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August 3, 2020

Which country will be next to launch a CBI programme?

In these times of economic instability, launching a CBI programme could bring much-needed revenues to that country. From Albania to Mauritius to Egypt, we investigate which countries could be on the verge of unveiling citizenship by investment programmes.

Following the launch of the first citizenship by investment programme in 1984, courtesy of Caribbean island Saint Kitts & Nevis, other countries followed suit throughout the 80s and 90s, including other Caribbean islands and some in Europe. While some programmes that launched have since closed (think Mauritius, Croatia, Belize), others have continued to thrive.

Between 2011 and 2018, the number of citizenship by investment programmes rose from two to 12 and today, there are some 15 on offer (excluding residency progammes which grant citizenship only after a number of years of residency) with the industry considered to be worth US$5 billion annually.

And with global uncertainties, from failing economies to changing political situations, fuelling demand for second passports, and the coronavirus pandemic now sweeping the world, there is speculation that second passports will become even more in demand, offering those who can afford it an insurance policy and an escape route.

Similarly, for the countries themselves, especially those that are small or poor, offering a CBI programme can prove a lifeline, helping those nations boost their economies and allowing them to invest in the necessary building of schools, hospitals and other infrastructure.

For South Pacific island Vanuatu, which frequently suffers natural disasters, its six-year-old CIP has become the single largest source of revenue for the government; Saint Kitts & Nevis’ CBI programme contributes as much as 35% of government revenue, with the funds used to develop and sponsor socio-economic programmes on the island; and in the four years since its launch, Saint Lucia’s CIP has contributed more than US$48 million to the country’s coffers.

With such clear rewards and benefits, and with countries struggling economically post-pandemic, could other countries be looking at launching a CIP?

Solomon Islands considering launch of CIP
Following in the footsteps of its South Pacific sister Vanuatu, which was the first South Pacific island to launch a CBI programme, the Solomon Islands is now considering unveiling its own CIP in order to add a further revenue stream.

In a speech to Parliament, the Governor-General David Vunagi stated that the government was undertaking due diligence on “an innovative investment program that has the potential to bring in huge new investments to the country”.

Outlining the new potential revenue source for the country, he added: “This is the citizenship by investment program, where high net worth individuals go through a very stringent process to be considered for citizenship by investment. Many small countries [that] have implemented this program have generated [in] excess of US$100 million.”

Moldova looking to un-freeze its current CIP
Moldova did launch a CIP in 2018, allowing foreigners to become citizenship by investing a minimum of €100,000. However, the programme was frozen the following year by the new government due to concerns over security risks. The frozen programme is currently being evaluated for risk. Economy minister Anatol Usatii recently told a political TV show, Black Box, that “if the state can ensure transparency, security, including counter-terrorism, and others, the bonuses are quite good”.

The government is keen to unfreeze the programme, due to the fact that Moldova needs the money for ambitious infrastructural initiatives, which were announced in the electoral presidential year of 2020.

Egypt citizenship by investment

Egypt announced launch of CIP late last year
At the moment, foreigners have to live in Egypt for 10 consecutive years before applying for naturalisation and citizenship. However, in a bid to boost its own finances, the North African country of Egypt has approved a new citizenship law set to pave the way for foreign investors to seek fast-track citizenship for investments.

Announced at end of last year, the programme would offer five routes to Egyptian citizenship: a US$250,000 non-refundable donation to the state treasury; a real estate investment of US$500,000; an investment of US$400,000 in a project; a bank deposit of US$750,000, refundable after five years; or a bank deposit of US$1million, refundable after three years.

Namibia set to offer pensioners citizenship by investment
According to newspaper, The Namibian, in December 2019, the government plans to offer citizenship and residency for foreign pensioners in exchange for an investment in the country’s economy.

During the Economic Summit of 2019, Allison Hishekewa, the director of citizenship, passports, visas and permits from the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Namibia would be inviting “those [pensioners] who can sustain themselves and ones who can make a positive contribution to our economy”.

Proposed criteria indicate that the pensioner must be of good character, adapt to the local culture and can’t work or start a business. The investment account for its proposed CIP is as yet unknown.

Mauritius citizenship by investment

Mauritius on the cusp of delivering a CIP
In its Budget 2018 speech, Mauritius announced its plans to open a CIP. The programme, which was abandoned, but which may well re-surface, will deliver two options: the first, by making a donation of US$350,000 to the Mauritius Sovereign Fund with additional payments of US$50,000 per dependent; and the second, a non-refundable contribution of US$1 million to the same fund, plus US$100,000 per family member.

The Fund, the government says, is to be used to meet disbursements for new capital projects and public debt repayments. The Mauritius passport is a good one, because like the Grenada passport, it allows visa-free access to China, Russia, the UK and Europe.

Georgia may decide to launch one
Following the country’s decision to legalise permitting dual citizenship in 2018, the president of Georgia may grant Georgian citizenship by exception to investors in the interest of the state, who have made a significant contribution to the state. Watch this space.

Albania set to announce CIP
The European country of Albania, located in the southeastern Balkan peninsula and surrounded by Greece, Macedonia and Montenegro, looks set to announce a CIP in the coming months, with the government in the early stages of planning. Back in November, the Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama, stated “I strongly believe that [citizenship by investment] is the right way and this is something we have to do”.

Currently, the country only offers citizenship via naturalisation and the launch of a programme will make it possible for foreign investors to obtain Albanian citizenship. The recent and successful launch of a CIP by neighbouring country Montenegro has certainly prompted a spur in this direction.

While the country is not yet part of the EU, like Montenegro, it does hope to join in the future, and the Albanian passport does allow visa-free travel to 114 countries, including the EU Schengen area, though not the UK, China or Russia, and is considered to be a passport with the most improved rating globally since 2006.

Greece to extend residency programme to a CIP
Greece, which already boasts a Residency by Investment Programme, is also considering a CIP with a cap of 200 citizenships granted property investors. Expected to compete heavily with the popular Cyprus scheme, the aim for Greece is to funnel the €400 million investments raised into the luxury property sector.

Like Cyprus and Malta, the other EU countries offering CIPs, the Greek passport is a powerful document, offering citizens visa-free access to 184 countries, as well as the ability to live, work or study in any of the EU countries.

Croatia citizenship by investment

Croatia may re-consider plans
While the country did explore a citizenship programme back in 2015, it abandoned the scheme, but may well re-consider relaxing its laws and offering citizenship to investors who bring economic benefit to the country, including the creation of jobs.

Saint Vincent and Grenadines
The citizenship by investment programme, which has been so successful for five Caribbean countries, has been heavily discussed in this Caribbean nation, due to the significant financial boost it could bring.

For a number of year, the leader of the opposition, Dr Godwin Friday, has pitched for a CBI programme, even stating his party’s plan to create one should they get in. In a presentation during the 2019 Budget, Dr Friday stated that under a CBI programme, education, infrastructure, sporting facilities and other major projects could benefit. Dr Friday cited the economic successes of Saint Kitts and Dominica

Another Caribbean island, but one that remains a British overseas territory, Montserrat attempted to open a CBI programme in 2015 with the aim of raising millions, but the British government rejected the proposal.

The country has been struggling to revive its economy following its big volcanic eruption in 1995 and has been heavily dependent on the UK. There are rumours of a new programme opening adding to its residency programme (currently, foreigners can deposit US$150,000 in a bank or in the purchase of real estate to secure residency).