Soon, cricket may not be the only connection Indians have with the Caribbean. Countries like St Kitts & Nevis, Dominica and Antigua have rolled out attractive citizenship-for-cash programs to woo Indian immigrants.
The latest to launch a citizenship-by-investment (CIP) program is Antigua & Barbuda, a tiny independent Commonwealth state in the eastern Caribbean which will open up its borders to other nationals in a month. It is giving full citizenship for an investment of at least $400,000 (about Rs 2.4 crore) in an approved real estate project. A St Kitts citizenship, too, comes for $400, 000 while tiny tropical Dominica is even cheaper at $100,000 (Rs 60,70,000).
Both countries have set their sights on wealthy Chinese as well as Indian immigrants. “Since the program was announced in March, we have had a number of inquiries from Indian citizens. Most of them view it as a lifestyle investment,” says Jason Taylor, CEO, Janik Partners, an Antigua-based company that specializes in CIP.
So what are the advantages of an Antigua and Barbuda passport besides the tropical breeze, swaying palm trees and white sand beaches, of course? An Antigua passport can get you visa-free travel to 126 countries including Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, the UK and Europe. St Kitts gets you over 100 countries. An Indian passport only gets you 55 countries.
As a Commonwealth citizen, one also receives certain preferential treatment in the UK. For example, your children may enter the UK to study without first having to apply for student visas. After studying, they may work there for two years without a work permit.
Eric Major, CEO, Henley & Partners, the global leader in international residence and citizenship planning, says, “Most Asian clients are keen on providing a western education for their children, and this is one of their primary reasons for seeking a citizenship. Another reason is mobility thanks to visa-free travel.”
Henley & Partners recently advised the Antiguan government on the design, implementation and administration of its CIP and also reformed the CIP of St Kitts & Nevis. Major adds that about 20% of its overall clientele for immediate citizenships are Indians, many of them NRIs. “We get about a 1,000 such applications each year in total and the overall numbers are growing. NRIs account for much of the demand because of the Dubai situation. Even though many Indians work there, most don’t have the privileges of residency. Those who have done well there but don’t have status often want a better standing, passport ranking wise. This is the new breed of people we call global citizens and we are helping them become that,” says Major.
That the Caribbean nations are serious about Indian immigrants became clear when Denzil Douglas, PM of St Kitts, who was in India in April, requested Indians to look at its citizenship program and invest in it. St Kitts has the world’s oldest CIP that was launched in 1984. The country’s CIP unit did not respond to emails.
But what is the profile of potential Indian customers? Amir Zaidi, managing director, Westkin Associates, a London-based immigration law firm says, “They are mostly married with kids, very successful and in businesses that generate a lot of cash very quickly, such as property and real estate. A vast majority of our clients for CIP may apply from US or Dubai (NRIs). Indians often start UK citizenship and St Kitts CIP applications simultaneously, so that the quickly processed St Kitts passport can give them easy access to the world till they get a UK passport after six years.”