CS Global Partners discusses Dominica’s achievements with His Excellency Ambassador Emmanuel Nanthan, Head of Dominica’s Citizenship by Investment Unit.
Dominica has been operating its Citizenship by Investment Programme since 1993 and is one of the world’s leading jurisdictions for investor immigration. It can count on the support of economic citizens from across the world, with its new embassy in Abu Dhabi standing testament to the island’s growing international profile.
Recently, the Citizenship by Investment Programme has received praise from the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) for its role in helping the island rebuild itself in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, allowing Dominica to ‘build back better’ and to record an outstanding 9% growth in 2019.
With CS Global Partners’ Valeria Rebrentceva to discuss Dominica’s achievements is His Excellency Ambassador Emmanuel Nanthan, the Head of Dominica’s Citizenship by Investment Unit.
VR: Good afternoon your Excellency. Thank you very much for joining us today.
EN: Good afternoon to you, good afternoon to viewers. It is my pleasure to be welcoming you to Dominica, beautiful Dominica, where we enjoy the beauty of green Dominica and nice blue skies. So truly, I thank you very much for taking the time to be with us. We know we going through difficult and challenging times as a global community, so you being here means a lot to us. We are pleased and satisfied with your contribution and your participation. You are the heartbeat of ourProgramme, you, the participants – those who are with us today – are the blood that flows through our veins. You are the ones who make us who we are: this successful Programme. We thank you very much for your continued work, commitment, devotion. We wish you well and urge you to stay safe and stay inside.
VR: Thank you very much for your kind wishes.
VR: You are responsible for a Programme that has been in existence for decades. Do you think this longevity is an asset to Dominica?
EN: We have been here for 27 years. This is one of the major reasons for the success we are having. Our investors are high profiled clients. When they invest, they do not do it by chance. They look at our record, they look at how long we have been existent. They look at the friends who have received Dominican passports, they look at their friend’s children and grandchildren. There is a track record in Dominica of a Programme that is well-established and accepted by all. A Programme where. You have generational transference of citizenship to children, to grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
We moved from 121 to around 140 countries that have visa-free or visa-on-arrival access through Dominican citizenship. Last year, we added places like Russia and Brazil.
VR: Dominica’s Programme is well established. It is also one of the fastest and most affordable in the Caribbean. It has been in operation for a long time, but it has seen some changes. One of these was the introduction of two separate investment options. Can you please explain what these are?
EN: In 2014, the Government made some changes to our laws which allowed real estate investment. Before that, you could only invest in a direct government fund. For an individual, the cost of this option is $100,000 USD. With a spouse, the cost rises to $175,000 USD.
The private sector Government projects have seen several investors that are interested in having funds and solid investments with the benefits of being a citizen of Dominica.
VR: Under the Programme, real estate is pre-selected by the Government. What is involved in the selection process, and why does Dominica restrict the number of the real estate developments it approves?
EN: To be approved as a real estate project, we the project must be in line with Government development plans. We ensure that there is sustainability in the project and that we are building a green economy – we are building the world’s first climate-resilient economy. We ensure that projects are approved along these lines. They must also show that the people of Dominica will benefit from the development. Job creation will be taken into consideration, markets for farmers and for local produce, and more. But everything should be done with sustainable development in mind, that for us is key.
We have approved a number of 5-star projects in keeping with Government development plans. Dominica, being a part of the Caribbean, is a place where tourism is important. We have increased the number of room spaces to encourage tourism in Dominica.
We only approve a few projects at a time, yes, that is true. The main aim behind that is to ensure that the projects that we approve have a chance of succeeding. In some countries, they have twenty, a hundred, or more investment projects. So, investors choosing to invest have a wide choice. It means that the money for real estate projects is divided between many projects. In Dominica, this number is limited to give each project a better chance of completion in a specific and short time.
VR: In what other ways has the Programme evolved?
EN: We strive to remain at the forefront of the global migration industry. We do so by enforcing a robust due diligence process. We have engaged some of the best companies in the world to do our due diligence for us – like SR-M, Thompson Reuters, and Bishops (now Sterling Diligence). We use the best due diligence firms to ensure that we have excellently vetted investors. We use our due diligence regional partners as well, such as the JRCC, and the international intelligence community. We try to ensure that the backbone and the cornerstone of our programme is due diligence.
Recently, we introduced a further layer of due diligence for our agents. Every agent must know their clients and every agent must do due diligence on their own clients. Agents must also submit a copy of World Check done by a reputable World Check organisation. We believe that only by inviting the best, the cleanest, the most reputable people to our Programme we can continue to bring the best to Dominica.
VR: Does your commitment to due diligence mean people are entirely excluded from the Programme?
As part of our commitment to the global community, if someone has a criminal record that person will not be accepted. If you have a visa denial from one of the countries with which we have visa-free travel, we will deny you. Due to the challenges in North Korea, Sudan, and Iraq, we will not accept people from these countries, except if they have left these countries for at least ten years and have absolutely no ties to these countries. The main applicant must also be a minimum of 18 years old or older.
VR: Dominica is a vocal advocate of a coordinated, Caribbean-wide due diligence and transparency effort. What other transparency measures do you have in place?
EN: Our transparency measures are another cornerstone of our Programme. We publish the name of every applicant that is successful in our official gazette quarterly. We ensure that we give a detailed budget of all funds received in our Programme – that’s done through the Parliament on a regular basis, so everyone knows what money came in and how it is being spent. We recently invited experts from accounting firm PwC in London to audit our Programme and to publish findings internationally.
Every Dominican is proud of the Programme because we see how well the funds from the Programme are assisting us in infrastructure, in education, in housing, and in many other things. We have a national employment programme, for instance, where young people are given temporary jobs to gain experience. This is being paid for with funds from the Programme.
Dominicans see what the Programme is doing, they see its benefits – they see the infrastructure, they see the schools that have been built, they see the houses that have been built, the names of the people who are investing, and the audits and funds reported to Parliament. We have a very transparent method of doing our business. That’s why Dominicans support the Programme in every way possible.
VR: Putting due diligence to one side, what other requirements must an applicant fulfil under the Programme?
EN: An applicant must be of high moral character and be over the age of 18. For children, we make sure that both parents have signed (to allow them to take part in the citizenship process). There is no need for someone to visit Dominica or speak English. If further questions are required, applicants are invited for an interview, which could be done in person or over the internet. We ensure we have a thorough understanding of the people who are invited and accepted under our Programme. Again, this is part of our commitment to the international community.
VR: How long does the process take?
EN: We approve an individual applicant within three months. Of course, some time must be given to the banks to perform their own due diligence, and for the issuance of the Naturalisation Certificate, but Dominica is well known for its ability to have a rapid process for our applicants. Once you have your Naturalisation Certificate, which makes you a citizen, you can use it to apply for a passport at the Immigration Department.
VR: At the end of the citizenship by investment process, the applicant becomes a naturalised citizen of Dominica. Does this mean the applicant automatically receives a passport, and, if so, what type of passport does the applicant receive?
EN: We give a successful applicant a Certificate of Naturalisation which can be used to apply for a passport with the Ministry of Immigration. That passport is – of course – an ordinary passport. This allows the citizen to travel around the globe. The passport is applied for separately at the Ministry of Immigration – Police Department.
VR: You are a Dominican citizen yourself. What do you think are the most attractive benefits of becoming a Dominican citizen and choosing Dominica for an investment?
EN: For me, it’s about being a Dominican. We also have access to 140 countries around the world. I can pick up my passport and travel to the UK, Europe, Russia, or Hong Kong. We allow investors to share in this privilege.
We can have dual nationality. You can be a citizen of North America, and still be a citizen of Dominica.
The joy of living in a country that is clean, that is green, where nature is predominant is part of the pride I have as a Dominican.
VR: Dominica’s Citizenship by Investment Programme is often described as a success story for the nation. Can you explain why that is?
EN: People look at our Programme as a benchmark for the industry, and make changes to their own programmes because of what Dominica is doing correctly.
Dominican citizens love the Programme because of the direct benefit they can see. Our National Employment Programme, our infrastructure – schools, roads, hospitals – were all rebuilt using money from the Citizenship by Investment Programmes.
We also have a Programme for senior citizens which makes sure they are taken care of living well, that they can have a shower, and that they have warm food, that their houses are clean. Dominicans know that this Programme helps the more fortunate and the ones who need it more. People are very proud.
VR: What trends have you detected in Dominica with respect to the number of applications and applicant origin, and how do you think the Programme will be affected by the growing popularity of the citizenship by investment industry?
EN: Applications under the Dominica Citizenship by Investment Programme have been on the rise since the Programme’s inception, but the country of origin of our applicants has always been varied. We have interest from Asia, the Middle East, Europe, North America, Africa, and Latin America.
Countries look to our Programme to see what Dominica is doing and to make changes to their own programmes. We, therefore, feel we have a responsibility as global leaders to do things that are right. We make changes to enhance our Programme. Most of these are to enhance the vetting and security of our Programme. All must be done to protect the global migration industry, and we commit to the highest standards – as high as they possibly can be.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
To watch the full webinar, click here.