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Caribbean Nations Competing through Citizenship-by-Investment Programs

Competition is rising among Caribbean countries as they clash over Citizenship-by-Investment Programs (CIP) to attract foreign investment.
The most recent development comes from Saint Lucia, which is gearing up to restructure and relaunch its CIP in order to be more competitive.
In a television interview last week, Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet announced the plan. He did not, however, disclose how many foreigners acquired citizenship after the government launched the program earlier this year.
Luring investors with an offer of citizenship has long been a policy for many Caribbean countries struggling to generate jobs and prop up their economies under the burden of heavy debt.
According to Chastanet, Dominica is ahead in this race; about 3,000 of Dominica’s 71,000 people are investor-citizens. Saint Kitts and Nevis are attempting to catch up to Dominica by speeding up the application process for investors seeking citizenship.
For investors, citizenship comes with the chance to safeguard their wealth from heavy taxes and the freedom to travel to a wide range of countries without a visa.
If you carry a St Kitts and Nevis passport, for example, you can travel without a visa to 132 countries and territories, including all 26 European countries, according to the Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index. Dominican citizenship provides visa-free travel to 91 countries.
Across the world, says a conservative estimation, thousands of people could be spending a collective $2 billion to win additional passports offered by these countries. In the Caribbean, Antigua, Barbuda, and Grenada are also running similar programs for years.
Reports say that Dominican citizenship is by far the cheapest. For an investment of $100,000 plus various fees, you can buy citizenship. In comparison, Saint Lucia’s lowest entry requirement is $200,000, although this is likely to be changed during the restructure.
Some of these programs have often run into trouble. In Dominica, opposition parties are angry with the government, with some politicians accusing it of putting the country’s passport up for sale.
In 2011, the United States objected to the St Kitts & Nevis citizenship program, saying wealthy Iranians could be sneaking into America after obtaining citizenship on the island.
Despite the hurdle, Caribbean countries have continued with their citizenship-by-investment programs, with many countries considering it the only option to get out of the spiraling economic crisis.
Announcing the launch of the program last year, Kenny D. Anthony, then prime minister of Saint Lucia said: “I am also a jealous guardian of Saint Lucian citizenship, but the time has arrived to think beyond the traditional approaches to deal with the myriad problems facing small states.”

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Narayan Ammachchi

News Editor for Nearshore Americas, Narayan Ammachchi is a career journalist with a decade of experience in politics and international business. He works out of his base in the Indian Silicon City of Bangalore.

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