Caribbean remains the undisputed capital of these kinds of investments.

A slice of paradise, with a Caribbean second passport

The Caribbean is undoubtedly a paradise, but that’s not necessarily what draws so many investors to the region. In fact, travelling elsewhere has a lot more to do with its popularity in this regard. Because the five Caribbean nations we discuss below all allow citizens to travel on visa-free or visa-on-arrival terms to at least 120 countries (or even 138 in the case of St. Kitts and Nevis). It’s perhaps no surprise then that ultra high-net worth individuals who find their travel limited by country of birth are keen to invest in second citizenship elsewhere.

Further, the price on this level of freedom of movement is not nearly so high as you might expect. Second citizenship in St. Lucia, for instance, starts from just USD 100,000 (compared to EUR 2m in Cyprus). So in the Caribbean, this independence comes with an affordable price tag – and you can move quickly too. Where some European programmes can take years to naturalise you as a citizen, the Caribbean options take only three months – or even less in Grenada’s case. The Caribbean programmes also boast a distinct lack of bureaucratic hoops. In most cases, you needn’t even visit the nation to secure citizenship, and there are no other interview, education, language, or residency requirements to complicate your application.

Second citizenship in St. Lucia, for instance, starts from just USD 100,000 (compared to EUR 2m in Cyprus). So in the Caribbean, this independence comes with an affordable price tag – and you can move quickly too.

In all, then, it’s little wonder that an estimated 2,000 passports were awarded to investors in the Caribbean in 2015 according to the Wall Street Journal.

So let’s look at which Caribbean citizenship-by-investment programme will best suit you.

St Kitts and Nevis: St. Kitts and Nevis is the grandfather of the citizenship-by-investment family. Established in 1984, the programme is the oldest in the world and definitely one of the most respected. That peace of mind for the investor is further reinforced by a lifetime guarantee on citizenship, so your investment is fully protected.

Security and longevity alone don’t account for the popularity of the St. Kitts and Nevis citizenship programme though. Global mobility is obviously an important factor, because the St. Kitts and Nevis passport unlocks 138 countries on visa-free or visa-on-arrival terms, including all of the EU. As is true across the Caribbean, the islands are also known for their favourable tax status, making this an ideal investment for future-conscious investors.

Read more about second citizenship in St. Kitts and Nevis

The icing on the cake is the speed and ease with which you can secure second citizenship here. There are two investment options: non-refundable investment into the Sugar Industry Diversification Fund (SIDF), or investment into government-approved real estate, held for five years. Investment into the SIDF starts at USD 250,000 for a single applicant, or USD 400,000 into real estate. With a process that takes around three months, this is an incredibly time- and cost-effective investment programme.

Dominica: Almost as long-standing as St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica introduced their second citizenship programme in 1993 – and it’s been popular ever since. Like St. Kitts, your citizenship here comes with a permanent lifetime guarantee and, as with all of the Caribbean programmes, there’s no need to renounce your home citizenship. Dominican citizens can also expect significant gains in terms of global mobility, as Dominican passport-holders can travel to 120 countries on visa-free or visa-on-arrival terms. As you would expect, Dominica also offers an attractive tax haven for international investors.

Read more about citizenship-by-investment in Dominica

Where the Dominican citizenship-by-investment programme stands apart most is the investment criteria. Dominican second citizenship is one of the most cost-effective in the world, not just the Caribbean. Investors can again choose between a lower outlay non-refundable deposit and a higher outlay (but recoverable) investment into real estate: from USD 100,000 and USD 200,000 respectively.

Even more attractive is the real estate resale clause. After five years you can sell under the citizenship-by-investment programme, so you have an almost-guaranteed market. Plus, the approved developer guarantees a 2% annual return while you hold the investment. Finally, if that wasn’t appealing enough, there’s an option to finance up to 75% of your investment – so you need limited up-front capital to benefit from the Dominican programme.

Antigua and Barbuda: Antigua and Barbuda is a relative newcomer to the citizenship-by-investment world, establishing their programme in 2013. Nonetheless, second citizenship here is quickly becoming a must-have. Global mobility is on a par with the other programmes – 130+ countries visa-free or visa-on-arrival – and you’re likewise looking at a three-month turnaround.

Global mobility is on a par with the other programmes – 130+ countries visa-free or visa-on-arrival – and you’re likewise looking at a three-month turnaround.

What makes Antigua and Barbuda’s programme especially popular is their status as a relocation destination. While stunning beaches, exceptional climate and a luxury lifestyle are not attributes unique to Antigua and Barbuda, these islands are an especially sought after location among global investors. More than 200,000 visitors come to Antigua and Barbuda annually, and international travel from the islands is simple. VC Bird International Airport runs direct flights from the UK, US, Europe, and many Caribbean locations, with direct flights from Dubai planned this year.

If you’re interested in joining the thriving community of Antigua and Barbuda, investment starts with a USD 200,000 non-refundable donation, or USD 400,000 into government-approved real estate. There’s also a third option, allowing you to secure Antigua and Barbuda citizenship through investment into business. You need only spend five days on the islands over five years to maintain your citizenship, and there are otherwise no residency, language or interview requirements.

Read more about second citizenship in Antigua and Barbuda

Grenada: Another relative late-starter, the Grenadian second citizenship programme was re-established in 2013. It became popular immediately, particularly among investors looking to move quickly: you can secure Grenadian citizenship in only 60 days. The process is as simple as it is fast – there are no interview, education, residency, visitation or language requirements  – so your application can proceed with minimal bureaucracy.

Find out about Grenada’s second citizenship programme

Grenadian passport holders enjoy the same enviable global mobility you expect of these programmes, allowing unhindered travel to 121 countries. Notably, this includes the Republic of China – making Grenada one of only 11 countries whose citizens can travel to China without a visa. Perhaps even more notably, Grenada is a US Treaty Nation. This means that Grenadian citizens can apply for the US E2 Investor Visa, which allows you to live and work in the US for an investment of around USD 100,000.

The final tick in Grenada’s box comes with the family-friendly investment criteria. All of these programmes allow you to add family members onto your application, but this can often be costly. Grenada only charges nominal additional fees, as your initial investment includes up to three dependents. Investment here starts at USD 200,000 non-refundable donation into the Grenadian National Transformation Fund, or USD 350,000 into approved real estate.

All of these programmes allow you to add family members onto your application, but this can often be costly. Grenada only charges nominal additional fees, as your initial investment includes up to three dependents.

St. Lucia: Finally, we have St. Lucia. The new kid on the block, the St. Lucian programme was only launched in January 2016 – which puts it in a great position to learn from its forebears. The result is a very attractive second citizenship programme that combines many of the best elements from elsewhere in the Caribbean.

Read more about citizenship-by-investment in St. Lucia

The programme offers a lifetime guarantee on citizenship; it also recognises dual citizenship; and there are no education, interview, visitation, language or residency requirements. So long as your wealth is legally gained and you pass a criminal record check, you’re good to go. Plus the programme is as fast as you would hope. You could have your passport in hand within three months, ready to travel to over 120 countries on visa-free or visa-on-arrival terms.

This aside, the St. Lucian citizenship-by-investment programme stands out on another main front: their cost-effective investment criteria. Perhaps because the programme is fairly new, lower costs help further incentivise investors away from the longer-running programmes. As a result, you can secure St. Lucian citizenship with a non-refundable government donation of only USD 100,000 for a single applicant. That puts St. Lucia on a par with Dominica, and makes citizenship here financially achievable at an unusually low cost.

Build your Caribbean passport portfolio

What comes to mind when you think of the Caribbean now? Stunning beaches, sleek superyachts and sun-drenched days aside, you should be thinking of greater personal and professional freedom. Of an insurance policy. Of smart tax regimes that protect your wealth for generations to come. All five of these Caribbean schemes tick those boxes, and more.

The only question is which one you will choose first.


 

About the author: Neil Petch, Chairman of Virtugroup  

With a history of business successes, Neil Petch is well known in the UAE and beyond as a visionary entrepreneur with a passion for helping others establish and grow their own businesses. Neil founded Virtuzone in 2009 and quickly established it as the region’s leading company formation expert, before launching Virtugroup, a holding company that has a wider mandate of supporting startups from establishment; to successful market entry; and all the way through to exit. NGE is owned by Virtugroup.


 

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