Friday 25 September, 2020

Caribbean countries selling discount citizenship due to COVID hit

Citizenship by Investment (CBI) Programs are not new to the Caribbean. Many countries in the region have been offering passports to wealthy foreigners in exchange for monetary investment for years, but with staggering post-COVID tourism losses, many passports have gone on sale.

Among the countries to recently slash prices or make their CBI programmes more compelling are St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, and Dominica.

St Kitts and Nevis, which earns around 35 per cent of government revenue from its CBI programme, was one of the first Caribbean countries to begin slashing prices.

“In these days of Covid, when tourism is not happening, we have to find ways to create revenue to sustain our economy,” said Les Khan, CEO of St Kitts and Nevis Citizenship Investment Unit, in a phone interview with Bloomberg.

St Kitts and Nevis is currently offering a special deal through to the end of 2020. It entails paying a contribution of $150,000 to the country’s “Sustainable Growth Fund”, which will secure, for those who can afford it, passports for a family of up to four-- a 23 per cent discount off of the usual cost of $195,000.

This is a great deal when considering the fact that St Kitts and Nevis currently has the 26th most desirable passport in the world, out of 169 countries, according to the 2020 Henley Passport Index.

In May, St Lucia cut the required CBI investment in five-year, non-interest bearing bonds in half, to $250,000 for an individual or $300,000 for a family of four. The "special offer" on these “Covid-19 Relief” bonds expires at the end of 2020. St Lucia's passport ranks at number 33 on the 2020 Henley Passport Index.

In Antigua and Barbuda, a family of four can become citizens at the bargain price of a $100,000 donation to its development fund. The government recently cut the price for adding additional children. Antigua and Barbuda's passport ranks number 29 on the 2020 Henley Passport Index.

Pre-COVID-19, Dominica offered the cheapest citizenship by investment program in the world with the cost of second passports starting at only $100,000, but the price was scheduled to increase by 75 per cent, to $175,000. According to Dominica's CBI website, "This major cost increase has now been put on hold indefinitely, although prices could increase once the COVID-19 pandemic is over so we encourage you to act fast." Dominica has the 38th most desirable passport in the world, according to the Henley Passport Index.

The incentives seem to be working. According to Henley & Partners, a London-based passport broker, there has been a 42 per cent increase in citizenship applications. 

"'Investment migration' has shifted from being about living the life you want in terms of holidays and business travel to a more holistic vision that includes healthcare and safety," said Dr Christian Kalin of Henley & Partners.

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