ST JOHN’S, Antigua- As Antigua & Barbuda gets ready to accept applications for its Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP), a New York Times report has suggested “anxious Chinese” are the target.
The Finance Ministry said the CIP Unit is being outfitted with furniture and should be completed and ready to accept applications by August 15 – while marketing for the programme has already begun.
According to the publication, Antigua & Barbuda is among countries targeting worried Chinese immigrants looking for potential escape plans – through the Citizenship by Investment.
The article notes that investor immigration programmes are technically open to all, but quotes immigration lawyers who say the main target is Chinese families seeking escape plans and protection for their assets in case of turmoil at home.
Jean-Francois Harvey, a Hong Kong based immigration lawyer is quoted by the Times as saying, “There is an all-out immigration war emerging for the Chinese.”
The well- respected newspaper also quotes Hong Kong-based immigration lawyer Denny Ko, whose firm Henley & Partners, they said, was hired by Antigua to help set up the investor immigration programme.
“It’s a niche product, but a niche product for China is still big numbers,” Ko said.
Antigua & Barbuda and St Kitts are described as having the best deals, but still face competition from Europe, the US, Canada and Australia.
One of the main draws of the programmes is visa free travel, and Antiguan and Barbudan citizens can travel to EU Schengen countries without a visa for up to a 90 – day stay period, as well as enjoy visa free travel to the UK, Canada and Ireland.
With a direct payment of just US$200,000 required for full citizenship here and just US$400,000 for St Kitts – the Caribbean deals are much cheaper than elsewhere.
There is also alternative investment options; for instance applicants could make a US$400,000 investment in real estate or US$1.5 million business investment to apply to Antigua &Barbuda.
In comparison Australia offers a permanent resident visa for US $4.6 million, the UK for US$1.5 million to US$15.3 million and Canada for US$780,000. Applicants can then apply for citizenship several years later.
The US is also involved, where for US$500,000 and the creation of a certain number of jobs, applicants can eventually get a permanent Green Card.
Up to September last year, 80 per cent of the 7,641 applicants came from mainland China, according to data from the US State Department.
The cheapest deals elsewhere come from Greece and Hungary where permanent resident visas are offered for just over US $330,000 – but those countries make no provision for citizenship.
The programmes have seen success already elsewhere with Cyprus reportedly raking in close to US$400 million, while Australia has seen applications worth over US$780 million.
The Antigua & Barbuda government has said it hopes to attract 1,800 new citizens or 450 families within the first three years and generate US$550 million by the third year.