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September 22, 2020

Antigua & Barbuda improves and updates CBI Programme throughout 2020

From the roll-out of its online application process to the introduction of a third pathway to real estate ownership, Antigua & Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment programme has been modified throughout 2020, demonstrating its ability to adapt and improve both to meet investor demand and remain relevant.

According to the latest CBI Index 2020, the annual CBI report from the Financial Times, Antigua & Barbuda’s seven-year-young Citizenship by Investment Programme delivers top scores in the Certainty of Product criteria, coming second only to Dominica and Saint Kitts, proving that when it comes to changing with the times, it really is on the CBI programme ball.

Delivering four investment options, including one of the lowest-cost contribution options (at US$100,000), and a powerful passport, giving visa-free access to 147 countries, Antigua’s citizenship by investment programme has proven both popular and reliable over the past seven years. In fact, since its launch in 2013, the programme has become renowned for its strict due diligence, security and stability within the industry and recently was lauded by the CBI Index 2020 in particular for its “ability to adapt to meet the needs of investors”.

For example, not only did the twin-island nation announce that it would be exploring the feasibility of accepting applications from stateless applicants in March 2020, a bang-on reflection of the times that has subsequently been launched by Vanuatu, Antigua then issued updated application forms in May 2020 and, in reaction to the pandemic, has since amended its CBI Programme bill to prevent holders being stripped of their citizenship.

“Such small but significant tweaks demonstrate an intention to fine-tune and improve the application experience,” states the CBI Index 2020 of Antigua’s CBI Programme.

Streamlining and digitisation of application processes
Among some of the latest improvements to Antigua & Barbuda’s CBI Programme is the streamlining and digitising of its processes, making it easier for applicants to apply and quicker for them to gain citizenship.

According to Charmaine Donovan, CEO of Antigua & Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU), they had begun making the transition to an online application process in the latter part of 2019 through the introduction of the agent’s online portal, “which enables agents to upload, submit and track applications on behalf of their clients”.

Charmaine told The Citizen magazine that while testing of the portal began with a control group in early 2020, “feedback from this process enabled the necessary tweaks to be made to facilitate the roll-out in March 2020”.

In addition to this digitisation, the Antiguan CIU has further simplified the application process, says Charmaine, by changing the type and timing of the submission of the documents, taking into consideration limitations to their access. “The application process was separated into stages and the stakeholders were made aware of the primary documents required for each stage,” explains Charmaine, adding “this level of flexibility meant that applications could be submitted sooner”.

And it is this simplification of the process in conjunction with the digitalisation that has “slashed the overall processing time by as much as six weeks in most instances”, adds Charmaine.

But that’s not all. In 2020, the CIU has further adapted and improved its existing programme offerings to make it more attractive and relevant for today’s interested investors.

Antigua Barbuda citizenship by investment programme

Adapting and improving its existing programme offerings
For example, the CIU recently restructured its fees for its University of the West Indies Fund (UWI) – it is the only CBI Programme to offer such a fund – making it even more affordable for large families to acquire second citizenship.

A third pathway to real estate ownership was introduced giving prospective applicants the option of purchasing approved real estate at a minimum of US$200,000 as a qualifying investment. The existing co-application for the real estate option, with each applicant contributing a minimum investment of US$200,000, was also made permanent and so is no longer a limited time offer to October 31.

Furthermore, “it was made clear to existing real estate owners that they are able to resell their units under the Programme after the five-year holding period,” explains Charmaine.

Additionally, reflecting feedback from the industry, something Antigua & Barbuda appears to excel at, Antigua’s CIU aligned the processing fees under three of the four options to US$30,000, with the processing fees for the fourth option, the UWI option, included in the investment amount.

Finally, in terms of its due diligence, the CIU modified its Restricted Countries Policy to make it up to date and relevant, by “removing Iraq and allowing persons who were born in the remaining restricted countries to be eligible to apply once they have resided in any country not on the list for at least 10 years”, concludes Charmaine.

Adaptation to prevent holders from losing citizenship during Covid
Adapting to the pandemic, Antigua’s CIU further made an amendment in August to its CBI Programme to ensure holders wouldn’t lose their citizenship during the Covid crisis. Under the current Citizenship by Investment programme Act of 2013, the minister responsible for immigration is legally allowed to strip a holder’s citizenship if they do not spend at least 35 days in the twin island nation during the period of five calendar years following their registration.

A new bill was thus passed in August in parliament preventing people who become citizens of Antigua & Barbuda via its CBI Programme from losing their status during the pandemic, as well as subsequent periods of outbreaks of infections, dangerous diseases or other situations.

Antigua & Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne explained that “many individuals have been unable to travel here because of Covid and, as a consequence, we have had to make this amendment to make sure that we can suspend that requirement which would have called for the actual cancelling of the citizenship”.

Antigua & Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment Programme
Launched in 2013, Antigua’s citizenship by investment programme requires a low-cost contribution option, a donation of US$100,000 (making it one of the cheapest worldwide and highly competitive with the other Caribbean CIP offerings.

Antigua’s CIP is especially price-conscious for families, in fact one of the best for big families, due to its recently reduced fees for additional dependent children, meaning applicants only pay $10,000 for children aged 0-5 and $20,000 for kids aged 6-17.

Citizens to Antigua get visa-free access to 147 countries, including the UK, EU, Schengen zone, Hong Kong and Brazil; and along with Grenada, Antigua offers the highest standard of living of the Caribbean islands.

Antigua’s CBI Programme offers four different investment options and is the only CBI program to offer a scholarship to a university place to one family member as part of its citizenship by investment programme.

Applicants can choose between a non-refundable contribution to the National Development Fund (NDF), to The University of the West Indies Fund, purchase property in a pre-approved real development, or in an approved business venture, with costs ranging from $100,000 for a donation to the NDF for a single applicant, to investment of $400,000 in a property or $1.5m in a pre-approved business.

Find out more about the Antigua & Barbuda’s citizenship by investment programme from our country profile by clicking here