How to Invest for Caribbean Citizenship

A couple stands on a Caribbean beach looking out over the sea

The Caribbean has long been an attractive destination for the wealthy, with its constant sunshine, clear blue seas and favourable tax regime. However, obtaining citizenship in the islands is becoming increasingly difficult.

The minimum investment threshold for obtaining Caribbean citizenship doubled to $200,000 (£157,990) in early July.

The change is part of broader plans by the Caribbean islands to attract wealthy individuals who are seriously considering investing in the country.

The aim is also to address European Union concerns that the relatively low cost of citizenship makes it too easy for criminals to launder money, or for nationalities such as the Chinese or Russian population to obtain passports allowing them to travel to the continent visa-free.

Joe Rice, of investment migration consultancy Global Citizen Solutions, said: “The islands want a specific type of investor. They want to attract someone who is not just investing to get a second passport, but who wants to invest in the country itself, hopefully move, start a business and create jobs.”

There are five islands that offer Citizen by Investment (CBI) passport schemes: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Lucia.

Here’s what you need to know if you want to invest for Caribbean citizenship.

Why is Caribbean citizenship attractive?

One of the main benefits of Caribbean citizenship is that you can travel visa-free to certain countries.

This can be useful if you travel internationally on business, and also for Britons who want easy access to the European Union and Asia.

All five passport schemes offer visa-free access to more than 140 countries, including EU member states, as well as the UK, Singapore and Hong Kong.

The St. Kitts and Nevis passport ranks 55th for mobility in the Global Passport Index, the highest of the five Caribbean programs, and provides access to 196 countries worldwide.

The cloud-shrouded view of Nevis from St. Kitts, while in the foreground a sailboat glides through the Caribbean SeaThe cloud-shrouded view of Nevis from St. Kitts, while in the foreground a sailboat glides through the Caribbean Sea

The St Kitts and Nevis program offers the best visa-free access of the five islands – Matt Anderson Photography/Getty Images Contributor

There are also many tax benefits to being a Caribbean citizen. You do not have to pay taxes on capital gains you earn in the Caribbean, and there is no inheritance tax. In addition, some islands, such as Antigua and Barbuda and St Kitts and Nevis, have no income tax.

Even though you have to pay tax as a citizen of one of the islands, the tax rates vary from 10% to 35%, so it could be lower than if you were living in the UK.

How do you get Caribbean citizenship?

The CBI scheme was launched in 1983. There are several ways to obtain a Caribbean passport.

You can make a donation to an approved government project, often in the form of a bond, or invest in real estate or businesses. The scheme in which you can invest depends on the island of your choice.

Armand Arton, director of immigration consultancy Arton Capital, said: “Many islands offer specific funds designed to optimise where capital is spent for Caribbean citizens.

“Investors want to know that their money is going to the right place and that it is having a positive impact on society.”

For example, there is a sustainable island state contribution fund that wealthy individuals can donate to in St Kitts and Nevis, which increases food production and evolves the creative economy. Alternatively, there are several approved developments if you want to support real estate.

Mr Rice added that the property route offers a stake in a luxury resort or hotel, but there may be restrictions on how often you can stay.

He said: “You might be able to stay there for one or two weeks a year depending on the development, so it might not be the best option if you’re thinking of moving.”

If you are buying a home, there may also be restrictions on how long you have to wait to sell. For example, a property purchased under the private home sale investment option in St Kitts and Nevis cannot be resold for seven years.

How the process works

You can’t just turn up on a Caribbean island with a suitcase full of $250,000 cash. Applications for investments must be made through approved agents such as Global Citizen Solutions and Arton Capital.

Mr Rice warned that this sector is open to scammers, so it is important to do your homework and check if there is evidence that the agent has worked in the Caribbean.

Licensed agents are often listed on each island’s government website.

The agent will help you monitor your customer and prevent money laundering.

Mr Arton added: “This is to ensure that the Caribbean does not welcome bad actors and that the plans remain a force for good.”

Sugar Beach, St LuciaSugar Beach, St Lucia

St Lucia offers a CBI scheme which requires identity checks – Sugar Beach, St Lucia

You will be required to provide proof of identity and evidence of your source of wealth.

The agent can help you decide on the best island and scheme for your needs and submit an application. This is assessed by the country’s CBI unit and the entire process typically takes three to nine months.

Once the application is approved in principle, the client is asked to make the necessary investment. This could be in real estate, setting up a business or donating to a government fund.

Unlike residence regulations in some European countries, staying on the island is not mandatory, but it can lead to more favourable tax rates.

In addition to the minimum investment, there are also brokerage and administrative fees to pay for the application and due diligence, as well as for the passport itself, which can add significantly to the cost.

For example, a property purchase in St Lucia would have a government fee of $30,000 for a single applicant or $45,000 if you bring a spouse. There is then a due diligence fee of $8,000 for the first applicant and $5,000 for additional family members, and it costs $500 per passport.

That’s almost $60,000 in administrative costs for a couple, on top of any agency fees and the minimum investment made.

Best places to invest

This depends on what you are looking for.

According to research by Caribbean real estate agency The Agency, Grenada is among the most affordable areas for real estate, with a square meter typically costing $2,000.

Small harbour of St Georges, capital of Grenada, CaribbeanSmall harbour of St Georges, capital of Grenada, Caribbean

Grenada is one of the most affordable areas to buy property – Westend61/Getty Images Contributor

Antigua and Barbuda are among the most expensive islands, at $5,600 per square meter.

Mr Arton said: “With so many different investment opportunities available, the best destination is usually determined by the investor’s personal preferences.

“Obtaining that highly sought-after second home in paradise is one of the top reasons people might invest.”

The homes range from affordable half-million dollar homes to exclusive residences for the super-rich with fortunes of up to $50 million.

He added: “While many of these properties are out of reach for most, there is a significantly higher percentage of homes for sale at a lower price, so investors are spoilt for choice when selecting their second home.”

Caribbean Revenues

Brokers advise that returns are not the main reason for investing.

In some cases, for example if you support government programs, you may not get a financial return, but the main reward is obtaining citizenship.

Mr Arton said: “Many investors find this far more valuable than any financial return because it gives them and their children the opportunity to live and work visa-free.”

On average, returns on real estate investments are around 5-10%, he said, adding: “The return is more of a bonus than the end goal, with Caribbean citizenship being the real incentive to invest.”

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