Why Caribbean countries are selling citizenship for as little as US$100,000 – and helping the rich avoid pandemic travel restrictions
Caribbean island countries have long offered passports to wealthy foreigners in exchange for a – sometimes steep – monetary investment, but facing a cash crunch and a surge in interest, there are deals to be had.
Through December 1, the island nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis is selling a four-person family package for US$150,000 – down from US$190,000, in exchange for a minimum real-estate purchase of US$200,000 that must be held for at least seven years.
The Caribbean country's passport ranks roughly in line with Mexico's, according to the Passport Index. And, perhaps more intriguing for Americans currently barred from Europe, the passport is good for visa-less travel to the European Union and the UK, among others.
“In these days of Covid, when tourism is not happening, we have to find ways to create revenue to sustain our economy,” Les Khan, CEO of Saint Kitts and Nevis Citizenship Investment Unit, told Bloomberg News.
Other island nations in the region – including Saint Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda, Grenada, and Dominica – all offer similar programmes, some newly discounted, as they hope to cash in on the increased interest, too. According to Henley & Partners, a London-based passport broker and “identity management” firm, there's been a 42 per cent uptick in citizenship applications. The US alone currently has a 1.5 million-passport backlog in its processing queue because of the pandemic.
Anyone hoping for easier travel to the United States, however, can expect to pay a premium. Malta, whose passport ranks just under Italy, Canada and Norway in terms of ease-of-travel, will sell you citizenship that includes EU and US travel – though there are more strings attached. The Mediterranean island nation has long been a hotspot for the world's ultra-wealthy.
Still, the more expensive options may be a better choice as people shift passport strategies from holidaying to riding out a global pandemic that some countries have been far more successful in mitigating than others.
“‘Investment migration’ has shifted from being about living the life you want in terms of holidays and business travel to a more holistic vision that includes health care and safety,” Dr Christian Kalin, an executive at Henley & Partners, told Robb Report.
This year's discounts might not last forever.
“In the past there has been a tendency toward lowering prices, but the current cuts seem to be temporary and Covid-19 related,” Beatrice Gatti, a legal manager at CS Partners, which helps ultra-wealthy clients find second-citizenship, told Bloomberg.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
Secondary passports are in high demand, especially those granting visa-free travel to the US and Europe, as the coronavirus makes globe-trotting more difficult