As the popularity of Citizenship by Investment programmes continues to grow, the IFC Caribbean spoke to Thomas Anthony, Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Citizenship by Investment Unit in Antigua to get some insight into the impact of the Programme on the country.
IFC: Could you give us some background into the development of the Citizenship by Investment Programme in Antigua?
Thomas Anthony: The global economic crisis, which started in 2008, had a severe impact on the tourism sector which is the main driver of the economy in Antigua and Barbuda. Reduced disposable income of citizens of our source markets meant less visitors to the twin-island state. In the face of the resulting decline in economic activity, the government considered different options to jump start the economy. One such measure was the economic citizenship offer. This was done mainly to attract foreign direct investment into Antigua and Barbuda.
The CIP was seen as the most effective way to generate renewed interest in the Real Estate market and spur investment in the general economy.
As a result the Antigua and Barbuda CIP Act was passed in April, 2013. The CIU, a creature of the legislation, was staffed on 26 August 2013 and opened to the public on 10 October 2013. The first application was received in November 2013. The first citizenship was granted in February 2014.
IFC: What is necessary to avail of the programme?
TA: With the exception of applicants from countries on the “No Country” list, anyone 18 years and older who commits to making an investment under one of three options can participate in the Antigua CIP, those options are:
1. Contribution to a National Development Fund (NDF),
2. Purchase of Real Estate in an approved project, or
3. Investment in an approved business.
Having done this, an applicant may apply along with his/her dependents for citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda.
Dependents refer to:
- the spouse of the main applicant;
- a child of the main applicant or spouse up to 25 and in fulltime study;
- a special needs child who is at least 18, living with and fully supported by the main applicant;
- parents and grandparents above the age of 65, living with and fully supported by the main applicant.
An application for citizenship must be done through a Locally Licensed agent and is subject to processing and due diligence fees, depending on the age of the dependents. The process normally takes between 60 and 90 days to be completed.
Once the applicant has been informed that they have been approved, she/he then has 30 additional days in which to complete the investment. The Certificate of Registration and passport are issued only after the investment is made and all of the processing and due diligence fees are paid.
The benefits that come with the Antigua CIP include:
- Antigua and Barbuda has visa free access to 133 countries including Canada, United Kingdom and the Schengen Area.
- Citizenship for Life (Requirements: Must visit Antigua for five days within five years; must take the oath of Allegiance; must own the real estate for five years and keep a clean criminal record.) Once the requirements in the first five years are met the applicant becomes a citizen for life.
- There are no restrictions on dual nationality.
- No tax on worldwide income, inheritance, capital gains or investment returns.
IFC: What advantages does the Antigua CIP have over others on offer elsewhere?
Antigua is able to offer:
- Stable Westminster styled democracy.
- Well-established regulatory framework.
- Safety and security.
- Citizenship granted immediately as opposed to a pathway to citizenship.
- More economical (Better value for money).
IFC: How successful has the CIP in Antigua been and what has it contributed to Antigua, not just economically but culturally and socially?
At this stage in the program, we have processed over 700 applications, resulting in more than 1,000 citizenships being granted, and more than US$100 million flowing into the economy. From a cultural perspective the effect has been negligible given that 95 per cent of these investors do not reside in Antigua and Barbuda. Socially, it is expected that the economic fortunes of normal Antiguans and Barbudans will improve as a result of the program
IFC: How does the Antigua CIP compare to other programmes being offered in the Caribbean?
Antigua is seen as the premier program in the region by at least two industry leaders – Henley & Partners and Arton Capital. This is primarily because of the robust due diligence process, efficiency and professionalism of the Unit and government policy. Also, Antigua and Barbuda is the only country in the region with a program with visa free access to Canada.
IFC: How do you see the Programme developing in the future?
A continued focus on improving our due diligence process in light of global security concerns. Creation of new revenue streams and a focus on sustainability of the program, while we work on achieving our goal of 50 applications a month this year.