Another Jurisdiction Steps Up Involvement In "Golden Visa" Market

Chris Hamblin Editor Offshore Red 23 April 2015


Dominica is yet another jurisdiction to push ahead with changes to its regime for encouraging wealthy persons to invest there.

Dominica’s government has taken its Economic Citizenship Programme up a gear. The policy, which began in 1999 and has since been operated by the Ministry of Finance, sells Dominican citizenship to investors. The island levies no wealth, gift, inheritance, foreign income, or capital gains tax and only residents need pay any income tax.

The development is another twist in what is sometimes described as the market for “golden visas” involving scores of jurisdictions seeking to attract capital, such as the UK, Malta, Spain and Portugal. This publication recently examined this market and the debate around its shape. (See here.)

In the case of Dominica, its government wants the process to be more efficient so it has opened the Citizenship by Investment Unit with Emmanuel Nanthan as co-ordinator. It has taken over administration of the programme completely. At least seven people are reported to have applied for the job – one from the finance department who had handled the relevant processes – but Nanthan, who did not apply, was parachuted in.

Section 101 of the constitution and ss8 and 20(1) Citizenship Act underpin the strategy. There are four options for obtaining citizenship, after the compulsory interviews that must take place on Dominican soil:

-- Single Applicant: a non-refundable investment of $100,000;

-- Family Application (applicant plus spouse): non-refundable investment of $175,000;
-- Family Application Two (applicant plus one spouse and two children below the age of 18 years): a non-refundable investment of $200,000; and
-- Family Application Three (applicant plus one spouse and more than two children below the age of 18 years): a non-refundable investment of US$200,000 and US$50,000 for every additional person 18 years and below.

Roosevelt Skerrit, the prime minister, recently touted the virtues of the law, which came into force in 1993, on a visit to China. He said, according to press reports that interested people could immigrate to Dominica by either submitting an application directly to the government or by obtaining citizenship with a minimum investment of $200,000.

This is a game that the Isle of Man is about to play and which the hitherto-insignificant islands of St Christoper and Nevis played well in the last decade. With the depletion of the sugar industry and galloping crime figures, those islands beefed up the marketing for their so-called “Citizenship by Investment” initiative that had been launched in 1984. Under it, the government makes a St Kitts passport available to anyone who purchases a home there for $400,000 or pays the state a flat charge of $250,000. The process is quick and the holder of the passport need not live there. Immigration by investment has been the islands' saviour.

Antigua & Barbuda, Malta, Cyprus and Austria follow similar policies. Croatia, Slovenia, Albania, Jamaica, and Montenegro are all thinking of taking this course.

Holders of Dominica passports can travel without visas to more than 90 countries including Switzerland and the UK. Visa-free travel is not, however, as good as it is for St Kitts & Nevis passport-holders.

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