INTERVIEW: Caribbean Jurisdictions And Citizenship By Investment

Tom Burroughes Group Editor London 22 June 2016

INTERVIEW: Caribbean Jurisdictions And Citizenship By Investment

A specialist on citizenship by investment discusses the programmes offered by Dominica, Grenada and St Kitts and Nevis.

There is a global scramble under way in the market for what have been dubbed “global visas”, in which governments encourage high net worth individuals to invest in return for offering citizenship and residency rights. The market varies considerably. One firm operating in this space is CS Global Partners and it specialises in investment programmes offered by jurisdictions such as Grenada and Dominica. This publication recently spoke to Micha Emmett, group managing director, on this topic and about its business.

Outline the jurisdictions that CS Global focuses on in the citizenship by investment sector. Why does it concentrate on these places?
Although the team at CS Global Partners is highly versed in several citizenship and residence programmes, we focus primarily on the programmes offered by Dominica, Grenada, and St Kitts and Nevis. We concentrate on these jurisdictions for three key reasons.

First, they provide an efficient and direct means of obtaining citizenship. Clients can receive an approval as quickly as within three months of submitting their application, and they need not fulfil language, schooling, or business requirements. They also generally do not need to attend an interview, and there are no residence or travel requirements.

Second, all three jurisdictions are renowned for their due diligence procedures, which ensure that applicants are closely vetted before they are accepted as citizens. This plays an important role in upholding the integrity of these programmes, and in ensuring that only the best candidates are granted citizenship.

Third, we are committed to seeing these small nations grow and become important players in the global market. The citizenship by investment programmes all offer options to contribute to government funds, which are then used to diversify and strengthen the local economy.

How do these programmes work and what are the key requirements for people seeking to take advantage of them?
The programmes offered by our jurisdictions of choice are among the most straightforward available worldwide. Main applicants (aged 18 or above) can apply individually or with their families, and receive citizenship in return for a substantial investment. Applicants can choose to either make a one-time contribution to the local government fund, or invest in pre-approved real estate. The real estate generally comprises luxury developments, such as hotels and resorts, which have been selected by the government due to their ability to generate revenue for the nation and its people. Successful applicants must have a clean criminal record and provide evidence of their source of wealth. Importantly, there are no residence requirements, meaning that applicants need not travel or live in their jurisdiction of choice should they decide not to. Main applicants also need not demonstrate business skills, minimum education achievements, or language abilities. There is also no requirement to attend an interview. In other words, what is important to the governments is that applicants are "legitimate" – that is – morally and legally qualified to become citizens.

How recent are these programmes (ie, when were they set up?) Are these schemes open-ended or are they typically subject to review every few years?
St Kitts and Nevis was the first ever nation to establish a citizenship by investment programme. Indeed, it was launched in 1984, only one year after it obtained independence from the UK. The St Kitts and Nevis programme has since been identified as the most trusted programme of this kind, being the only one to have a 30 year-long history. The other Caribbean nations used the St Kitts and Nevis model to create their own programmes. Dominica inaugurated its programme in 1993, and Grenada established its current programme in 2013.

Whilst the programmes have a long history of achievement and success, governments have, from time to time, reviewed their investment options and the application process. The goal of these reviews is to keep the programmes relevant, effective, and well managed. For example, Dominica recently improved its application process by introducing a dedicated Citizenship by Investment Unit and a real estate investment option. 

What sort of people are these programmes aimed at? Who should consider themselves eligible and not eligible?
Because the programmes require substantial investments, only high net worth individuals can take advantage of the opportunities presented by these nations. Generally, applicants can be nationals of any foreign country.

In what ways are these programmes distinct from those offered by other jurisdictions with so-called "golden visa" systems (eg, Spain, UK, etc)?
There are four core reasons why the Caribbean programmes are distinct from those offered by other golden visa jurisdictions.

Firstly, the Caribbean programmes are far less time-consuming and labour-intensive than their golden visa counterparts. Under the Caribbean programmes, applicants need never travel or reside in the jurisdiction of their choice. They also need not show language skills, or any other skill acquired through training or study (although they must provide proof of education certificates, should they hold any). Approvals are generally issued within three months of submitting an application, and may, at times, be issued within 60 business days. By contrast, the golden visa jurisdictions often require applicants to reside in the country, or, at the very least, travel there to fulfil residence conditions. Many, such as Portugal, require the applicant to learn the local language before citizenship can be issued. Moreover, applicants generally must wait at least five years before citizenship is issued.

Secondly, the Caribbean programmes allow applicants to immediately apply and obtain citizenship. By comparison, the golden visa jurisdictions initially only provide residence cards. Residence often may be turned into citizenship only after five years.

Thirdly, the Caribbean programmes are significantly more affordable, meaning that the market for these programmes is wider. The most affordable option under the Caribbean programmes for a single applicant is the Dominica programme – which requires a $100,000 minimum contribution. The UK, as an example, requires at least £2 million. 

Finally, the Caribbean programmes afford applicants the option to explore unique business ventures and investment routes. The Caribbean is certainly ripe for investment, as many of these island nations are only now starting to gain international fame.
I noticed that in a brochure about one jurisdiction, it describes how a person possessing citizenship can move to the US without the need for a Green Card. Given all the controversy in the US about immigration (a huge political issue), how robust is this sort of route of access likely to be? What happens if the US were to insist that anyone, even those passing via these places, goes through the full, conventional immigration route?
The route you are speaking about is the E2 Visa. The E2 Visa is a conventional immigration route that is however only available to countries that are parties to E2 Visa Treaties with the US. Citizens of these countries would still need to submit an application to the US immigration authorities in order to be approved for the E2 Visa. Therefore, they would still be vetted by the US government. The E2 Visa is different from a Green Card because, among other things, the individual need not become a tax resident and thus be taxed on his worldwide assets.

As it stands, the route is robust, in that the E2 Visa programme has not been called into question, and it is not one of the programmes that is being closely scrutinised by the US. Of course, the US may, as any jurisdiction, change its immigration laws. The Caribbean jurisdiction you were referring to is Grenada.

A big issue for anyone taking these routes is the trade-off between the ability to move a family from A to B and taking all their business from A to B. How does your firm go about managing a client's expectations? What sort of issues do you need to discuss with a client interested in this?
Mobility is amongst the most important driving factors for our clients. The key, however, is that a second citizenship gives clients the option to move should they wish to – but it does not require them to move. Often, clients simply want a back-up plan, and a safety net should things go awry in their home nations. Clients wanting to live and reside in their new country of citizenship find in the Caribbean a beautiful, stable and safe jurisdiction. With respect to moving businesses, the Caribbean offers attractive tax incentives both at a firm and personal level.

At CS Global Partners, we provide clients with comprehensive advice on how to benefit from the available citizenship and residence options, and help identify which options best suit their needs.

In this era of concerns about politically exposed persons, know-your-client checks and so on, what sort of checks do you do to vet clients before going through the process?
Part of the reason why we have established ourselves as a leader in the citizenship by investment market is our ability and willingness to perform our own due diligence on our clients. This involves using independent due diligence providers. The reasons for these checks is to ensure that the programmes we work with remain as transparent and upright as possible. We always check, among other things, for criminal histories and political exposure. Because the industry is still unregulated, it is up to us to uphold the integrity of the industry. 

Where in future would you expect other jurisdictions interested in such programmes to come from? Do you know of any that are looking at this?
There are very many nations looking to establish citizenship or residence by investment programmes. This is mainly due to the success that their predecessors have had and are continuing to have. For example, St Lucia has just launched a new programme, which began accepting applications in January this year. Other jurisdictions include certain countries in Eastern Europe, such as Montenegro. 

If you had one piece of advice for anyone about looking at such a programme, what would it be?
A second citizenship should be treated as an investment in one’s future. You may not need better mobility, security, and protection now – but with the fast-paced world we live in today, things may change rapidly and unexpectedly. As any strategist will confirm, it is never wise to put all of one’s eggs in a single basket, and a second citizenship is a means of diversifying those baskets. 

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