Soon, more than 20 countries will be granted the right of visa-free travel to Schengen countries, a right which will change the way citizenship in these countries will be perceived.
As some Caribbean islands are expected to be granted this right soon, an increased interest in the passports of these countries will be the logical result. Luckily, the Caribbean region hosts some of the most accessible citizenship programmes in the world; programmes that are also dubbed ‘over-the-counter-programmes’ due to the ease with which a passport can be obtained.
Various citizenship options were discussed at the Citizenship by Investment & International Residence Summit in Dubai last month, and the Caribbean islands were well represented.
“Today, migrants move to, move from, and transit through every nation – big and small; rich and poor – including south-south migration,” noted Sergio Marchi, Member of the Global Agenda on Migration of the World Economic Forum. According to a joint report presented by Wealth-X, experts in the field, the Caribbean accounts for 25 per cent of the applications for citizenship programmes, a remarkable representation considering these applications are spread over only four islands – St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Grenada.
Further, all four islands are ranked in the top 10 of the jurisdictions by examining the overall cost, speed, global mobility, quality of life and simplicity of the programmes. St Kitts and Nevis ranked third, Grenada 5th, Antigua and Barbuda 6th and Dominica 8th. “We call these the over-the-counter programmes; these are countries that basically sell passports,” said the Managing Partner, M/Advocates of Law.
Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda already offer visa-free travel to 130 countries, including Schengen countries. Nevertheless, it is a relative newcomer to the market, with its citizenship-by-investment programme up and running since January this year.
Although the programme was launched last year, the programme is subjected to a couple of changes in response to the initial feedback, explained Harold Lovell, Minister of Finance and Economy.
“We are looking at changing the 35 days rule,” he said. Whereas most islands in the region do require minimal to no physical presence of the applicant in order to obtain citizenship, Antigua and Barbuda requires the applicant to stay in the country for 35 days over a period of 5 years, after having obtained citizenship.
“This seemed to be a hurdle for many people, and we do not want to harm the process,,” the minister explained on the sidelines of the summit. Citizenship can be obtained when a minimum investment of $250,000 is made in the National Development Fund (NDF), a minimum investment of $400,000 is made in the real estate sector, or a minimum investment of $1.5 million in an existing business. By means of incentive, the NDF option has been reduced to a minimum investment of $200,000 in the first 6 months, an offer which runs until June, 2014.
“We are going into the right direction with the programme. We have received 44 applications so far, from nationals of China, Syria, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries,” Lovell said, adding that the expected revenue from the programme is $20 million this year.
No minimum level of English is required, and citizens approved under the programme will not be taxed. A maximum processing time of 90 days is applied, although this usually results in 30-60 days in reality, added the minister.