The five Caribbean Citizenship by Investment programmes may all seem similar, but there are some unique differences that may help you decide the best second passport choice for you. We ask, who’s the Caribbean Queen?
When it comes to the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) options currently on the global table, the Caribbean countries are leading the way, offering affordable, fast and efficient routes to second passport ownership. Couple this with the visa-free travel access that a Caribbean second passport delivers, from 141-152 countries, and the excellent quality of life on offer, and it’s pretty clear that these West Indies’ islands are giving other countries offering CBI schemes a run for their money.
At first glance, the five CBI programmes in the Caribbean seem similar: they all deliver both a donation and a property investment option; processing takes 2-3 months; none require an interview; they offer visa-free access to a similar number of countries; and all demand an affordable minimum outlay, from $100-150,000. And, apart from Antigua & Barbuda, which requires a five-day stay on the island, the Caribbean economic investment programs do not call for mandatory travel to, or residency in, their countries prior to, or during the processing of citizenship.
So far, so equal. However, look a little closer, and there are variations that can really make a difference depending on what your requirements are.
Let’s start with the two longest running economic citizenship programmes in the Caribbean, Saint Kitts & Nevis and Dominica. Having pioneered the Citizenship by Investment program back in the early 80s, and now 36 years old, Saint Kitts & Nevis’ award-winning CBI program is commonly regarded as the gold standard industry-wide, and it certainly seems to tick all the ‘what do I want from a second passport’ boxes. Affordable and with established and exacting due diligence, it currently offers the fastest CBI program worldwide thanks to its Accelerated Application Process delivering a guaranteed 60-day result and further delivers the best freedom of movement over the other Caribbean countries, with 152.
But quantity is not necessarily quality and while Saint Kitts & Nevis may offer visa-free access to more countries (11 more than Saint Lucia), Grenada is the only Caribbean country to offer visa-free access to China along with the ability to live and work in the US (with the majority of the benefits of a US resident) thanks to Grenada’s multiple E-2 visa treaty with the US.
Dominica’s CBI program, at 27 years old, is the second longest running one in the Caribbean, and gives Saint Kitts a real run for its money, especially since recording the highest percentage score ever achieved on the CBI Index 2019, recently published by the Financial Times.
While Dominica may not deliver as well on the freedom of movement front, just 139 countries, it is competitive on the processing speed front and is certainly more affordable (at $100,000, it is $50,000 cheaper than Saint Kitts). It is also known for being the most transparent program on offer in the Caribbean, continually communicating the many ways in which the CBI donations funds are being used within the country to aid that of sustainable development.
While the remaining three Caribbean countries offering CBI are all much less mature, with demand for economic citizenship rising and Caribbean nations recognising the financial benefits of such schemes to their economies, in recent years they have all raised the economic citizenship stakes delivering equally competitive criteria.
In an attempt to get a slice of the economic investment pie, Saint Lucia and Antigua & Barbuda have both set their minimum financial outlay contributions at $100,000 for single applicants, competing with Dominica, though both take slightly longer to process at three, rather than two, months. And when it comes to securing second passports for the entire family, these two Caribbean countries have pulled out all the stops, offering the cheapest financial outlays: Saint Lucia asks for $167,500, including fees (though this is a temporary special Covid-19 offer running until December 2020), while Antigua is priced at $145,000 including fees.
Interested in investing in real estate? This is where the CBI programs really differ. With a minimum investment of $200,000 in property, Saint Kitts, Dominica and Antigua & Barbuda come out cheapest, but with Saint Kitts and Antigua demanding seven-year and five-year investments, respectively, it is Dominica with its three-year-only commitment that really hits the value-for-money hotspot.
And in terms of government-approved property options, Saint Kitts and Dominica deliver plenty, including the opportunity to invest in established hotel brands – Saint Kitts offers The Four Seasons and Park Hyatt, while Dominica delivers the Hilton and Kempinski.
Investing in real estate in Grenada and Saint Lucia is pricier ($350,000 and $300,000, respectively) and with a five-year commitment and only two approved property options to choose from, Saint Lucia really doesn’t deliver on the property investment front. However, the island nation is generous with its investment options, delivering five to choose from (more than the others).
As well as offering an investment option in enterprise projects, the country allows CBI applicants to purchase non-interest-bearing bonds in exchange for a second passport. And even more generously, in lieu of the global challenges faced by the current Covid-19 crisis, Saint Lucia has come up with the Covid-19 Relief Bond option, offering applicants the chance to invest in government bonds for the half the usual price ($250,000) until the end of the year.
St Lucia is not the only country being both generous and creative in its economic citizenship offerings. Among Antigua & Barbuda’s four investment options, there is the opportunity to donate to the University of the West Indies Fund, which offers in return, a one-year scholarship for one family member. While hidden among the Grenada progamme’s smallprint is the revelation that applicant’s siblings can be included in citizenship applications, the only CBI scheme to offer this.
So, while the citizenship by investment programs courtesy of Antigua & Barbuda, Saint Lucia and Grenada may not seems as competitive on the surface, each delivers its own plus points. And let’s not forget standards of living. Saint Lucia boasts the best economy in the Caribbean, Grenada is renowned for its excellence in educational standards, a key criteria if looking for citizenship for your family, and Antigua & Barbuda boasts the most technologically advanced hospital in the Caribbean, delivering state-of-the-art healthcare.
Whichever Caribbean country you decide to invest your future in, make sure you do your homework in order to discover the right programme for your second passport needs. Read CBI Guide’s comparative country profiles to make an informed decision.