Amongst all the nations offering residency or citizenship in exchange of investment, programs offered by Caribbean nations are reputed to be the most accessible for immigrant investors. Contrary to the general opinion about becoming a citizen of the Caribbean, passport holders of countries like Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, or Dominica, along with other benefits, enjoy visa-free travel to the Schengen and developed countries like Canada.
Due to recent changes, the Citizenship by Investment programs offered by Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica are increasingly being referred to as over-the-counter citizenship programs.
Unlike other nations in the region, Antigua & Barbuda enabled investors to obtain citizenship in lieu of their investments only in 2013. When first introduced, the program imposed residency requirements over and above the mandatory investments that are the hallmarks of such immigration schemes.
Investors were required to reside in Antigua & Barbuda for at least 35 years during a period of five years. Investors who did not comply with this residence requirement ran the risk of losing their citizenship. Recently, the country reduced the time period to five days. Now, investors need to be physically present in the country for just five days over a span of five years.
The Minister of Finance and Economy of the country admitted that the physical residence requirement, which is not a normal feature of programs of other countries in the region, was deterring investors from applying for citizenship through this route. The Minister said that the Government, eager to remove difficulties, decided to relax this requirement.
The most expensive option for investors seeking to become citizens of Antigua & Barbuda is the ‘existing business’ investment option where the applicant must invest a sum of not less than $1.5 million. Another expensive option is the ‘real estate’ investment option where one must invest not less than $400,000. The cheapest option is the one requiring $200,000 investment in the National Development Fund.
Other highlights of the program include no minimum requirements related to English-language skills and tax-exemption for immigrant investors. The country processes applications within a maximum period of three months although most applications are finalized with a period of one to two months. The Antigua & Barbuda passport, valid for five years, facilitates visa-free travel to more than 130 countries all over the world.
Despite offering the cheapest investor immigration scheme in the region, investors often skipped Dominica due to the restrictive nature of other scheme-related requirements. However, these conditions are being relaxed, which makes Dominica an attractive destination for investors.
The rule requiring applicants to visit Dominica for a personal interview before acquisition of citizenship is set to be waived. Applicants can obtain citizenship without having to necessarily visit Dominica.
The program offers the choice of a contribution of not less than $100,000 to the Government fund or a real estate investment of not less than $200,000 with a lock-in period of three years.
Applicants are required to know English well enough to speak in the language and will be required to pay tax on the investments made in Dominica. Processing of application takes around six to nine months and the passport issued after grant of citizenship is valid for a period of ten years.
Lack of visa-free travel to the Schengen area and visa-free travel to just 70 countries is a drawback. However, Schengen member nations are expected to relax their rules and allow Dominican passport holders to enter without having to obtain a visa in advance.
St. Kitts and Nevis runs the oldest and most popular scheme in the region. Citizens can enjoy visa-free travel to 130 nations, Schengen member states included. Grenada, a relatively new entrant, does not offer a large number of investment options although visa-free visits to the EU is expected to be approved in the future.