The Price of Caribbean ‘Golden Passports’ is Growing to US$ 200,000 Soon

Under pressure from the European Union and the USA, the Caribbean countries ‘selling’ their passports to foreign investors are raising the prices.

A group of four Caribbean countries has agreed to charge at least US$ 200,000 for their passports beginning June 30, 2024. The countries are Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, and St Kitts and Nevis. Antigua and Barbuda as well as Dominica have been ‘selling’ their passports for US$ 100,000 for several years. Thus, the price is going to double in their case. Grenada has been charging US$ 150,000 for its passports so the price rise is not so dramatic. As far as St Kitts and Nevis is concerned, the country already charges US$ 250,000 for its passports so in this case, joining the group looks like a promise on the part of St Kitts and Nevis not to go under US$ 200,000 in the future.

According to estimations, the Caribbean citizenship-by-investment (CBI) programs generate 579 million dollars in revenues for the countries. For some tiny Caribbean states, the CBI programs account for more than half of the overall national income. But these programs are under intense scrutiny from European and U.S. regulators who claim that they can be used by criminals for obtaining passports of a national state, using them to enter foreign countries, and committing crimes there.

The main reason why the Caribbean ‘golden passports’ are so popular is the fact that they give visa-free access to the EU, Great Britain, and many other countries. (We have to note at this point that citizens of Dominica have recently lost visa-free access to the UK.) According to an EU report, the Caribbean countries administering CBI programs have issued passports to at least 88,000 foreigners. Many citizens of Russia, China, and Nigeria are holders of Caribbean passports. The OECD claims that the CBI programs can help criminals to build fraudulent schemes and launder money earned from crimes and corruption. The organization assumes that criminals can launder billions of dollars.

The Caribbean countries have also agreed to exchange information about the applicants for citizenship, undergo independent financial audits, and increase the transparency of the programs. The changes are designed to address concerns the EU might have about these programs, as Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerrit said.

There is one more country in the Caribbean that has a CBI program and this is St Lucia. St Lucia has not signed the corresponding Memorandum and it is going to continue ‘selling’ its passports for US$ 100,000 after June 30, 2024.

Myths about Caribbean citizenship

We would like to dispel some myths that are harmful for Caribbean citizenship programs.

Myth: You have to live in the Caribbean country whose passport you hold for more than 183 days per year if you want to retain it.

Fact: Antigua and Barbuda is the only country in the region that requires that foreign applicants for its citizenship must pay personal visits in order to retain their passports. They have to spend at least 5 days in Antigua and Barbuda within the first 5 years of holding their passports. If they fail to do so, their passports are not going to be extended. No other Caribbean country administering a CBI program puts forward a personal visit requirement. You can hold a Caribbean passport, use it to travel around Europe, for example, and never visit the Caribbean region. (Could you abstain from going to the Caribbean if you held a Caribbean passport? Probably, you could not.)

Myth: Your Caribbean passport has to be handed to you personally by a government official in the country where it is issued.

Fact: A Caribbean passport can be obtained remotely. We have to admit that personal involvement in the procedure of acquiring Caribbean citizenship has become greater than before. Previously, no personal interview was required and the passport could be sent with a courier. Today, all Caribbean countries granting citizenship to foreign investors conduct personal interviews but these are online interviews. Passports are also not sent with couriers anymore. Instead, they are delivered to the consulate that is located as close as possible to the recipient. True, now you have to go to the consulate to pick the passport but you do not have to travel to your second home country anyway.

Myth: Buying real property in the Caribbean is not safe.

Fact: All Caribbean countries accept non-returnable donations from foreigners applying for their citizenship and all of them accept returnable investments in real estate. In this first case, you would be literally ‘buying’ Caribbean citizenship. In the second case, you would be making an investment that you could return while keeping your Caribbean passport. Foreign investors are allowed to sell the real estate back after a few years and no-one is going to take their passports away. The exact number of years depends on the particular country. So, why is buying property in the Caribbean in order to qualify for citizenship perfectly safe in most cases? Because most countries (with the exception of St Kitts and Nevis) allow investing only in Government-approved property if you want to qualify for citizenship. This property is five-star hotels or resort complexes of the highest quality. Selling a suite in a five-star hotel after a few years of owning it should not be a problem.

This is exactly the reason why St Lucia has not signed the above mentioned memorandum. The Government of the country has approved two development projects for citizenship-by-investment purposes and guaranteed that the ‘price’ of St Lucian passports is not going to be raised. If it is, the developers are entitled to sue the Government. This is certainly not what the authorities of St Lucia want.

Myth: All Caribbean countries running CBI programs are blacklisted offshore jurisdictions with a bank reputation.

Fact: None of the countries that we have been talking about is found on any black lists. True, they provide offshore services to international entrepreneurs and Nevis in particular is a popular jurisdiction for registering offshore companies. But all the countries keep within the limits and conform to the international requirements. These are tiny island states that lack natural resources badly and their CBI programs as well as the offshore services that they offer are simply instruments for generating some additional revenue for their national budgets.

The EU authorities are applying pressure to the Caribbean countries with CBI programs claiming that they are letting criminals in. Refugees from Africa and the Middle East are coming to Europe by the million. It must be the case that they are not causing any trouble for the old continent. It must be the case.

Leave a Comment