Speakers at podium discussing Caribbean citizenship program updates, emphasizing collaboration and progress among CBI nations.

Caribbean citizenship program updates bring groundbreaking changes as the Prime Ministers of Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, and St Kitts & Nevis join forces to bolster their citizenship by investment programs.

Starting June 30th, 2024, the minimum investment threshold for these programs will be raised to $200,000, effectively doubling the current minimum required investments for most programs.

This collaborative step aims to enhance the integrity of the programs and address past concerns effectively.

Caribbean citizenship by investment programs are strategically designed to attract foreign direct investments to fuel socio-economic development. These programs offer citizenship in exchange for investments, subject to rigorous due diligence processes.

CBI programs play a significant role in the region’s economy, contributing over US$579 million annually in the Caribbean. For some of the region’s smaller island nations, CBI programs constitute more than half of their national revenue.

Caribbean Citizenship Program Updates In 2023

Citizenship by investment programs have been in existence for decades, dating back to 1984 when St Kitts & Nevis establishing the first program. However, the years 2023 and 2024 have brought about some of the most significant changes yet in these programs.

In February 25, 2023, a roundtable discussion was held in response to increased scrutiny from the EU and US. The discussion, hosted in St Kitts & Nevis, brought together representatives from all Caribbean CBI nations, led by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the US Department of the Treasury. The outcome of this meeting was the agreement upon six new CBI principles for the Caribbean:

  1. Collective denial treatment: collaborate to refrain from processing applications from individuals previously denied in other CBI jurisdictions by actively sharing denial information.
  2. Interviews: implement applicant interviews, either in-person or virtually, to enhance due diligence measures.
  3. Additional checks: conduct supplementary checks on each application through the Financial Intelligence Unit of respective countries.
  4. Audits: commit to auditing the CBI program annually, or at least biennially, following internationally recognized standards.
  5. Passport retrieval: seek law enforcement assistance to retrieve passports that have been revoked or recalled.
  6. Treatment of Russians and Belarusians: suspend processing applications from Russians and Belarusians.

St Kitts & Nevis Takes The Lead With Major Program Updates

St Kitts & Nevis took the lead in responding to the new guidelines. In July 2023, they doubled the minimum investment requirements and introduced mandatory interviews for applicants. Although many industry professionals anticipated changes, this move, implemented without prior notice, still had a significant impact, sending shockwaves through the Caribbean and the global CBI market.

Following St Kitts & Nevis’s lead, the other Caribbean citizenship by investment programs gradually began implementing mandatory interviews. However, unlike St Kitts & Nevis, they chose to keep the minimum investment amounts unchanged.

Growing Security Concerns From The EU

The Guardian highlighted ongoing security concerns within the EU, particularly regarding the sale of ‘golden passports’ by five Caribbean states. These passports have been sold to individuals from countries around the world including countries such as Iran, Russia, and China, raising eyebrows in the EU.

The UK has already taken action by suspending visa-free access for citizens of the Dominica, as well as Vanuatu, another country offering citizenship through investment. Now, the EU Council is considering measures to suspend visa-free travel for Caribbean nations in response to these concerns.

The European Commission has proposed changes that could have significant implications. If enacted, these proposals would allow the EU to cite the operation of CBI programs as grounds for suspending visa waivers between these countries and the Schengen area. With visa-free privileges at risk, representatives from Caribbean CBI nations are convening once again to address these concerns.

The European Commission has announced proposals that could have significant implications. If enacted, these proposals would allow the EU to cite the operation of citizenship by investment programs as grounds for suspending visa waivers between these countries and the Schengen area. With visa-free privileges at risk, representatives from Caribbean CBI nations are convened once again to address these concerns.

The Memorandum of Agreement 2024

The recent collaboration among Caribbean CBI countries in their marks a significant step forward. Led by the Chairman of the OECS and Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis, Honourable Dr. Terrance Drew, this initiative aims to enhance cooperation among the Caribbean CBI nations.

The memorandum of agreement, dated 29 March 2024, was signed by Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada and St Kitts & Nevis signifying their commitment to making necessary adjustments that will benefit not only CBI participants but also Caribbean citizens and international stakeholders.

Specifically, the agreement addresses several key areas:

  • Pricing harmonization: the minimum investment threshold for all citizenship by investment programs will be harmonized to a minimum of US$200,000 by June 30th of 2024. This threshold will reflect the actual amount of funds received and applied by applicants, ensuring transparency and fairness.
  • Information sharing and transparency standards: building on previous agreements, the signatory countries pledge to share information on applicants through a digital portal established with the Joint Regional Communications Centre (JRCC) in Barbados. This enhances transparency by disclosing program revenues and disbursements.
  • Regulation: a common regional competent authority will be established by June 30th, 2024, to regulate CBIs according to international standards and best practices.
  • Security screening: in addition to existing vetting processes, there will be cooperation on post-approval screening of CBI citizens and the retrieval of canceled passports to ensure the integrity of the programs.
  • Regulation of agents and promotion of the programs: common standards for agent regulation and marketing will be implemented. This includes prohibiting practices such as using “visa-free access” and displaying photos of passports in advertisements.

This agreement also aims to put an end to the practice of selling passports at a discounted rate, which has been a concerning issue within the CBI industry. Previously, some local property developers could distribute passports to buyers at a fraction of the original price, often with promises of future payments. However, this practice has led to incomplete projects and allowed buyers to obtain citizenship below market rates when projects faced delays.

St Kitts Prime Minister, Andrew Drew, strongly condemned this practice, labeling it as “a scourge on the CBI industry” due to its adverse effects on government revenues and project completion. He emphasized the importance of addressing this issue to ensure the integrity and sustainability of CBI programs.

St Lucia´s Stance

Notably, Prime Minister Philip J Pierre didn’t sign the agreement, making St Lucia the only one among the five Caribbean CBI nations to not sign the agreement. Observers can speculate this decision may be linked to St Lucia’s association with the controversial CBI developer Caribbean Galaxy.

FAQs

How do Caribbean citizenship by investment programs function?

Citizenship by investments programs are strategically designed to attract foreign direct investments to fuel socio-economic development. They offer citizenship in exchange for investments, subject to rigorous due diligence processes.

How significant are Caribbean citizenship by investment programs to the region’s economy?

These programs play a significant role in the region’s economy, contributing over US$579 million annually in the Caribbean. For some smaller island nations, CBI programs constitute more than half of their national revenue.

What are the major updates in Caribbean citizenship programs in 2023?

In 2023, a roundtable discussion led to the agreement upon six new CBI principles for the Caribbean, including collective denial treatment, mandatory applicant interviews, additional due diligence checks, audits, passport retrieval with assistance of law enforcement of revoked passports, and suspension of processing applications from Russians and Belarusians.

St Kitts & Nevis took the lead by doubling the minimum investment requirements and introducing mandatory interviews for applicants in July 2023. The other Caribbean nations followed suit with the introduction of mandatory interviews.

What security concerns have arisen from the EU regarding Caribbean citizenship programs?

Ongoing security concerns within the EU, particularly regarding the sale of ‘golden passports’ by Caribbean states, have been highlighted. The EU is considering measures to suspend visa-free travel for Caribbean nations in response to these concerns.

What are the major updates in Caribbean citizenship programs in 2024?

In 2024, significant updates were implemented to further strengthen and standardize Caribbean citizenship programs. One of the most notable changes is the harmonization of the minimum investment threshold to $200,000 among the participating countries, including Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, and St Kitts & Nevis. This adjustment, effective from June 30th, 2024, effectively doubles the current minimum required investments for most programs.

What key areas does the Memorandum of Agreement 2024 address?

The agreement focuses on pricing harmonization, information sharing and transparency standards, regulation, security screening, and regulation of agents and promotion of programs.

Why did St Lucia choose not to sign the agreement?

St Lucia, the only Caribbean CBI nation not to sign the agreement, may have abstained due to its association with the controversial CBI developer Caribbean Galaxy. Prime Minister Philip J Pierre’s decision not to sign is speculated to be linked to this association.

Michelle Hammond

Meet Michelle, a dynamic and passionate writer specializing in global immigration investment. With an extensive background as an advisor in the industry, Michelle brings six years of invaluable experience to the table, making her a true expert in her field.

What sets Michelle apart is not just her expertise on paper but her hands-on experience that goes beyond borders. Having lived and worked on four continents, Michelle has a unique and global perspective that enriches her understanding of the intricacies of immigration and investment.

Beyond her professional achievements, Michelle is driven by a compassionate approach. She believes in inspiring others to embrace the concept of global citizenship, understanding its profound impact on personal and professional growth. Michelle’s writing not only informs but also encourages individuals to explore the possibilities of becoming global citizens and reaping the numerous benefits that come with it.