St. Kitts and Nevis has successfully leveraged its popular citizenship by investment program to get wealthy investors to finance its hurricane recovery efforts, seeing a 250 per cent surge in demand.
Faced with the twin problems of loss of tourism income and unbudgeted expenditure for repairing damage wrought by a series of devastating hurricanes, the Caribbean island introduced a special investment category for its citizenship program.
Candidates could qualify for citizenship through a one-time contribution of $150,000 to the Hurricane Recovery Fund. This was significantly lower than the existing investment requirements of $250,000 to Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation or real estate investment worth at least $400,000. The reduced fee saw the program surge in popularity.
Others Follow Suite
In a competitive Caribbean region, the St Kitts move was immediately followed by a temporary cut in investment requirements in programs offered by Dominica and Antigua & Barbuda.
St. Kitts generates around 25 per cent of its GDP from the citizenship-by-investment program, compared to 20 per cent in Antigua.
By paying $150,000 and qualifying for the St. Kitts and Nevis passport, applicants become eligible to enjoy numerous benefits including:
- Right to live in the country,
- Access to its liberal tax regime,
- Opportunity to generate attractive returns on investments,
- Secure backup option of citizenship of a politically and economically stable nation, and
- The right to visa-free travel to around 130 countries.
The temporary reduction in investment requirements has contributed to the surge in ranking of the Caribbean region on the 2018 Passport Index.
Caribbean nations regularly try to attract more CIP candidates by reducing thresholds and government charges. In February 2018, St. Kitts announced a cut in government charges for its real estate investment stream.
Authorities highlight that due diligence, vetting, and verification of prospective applicants remains strict. Developed countries like the USA and Canada fear that low-cost investment immigration programs may be misused by terrorists, money launderers, and other criminal elements to gain back-door access to their countries.
In a major blow to the popularity of Caribbean CIP, Canada withdrew visa-free travel privileges to holders of the St. Kitts’ passport. This has prompted authorities of nations offering investment immigration programs to be more vocal about their commitment to due diligence
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