News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. July 24, 2020: Cash-starved Caribbean nations are offering foreigners citizenship programmes, allowing the wealthy to bypass visa rules in their home nations. Although these types of programmes are typically for the rich and wealthy, it certainly paints a picture as to the difficulties brought about by the novel virus COVID-19 for governments and businesses in the Caribbean.
It’s no secret that tourism is one of the sectors that has been most affected by the pandemic, but all the speculation regarding a restart had many businesses hoping they were over the hill. However, as European and North American nations look to roll back the plans for restart, it has left some business owners scrambling to make ends meet.
While it’s true that many of the islands in the Caribbean have offered a “citizenship-by-investment” program for some time, the overbearing lack of tourists has forced the hand of local governments to ramp up the marketing of these programs in such uncertain times. But, for now, these nations will have to cope with the scarce sight of empty white sand beaches and try to establish an income from unconventional sources like World Bank help programmes.
Which Caribbean Islands are Involved?
One of the most luxurious and common nations for foreigners to move to are St. Kitts and Nevis, which is well known for its cloud-covered mountains, atmospheric ruins and luscious beaches. This was the first of the CariBe nations to begin offering cut-price passports. At present, it’s offering a special deal through until the end of 2020. The deal entails paying a contribution of $150,000 to the country’s “Sustainable Growth Fund”, which will secure, for those who can afford it, passports for a family of up to four.
Caribbean nations like St Kitts and Nevis are offering passports at discounted prices after their tourism industry cooled off due to the global pandemic.
While our readers may feel that’s still a fairly steep payment, it’s a cool 23% drop from the regular $195,000. This is a significant reduction and local governments will be hoping to generate some income through the scheme. As well as St. Kitts and Nevis, other islands in the region such as Dominic, Antigua, and Barbuda are offering deals – with some offering citizenship for just $100,000.
Since the 1980’s the rich and famous have been looking to acquire property and cement a long-term living situation in the Caribbean. St. Kitts and Nevis was one of the early trailblazers offering citizenship to these particular clients and helped the by-investment process to grow into a multi-million dollar business. The investment offers more than just providing clients with passports, they also help them find residency and assist them in adapting to island life.
Steps to Gaining Citizenships
For the wealthy, the fallout from the pandemic has limited their ability to travel forcing them to stay in one place, which is not something they’ll be used to adhering to in the past. Having a second passport certainly provides a quick-fix to that issue, which is why governments in the Caribbean feel these price reductions might be fruitful. While this is a minor rich-people problem, in the grand scheme of things global tourism losses may exceed $1.2 trillion – a shocking figure and the real driving force behind the price cuts in the Caribbean.
One of the other methods, which is employed by the picturesque island of St. Lucia offers budding citizens the option of buying five-year non-interest bonds. These bonds were recently cut in half to $250,000 ($300,000 for a family of four), with the “COVID-19 relief” bond payment option available until the end of 2020.
St. Lucia has seen a great deal of success since they first introduced a “citizen-by-investment” scheme back in 2015, with the government handing out 700 passports in that time. There are some that criticize the process, claiming it will bring in many unwanted characters who will take advantage of the scheme. Though, with just 700 new residents in 5 years it’s unlikely to have the effects these claims make.
For those that are looking for an even cheaper option, Antigua & Barbuda offers citizenship for a family of four in exchange for just a $100,000 donation. The process works similarly to what we’d seen elsewhere, with the payment being made through a development fund.
The citizenship program isn’t just a huge financial commitment, but it’s also a life changing commitment. One unique and particularly interesting idea being floated by Barbados is the “Welcome Stamp” to give people working remotely the option of getting a kind of travelling gap year experience. This hasn’t come into effect yet, but it’s certainly a great proposal in what is becoming an increasingly competitive market.
Over the last few years, the industry has caught on throughout the Caribbean, with other islands setting up citizenship schemes. Monty Python legend and British comedian John Cleese moved to the Caribbean recently – so could COVID-19 force other big stars like Conor McGregor out there to enjoy this idyllic lifestyle?
New Interest in Caribbean Citizenship
There has been an influx in the number of clients from outside the EU and US looking to gain citizenship. Notably from clients in the Middle East and China. The super-rich are scattered across the globe and as long as they come with the cash, they’ll be supplied with a Caribbean passport.
With the US monitoring the situation and even criticising nations such as Dominica for allowing in clients from certain countries, there is an urgency from the UK and the US to tighten the situation and restrict which citizens are offered these pay-to-stay schemes. This may be having an effect, as recently it was announced that clients from Iran and Afghanistan wouldn’t be eligible for citizenship. But with money being particularly tight, there’s always a chance Caribbean countries will be forced to break restrictions.
An unusual time for everyone. Caribbean officials will be hoping this period passes quickly and things can return to normal. But for now, will the current climate result in a huge influx of the rich foreigners moving to that area of the world?