For many, the concept of obtaining a second citizenship by investment is unfamiliar and foreign. Perhaps even more unfamiliar is the notion of obtaining such citizenship from a small, sunny island in the Caribbean. But the numbers of individuals choosing this option tell an altogether different story. Citizenship is no longer seen as strictly tied to the nation of one’s birth – dual or even multiple citizenship is increasingly recognised. This is particularly true for a global class of highly skilled and high net-worth professionals from both developed and developing countries. Indeed, over the past few years there has been a surge of wealthy businessmen and families seeking innovative citizenship solutions.
St Kitts and Nevis established the first economic citizenship programme in 1984. The Commonwealth of Dominica followed suit in 1993. The other Caribbean nations – Grenada, and Antigua and Barbuda – have followed a similar model. Today, St Kitts and Nevis and the Commonwealth of Dominica stand out as the favoured jurisdictions for second citizenship.
While the Caribbean is widely renowned for this particular type of programme, it is important not to discount the European options; both Cyprus and Malta have their own, popular, versions of an economic citizenship programme.
What Drives the Necessity for Second Citizenship?
The rise in regulatory restrictions, economic challenges, and political uncertainty in various countries, continues to affect the lives of businesspersons and their families. By contrast, the Caribbean is a safe and stable sanctuary with a growing economy. It is thus not surprising that businesspersons look to the Caribbean as a strong candidate for second citizenship. Depending on an individual’s country of origin, particular needs, and personal goals, citizenship by investment or residence programs can provide easy solutions to some of today’s most difficult problems.
In the wake of globalisation, the doors have been opened to cross-border business and a multi-jurisdictional lifestyle. A second passport provides entry to a wider array of countries, allowing individuals greater freedom of movement and the ability to access a more international platform. Business-minded individuals will also look to second citizenship or residence as a means of opening themselves to new and lucrative international business opportunities, and of expanding their global presence.
For example, a passport from any of the four Caribbean jurisdictions offering citizenship by investment programmes grants the right to live and work in all CARICOM member-countries. Established in 1973, CARICOM is a union of fifteen Caribbean countries operating a regional model of free trade and movement bearing certain similarities with the EU.
On a similar note, 'third-nationals' (as they are fondly referred to by EU nationals) find that the right of movement offered within the EU provides a level of access that is difficult to match anywhere else in the world. Many families like the flexibility of being able to move freely across the EU, and settle in any of the EU countries.
Interestingly however, some investors find the pervasiveness of the EU system to be an undesirable factor. In fact, many wealthy families seek to live in a country that will not intrude on their privacy and access all their personal information. Additionally, even though European citizens have the advantage of holding a very strong passport that grants residence in any EU country and permits free movement across the rest of Europe, in today's global environment the contours of the EU are not enough. European businessmen are realising more than ever that they need to expand their horizons if they are to prove successful.
A second citizenship may also serve as an exit strategy for individuals seeking to protect their families in the event of major political turmoil or social unrest in their country of origin. Today, countries offering citizenship by investment programmes are widely recognised as peaceful and politically stable. Additionally, their governments are committed to the safety of their people and the integrity of their countries. Part of this commitment finds its fulfilment in the strict due diligence and background verification processes that are part of their citizenship application procedures.
Wealth protection is also one of the key factors driving investors to alternate jurisdictions. The more pervasive and heavy-handed the laws of countries become, the more individuals looking to protect their earnings seek options outside their countries of origin.
Another important factor is the need for solid and reliable education systems, as parents strive to give their children better schooling and access to some of the best universities in the world. The citizenship by investment programmes in Malta or Cyprus provide freedom of movement in the European Union, which in turn allows children and students to study, for example, in the United Kingdom, whose universities rank consistently in the top-10 universities in the world.
Finally, there is little question that people would jump at the opportunity to live in a better, friendlier, and cleaner environment. The Caribbean offers stunning natural beauty, as well as peace of mind through strong rule of law and open and tolerant societies.
Access for Those Seeking Alternative Solutions and New Horizons
Many are under the impression that the demand for a second citizenship is led by ‘third-national’ citizens, but this is not wholly true. There is unquestionably a growing realization by citizens from all around the world that, regardless of one’s original citizenship, one should always have a ‘back-up’ plan.
In the same way that we view our investments in a strategic manner, smart investors are viewing second citizenship as an insurance policy for their families and future generations.
This need for a ‘back-up plan’ or for an ‘insurance policy’ in the form of a second citizenship may be fuelled by a variety of personal wants and desires. Chief among these, is the ability to travel freely and without hindrance across international borders. Frequent travellers may seek second citizenship for as basic a reason as needing to apply for fewer visas and alleviating their administrative burden. The jurisdictions offering citizenship by investment programmes all offer visa-free access to a wide array of countries. This is because their governments understand that mobility is of paramount importance to modern-day business and is key to obtaining access to global markets. For example, starting in April 2015, Grenada will be one of only five countries in the world to offer visa-free access to China – arguably the world’s largest economy.
In addition to aiding those with international businesses and investments, visa-free access is of key importance to families with multiple homes, extended families residing elsewhere, and children studying abroad.
Solutions to Meet the Needs of Busy Investors
The Caribbean citizenship by investment model was created as a flexible alternative to time-consuming residence or minimum-stay requirements, with the goal of providing efficient and quick citizenship solutions to businessmen with demanding schedules.
Currently, there are four active citizenship by investment programmes in the region, and their popularity has prompted even more Caribbean countries to explore the option of creating their own programme. At the heart of this popularity is the ability of these programs to provide swift citizenship solutions.
As the oldest citizenship by investment programme, the St Kitts and Nevis programme has been consistently linked to ease of processing applications and clarity of requirements, such as the well-defined criteria set in its regulations.
The second oldest programme, established in 1993, is that of the Commonwealth of Dominica. This programme was initially introduced with complex processing requirements, such as an interview process, an English language requirement, and an unclear due diligence fee. However, due to government streamlining of the application process and the removal of the mandatory interview, Dominica is fast becoming a preferred option for second citizenship.
The Caribbean jurisdictions provide two investment options to apply for citizenship: investment in a government fund for local economic development or investment in pre-approved real estate. The former has proved to be the more timely and practical solution for investors willing to take steps towards second citizenship, as applications are processed rapidly once a single contribution to the government fund is made. The latter, on the other hand, requires communication with several third party agents, such as real estate developers and local real estate authorities, and mandates that investors hold their acquired real estate property for three to five years.
Whereas many businesspersons pre-crisis years may well have been comfortable operating in their country or region, today’s economy no longer allows successful businessmen to operate in limited environments. Second citizenship is key to gain access to new countries, regions, and markets.
Moreover, second citizenship is a practical and worthwhile alternative for individuals wishing to complement their existing wealth protection and investment growth strategies, improve their personal security, and increase confidentiality in their personal affairs.
Increasingly, individuals have looked to alternative citizenship as a means of becoming integrated with peoples from all corners of the globe, and of working for a better future for mankind as a whole. For these individuals, second citizenship is but a stepping stone in the pathway to becoming citizens of the world.
About the Author:
Micha Rose-Emmett is a South African and English lawyer with degrees in business and law. Her expertise includes international private client advice, commercial law, property investment and citizenship planning. Micha has many years of experience in citizenship, residence, immigration and foreign investment law and has held several senior legal advisory roles across a range of industries. She specialises in providing citizenship planning services to HNW individuals. Micha has also travelled extensively providing consultancy services to governments and private firms. The jurisdictions she has worked in include the UK, UAE, Africa, the Caribbean, Asia and Europe. In advising governments, Micha has led professional teams and coordinated the development, delivery and on-going management of citizenship programs and projects.