When it comes to the Citizenship by Investment options on the global table, the Caribbean countries continue to lead the way offering affordable, fast, efficient and stable routes to second passport ownership. Couple this with global mobility, mainly Covid-free spaces, and an excellent quality of life, and it’s clear to see how these West Indies’ islands are giving other CBI countries a run for their money.
This is exactly the verdict the latest CBI Index, for 2020, delivered, reporting how the five CBI countries – Saint Kitts, Dominica, Antigua, Saint Lucia and Grenada – continue to outrank the rest of the world with their long-running, competitively priced and highly regulated CBI Programmes. In fact, according to the report, three of the five Caribbean programmes – Dominica, Saint Kitts, Grenada – were announced the leading CIPs worldwide.
From offering Covid-free environments and attractive investment opportunities, to being family inclusive and financially affordable, we highlight in what ways the Caribbean countries are outranking their global CBI counterparts.
Compared to some of the other CBI-bearing countries, the Caribbean islands were quick to respond to the Covid-19 crisis by containing it and closing down, subsequently reporting few cases and widespread recovery.
In fact, all five Caribbean CBI nations have managed to maintain incredibly low case and death rates throughout with three out of five having reported no Covid-related deaths to date, while Antigua has reported four deaths and Saint Lucia, just two, with recorded cases across the Caribbean CBI islands ranging from as low as 41 cases (Grenada) to 252 cases (Saint Lucia).
Nuri Katz, founder of global financial advisory firm Apex Capital Partners, told CNN Travel in August, “these small countries seem to be opening up and there’s a feeling that they’ll be able to manage the problem a lot better than big countries”.
And they have all now re-opened for tourism, with efficient and safety-first measures in place. Unlike many of the other CBI countries, in Europe for example, these Caribbean CBI countries were also quick to respond with alternatives and solutions to help applicants navigate the system remotely during the pandemic, as well as with pandemic-friendly offers.
Grenada was the first to suspend receipt of hard copies of applications and by March 31st, all the Caribbean countries had announced that all processes around applying for citizenship would move temporarily online. Furthermore, Antigua has streamlined its processes, rolling out its online application process in March 2020, as well as changing the type and timing of the submission of its documents, resulting in slashing “the overall processing time by as much as six weeks in most instances”, explained the CEO of the country’s Citizenship by Investment Unit.
In May, Saint Lucia’s CBI Programme introduced a limited time offer, until December 31, 2020, for the purchase of Covid-19 Relief Bonds, offering an even more affordable route to citizenship, while both Saint Kitts & Nevis and Antigua & Barbuda subsequently unveiled temporary Covid-19 investment offers, both making their programmes more affordable, and therefore more attractive to large families wanting a Plan B.
Most recently, in response to some of the delays being caused by the pandemic, Antigua’s programme has unveiled its e-payment platform, making it the first CBI Programme to offer a wholly owned and managed e-payment platform on its recently launched website.
Embracing family togetherness
Another area where the Caribbean CBI countries have stood out is in the offer of programmes that include families and in the acknowledgment within their programmes of the importance of family togetherness, especially those with larger families. This is a focus that has been especially key in 2020 and among the Caribbean CBI countries with many expanding their lists of eligible dependents and making it more cost-effective.
With the Caribbean CBI countries competing, in particular, on attracting families to their shores, it’s no surprise to discover that Dominica and Grenada took the top spot in the new Family Pillar in the CBI Index 2020, both achieving top marks for their broad range of family-friendly provisions, allowing for kids over 18 as well as for parents, grandparents, siblings and including in this the family of the main applicant’s spouse. Saint Kitts and Saint Lucia closely followed Grenada and Dominica on the family-friendly front, with Antigua and Barbuda not far behind.
In terms of costs, Saint Kitts allows a family of four to gain citizenship via contribution to its Sustainable Growth Fund for just US$150,000 (reduced by US$45,000 until the end of 2020); while Antigua & Barbuda, which recently reduced its fees for families, allows up to six family members to quality for citizenship under its University of the West Indies Fund option for just US$150,000 inclusive of government fees. And until the end of the year, Saint Lucia is offering a family of five the chance to purchase bonds worth US$200,000, with the bonds needing to be held for between five to seven years.
Grenada, meanwhile, allows a family of four to make a one-off contribution of US$200,000, but they must also make additional government fees of US$50,000 per additional family member, and if parents, grandparents or siblings are included, further fees are added, so inclusive but pricey.
In terms of eligibility of dependents, many of the rules of eligibility having been adapted throughout 2020 to embrace a more family-inclusive focus, with all the Caribbean CBI countries family-friendly and all allowing siblings to be included in the application when most other CBI countries worldwide do not.
Dominica includes the spouse, children and siblings up to the age of 25 (and includes adopted and blood siblings as well as siblings of both spouse and main applicant) as well as parents and grandparents. Similarly, Grenada allows the entire family, including siblings of both spouse and main applicant (and siblings can be any age over 18 and do not need to be dependent), along with parents and grandparents (under the age of 55), though additional fees are required. Saint Lucia allows spouse, children, siblings (they must be 18 or under and unmarried) and dependent parents above 65; and Saint Kitts allows children under 30, siblings of the main applicant only (aged 30 or under) and both parents and grandparents over 55 as long as dependent.
Most affordable routes to second citizenship
Apart from South Pacific island of Vanuatu, which is among one of the cheapest routes to second citizenship (at US$130,000), it is the five Caribbean CBI countries that are the most financially competitive and affordable CIPs worldwide, with minimum financial outlays ranging from as little as US$100,000 (Saint Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda and Dominica) to US$150,000 for Saint Kitts and Grenada.
Simple and quick application processing
All the Caribbean countries deliver speedy and straightforward routes to citizenship, ranging from processing times of just 60 days (Saint Kitts) to three months (Saint Lucia). In fact, Saint Kitts and Nevis delivers the fastest processing time of any programme worldwide, thanks to its fast-track route, the Accelerated Application Process (AAP), which guarantees completion of citizenship within just 60 days of submission of application. Dominica, Saint Lucia and Grenada all deliver turnaround times of three months.
As for straightforwardness of application processes, the Caribbean countries come top, all five dominating “for their straightforward, streamlined processing models”, reports the latest CBI Index 2020. In fact, states the report, “the Caribbean programmes apply similar processing mechanisms to ensure that the CBI process is not overly cumbersome for applicants”. None of the programmes require applicants to undergo interviews or language tests, or prove business expertise, and all boast CBI Units that are said to be responsive and helpful.
Stable, secure and strict due diligence
While several of the European CBI Programmes have been pulled up on due diligence issues by the European Commission and are subsequently revamping their programmes to ensure the tightest of regulations (namely Cyprus and Malta), the Caribbean islands have remained untouchable in this field.
“Their governments understand that the ‘national interest’ today lies in keeping a strong, transparent and clean reputation,” states the recent CBI Index 2020 report. Dominica, Grenada and Saint Kitts scored full marks in the report’s Due Diligence Pillar, and Antigua not far behind. All deliver a commitment to robust due diligence and quite a few of them (Antigua, Saint Kitts and Dominica) now deliver biometric requirements, as well as outsourcing external due diligence.
Furthermore, all programmes, two of which are the longest running worldwide (Saint Kitts, at 36 years old, and Dominica, at 27 years old) have been scrutinised and declared fit for purpose without securing any media criticism or controversy and instead delivering programmes that are efficient, transparent, secure, reliable and have good reputations. In fact, Dominica has suffered no serious CBI-related scandal in its 27 years of operation and Saint Kitts has earned its title as the ‘platinum standard’ of the CBI Industry.
An increasing global mobility
While compared to European passports, Caribbean passports may not seem the most powerful when it comes to freedom of movement, they do in fact deliver a global mobility that is highly sought-after, especially from a number of Asian, African or Middle Eastern countries where passport power is limited. They also boast visa-free access that is fantastic value for money considering the affordability of the Caribbean CIPs.
And with the current Covid-19 crisis, and travel bans in place all over the world, the passport power of the Caribbean CBI countries, which have been minimally affected by the pandemic, have further upped their freedom of movement ante.
Saint Kitts remains the strongest passport of the Caribbean islands, ranked 25th worldwide according to the latest Passport Index Q4 2020 (higher than most other CBI countries too, apart from the European ones) with visa-free access to 156 countries including 15 of the main 20 business hubs assessed. Saint Lucia has recently climbed one place up the ranks to 32nd with access to 146 countries, while Dominica and Grenada have both improved their passport power by two places, allowing access to 140 and 143 countries, respectively. In particular, according to the CBI Index 2020, Dominica continues to see the greatest increase in visa-free and visa-on-arrival offerings since 2019 compared to any of the other CBI programmes and has recently signed a treaty with China.
Grenadian citizenship gives you visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 144 destinations, including China (the only CBI Programme to offer this), and due to its treaty with the US, it is just one of three CIPs worldwide to allow citizens to acquire the valuable E2 visa treaty meaning they can apply to reside in the US.
As popular tourist destinations, in particular the islands of St Kitts, St Lucia and Antigua, all the CBI Caribbean nations are well-connected by direct flights to and from Europe and the US. From Hewanorra International Airport, Saint Lucia, which is the largest airport in the Caribbean, you can fly direct to 13 destinations, including at least eight US cities and two UK locations, and there are plenty of inter-island flights available. From St Kitts and Nevis (Robert L Bradshaw International Airport), you can fly direct to even more destinations (15), including the US and Canada.
Grenada boasts an international airport (just 5 miles from the island’s capital) which is accessible from major international cities including Miami, New York, Atlanta, Toronto, London, Frankfurt, and the rest of the Caribbean.
While Dominica currently delivers direct flights to New York, Miami, Toronto, London and Paris only, as well as to other Caribbean islands, a new international airport currently under construction will have the capacity to accept long-haul flights and improve air access to the island.
Great property investment options
The Caribbean islands offer huge appeal in terms of its real estate investment route to citizenship. As all are positioned as five-star tourist retreats, they offer luxurious yet sustainable boutique properties, branded hotels and resorts, many of them eco especially in Grenada and Dominica, for very affordable minimum outlays with great returns on investments.
Saint Lucia asks for a minimum investment of US$300,000 in real estate to obtain citizenship and offers two approved opportunities: while The Saint Lucia Canelles Resort offers luxury beachfront apartments, rooms and suites within a wellness-focused resort; The Alpina St. Lucia Hotel, located on the southern part of the island just 2km from the airport, is a 231-room hotel with 17 units of serviced apartments within.a resort that has a swimming pool, gym, spa, various restaurants.
Grenada requires US$350,000 for a government-approved real estate project or minimum US$220,000 in an approved tourism development. Take Kimpton Kawana Bay, a new five-star luxury resort that is ideally positioned on the world-famous Grand Anse Beach. It offers hassle-free ownership with no annual out-of-pocket fees. This offers good potential for rental income through the operator’s transparent hotel rental management programme and personal accommodation usage of up to two weeks each year. The hotel, once open (official opening is likely to be in 2022) will deliver 133 rooms and 31 suites, as well as an infinity edge pool overlooking the beach, a state-of-the-art gym and spa facilities, a fine-dining restaurant, rooftop bar, beach bar, lounge with terrace, and water sports facilities.
Dominica boasts a number of award-winning resorts that are available for investment under its CBI Programme, including the six-star eco-conscious Secret Bay Resort (named the Number One Resort in the Caribbean and the Number Six in the world by Travel + Leisure’s 2002 World’s Best Awards), an all-villa rainforest resort that includes a number of cliff-top villas, and which enjoys a dramatic setting and offers two secluded and swimmable beaches.
Dominica is also home to the CBI-approved Cabrits Resort & Spa Kempinski Dominica, a hideaway resort located on the white sand beach of Douglas Bay and surrounded by Cabrits National Park. Described as a “collection of villas heralded for their artful fusion of high design and locally-sourced craftsmanship”, the resort has become renowned for its remote locale, private villas with plunge pools, hyper-personalised services, nature-to-table dining and no menu concept and wellness offerings.
And then there’s five-star Hilton’s Tranquility Beach Resort, a CBI-approved investment resort that’s set to open beginning of 2022 and that delivers an eco-sensitive approach with a luxurious edge, featuring cliff-hanging villas and with 99 rooms.
In Antigua, the five-star luxury boutique resort of Hermitage Bay in Antigua, approved as an investment option for the country’s CIP, was named in the Top 25 Resort Hotels in the Caribbean, as part of Travel + Leisure’s 2020 World’s Best Awards. Nestled on the hillside of a hidden, sandy beach, overlooking the Caribbean Sea, the resort features luxurious accommodation, wellness and dining facilities, all sensitively developed to embrace the natural beauty of the island.
In Saint Kitts, there’s the CBI-approved Four Seasons Nevis, which has seen a massive spike in sales during the pandemic. Located on the lush island of Nevis, overlooking one of the Caribbean’s top golf courses and with spectacular views of Nevis Park, this resort offers investors various ownership options in Pinney’s Beach Villas, architect-designed freestanding beach villas with their own private pools, landscaped gardens.
Options include investing one-tenth or one-quarter ownership shares in a 3- or 4-bedroom villa (US$400,000), giving investors and their families not just citizenship, but five weeks personal use of the villa annually. Choose the ¼ share and spend up to 13 weeks on the island annually.
The great escape
And should there be another pandemic outbreak (not unlikely) or should individuals or families wish to escape their own countries where instability from Covid-19, economic issues, or political instability is rife, there are no more welcoming, hospitable or beautiful environments than those of these five Caribbean islands. While all five deliver breathtaking natural beauty, year-long sunshine and white sandy beaches, they do have their differences in lifestyle.
Known as the Nature Isle, Dominica is covered in forests including a UNESCO-protected rainforest, loads of waterfalls, hiking trails, a boiling lake and 26 courses. Also nearly 80% forest, Saint Lucia is more mountainous than the others and boasts the world’s only drive-in volcano, the hottest healing hot pool springs in the region, Botanical Gardens, and zip lining in the rainforests.
Similarly, Saint Kitts is centred around its volcano, the dormant Mount Liauiga which takes four hours to climb, and boasts a Botanical Gardens and plenty of rainforests criss-crossed with hiking trails. Hot springs, rainforest and waterfalls are also a feature of Grenada, complemented by white-sand beaches, including Grand Anse beach (ranked in the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean) and a space that is less spoiled tourist-wide than some of the others.
Antigua is the only one not volcanic and instead offers the largest expanse of freshwater in the entire Caribbean, with shorelines heavily indented with beaches, lagoons and natural harbours rimmed by reefs and shoals rich with sea life. In fact Antigua has 365 separate beaches, as well as many sugar plantation ruins to explore.
All five CBI Caribbean countries deliver a year-round hot and tropical climate with temperatures ranging from 22-30C, a rainy season and hurricanes.