The Caribbean Citizenship by Investment (CBI) Industry is engaging in what some dub a ‘bidding war’. The competition stems from the fact that Citizenship by Investment generates a lot of revenue for the country. St. Kitts and Nevis for instance, launched the first citizenship by investment program in 1984 to help diversify their economy when decreasing sugar prices started to hurt their sugar industry. Since then, the citizenship program has grown to account for as much as 25% of the country’s GDP. From this perspective, CBI is a win-win. The country offering the program experiences a boost to the local economy and the investor experiences the advantages of a competitive marketplace.
In order to attract investors, Caribbean countries have been making amendments to their CBI application criteria. As part of this ongoing ‘race to the bottom’, some countries have been lowering their application fees, while others have changed the age of dependants to allow investors to include older children and younger parents in their applications — a bonus for the whole family. And probably the most significant change, many of the countries have decreased the required investment amount. In some cases, by as much as 50%. Now is clearly a great time to invest in a second citizenship – while costs are at their lowest and countries are vying for investors’ attention.
While some have speculated as to whether the prices will go lower, others have actually been looking towards harmonization. In May 2018, the Investment Migration Council made a list of recommendations designed to harmonize Caribbean Citizenship by Investment. In their recommendations, the Investment Migration Council highlighted the fact that Caribbean countries have been reducing costs to the investor when it comes to the levels of contribution, real estate, and government application fees. They suggest that there should be a common agreement between these countries regarding fees and that a minimum contribution should be $150,000 USD effectively stopping the “race to the bottom”. The idea behind harmonization is that when the price and processing times of the various programs are similar, applicants will make decisions based on the individual merits of each country’s program, rather than simply focusing on price.
Much attention is given to increasing the appeal of each program beyond cost. This is good news for investors. It means that Caribbean countries are actively working to increase the value of their passports. Investors often seek out second citizenships in order to increase their ability to travel to a variety of countries visa-free. Therefore, the more countries a passport can allow one access to — the more valuable the passport. Grenada is currently the only Caribbean country to offer visa-free travel to China, making the Grenada passport very attractive to those who frequently travel to China for business. In an effort to increase the appeal of their CBI program, Dominica has recently announced that they are negotiating for visa-free travel to the UAE, Russia, China and South Africa.
Increasing attention to these initiatives ensures that the proper standards are maintained. In the past, countries have operated fairly independently of one another. But now, the Caribbean countries are practicing stronger due diligence to maintain the highest standards for their programs. This will guarantee investors are happy with the integrity of each program. In addition, harmonization will only add to these standards as the Caribbean countries can share information. This prevents someone from applying to another country if they have already been rejected by another.
Reputable residency and citizenship planning companies are the best avenue for investors to explore their options. Elevay, a Dubai-based organization regularly works to connect investors with Caribbean Citizenship by Investment programs. To get more information, be sure to request your free, no-obligation consultation today.