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October 4, 2020

In July 2020, the tourism-reliant Caribbean island of Barbados unveiled a 12-month visa to attract remote workers, and then in September, announced its intention to become a republic next year. With the pandemic having hit its tourism sector hard, could Barbados be revisit its plan from 2016 to launch a citizenship by investment programme?

While Barbados does have a scheme where HNWIs can invest US$2 million in the country, to qualify for a SERP (Special Entry and Residency Permit), allowing them to reside in the Caribbean island, it does not deliver a citizenship by investment programme.

And while the West Indian nation did consider launching one back in 2016, this has not yet happened, even as it continues to see its Caribbean neighbours launching them (Saint Lucia was the last to launch one four years ago) and doing financially well from them.

If well executed, a CBI Programme can, and does, bring countries much-needed revenues to help boost economic growth, create jobs and fund development.

As the current CBI-carrying Caribbean nations of Saint Kitts, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia and Antigua & Barbuda have proven. Saint Kitts’ CIP contributes up to 35% of government revenue, while Saint Lucia’s CIP has contributed more than US$48 million to the country’s coffers since its launch just four years ago.

And at no other time has such revenue been needed. The reality is that the Caribbean islands, though mainly untouched by coronavirus from a health/death perspective, have been significantly impacted economically by the pandemic. The ongoing Covid-19 chaos has brought tourism to a near standstill and as the tourism sector makes up a large part of most Caribbean islands’ GDP, they have been particularly hard hit.

For those Caribbean islands with CBI Programmes, the funds accrued from such programmes have helped to supplement the lost tourism dollars, but for Caribbean islands without a CIP, like Barbados, the current crisis has proven especially difficult.

The Barbados Welcome Stamp
It was unsurprising, therefore, when Barbados unveiled a 12-month visa for foreigners. Dubbed the Barbados Welcome Stamp, it is designed to attract remote workers, of which there are now many due to the pandemic, to stay on the island visa-free for up to a year, thus helping to bring foreign money into the country. Since its launch in July, there have been around 1,100 applications, 42% of which are from the US, with Britons and Canadians the next largest nationalities to apply.

While not a CBI Programme per se, it is certainly a step closer to one and could be a way for the country to dip its Caribbean toes into the lucrative CIP waters of its neighbours.

Becoming a Republic
And then in August, when the island nation announced its intention to remove the Queen as its head of state and transition to a republican system – to have its full sovereignty by the time it celebrates the 55th anniversary of independence in November 2021 – it seemed like the island nation could be reconsidering its CIP position.

Like its Caribbean counterparts, five of which deliver citizenship by investment programmes, Barbados is well positioned to run a successful programme. Barbados has a good reputation in the global marketplace, a sound International business centre, a highly attractive jurisdiction for carrying on international business, along with low corporate taxes, investment protection, high-quality infrastructure and sound telecommunications.

Not to mention the island’s high standard of living (the United Nations Human Development Index ranks Barbados 57th), excellent education system, good healthcare system, affordable housing, and its high average of 300+ days of sunshine each year.

Plus, Barbados continues to hold the strongest passport in the Caribbean, according to the Q2 Henley Passport Index, and is ranked 24th most powerful passport in the world, with visa-free access to 164 destinations, including the UK, EU Schengen Area, Canada, South Africa and China. The Bahamas and Saint Kitts came second and third respectively and Antigua & Barbuda placed fourth.

Watch this space.