Citizenship by investment (CBI) is based on the premise that the government of a country grants citizenship to individuals in return for an investment in their country. But how does one start the process?
Currently, 12 countries in the world offer Citizenship by Investment Programmes. However, the cluster of Citizenship by Investment countries in the Caribbean is continually putting itself at the forefront of the industry with its proactive attitude, low investment threshold and meticulous attention to due diligence.
At the top of the list are the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis and the Commonwealth of Dominica, which have been given an outstanding rank by the CBI index, an annual publication by the PWM magazine that compares citizenship by investment programmes worldwide.
These countries have dedicated themselves to ensuring fast processing times and stringent vetting processes, that all aid in a seamless, transparent and positive experience for investors. Further to this, these countries have a government entity that is dedicated entirely to the citizenship process. They lay out a set of regulations mandates that oversee and process all Citizenship by Investment applications, leading to quick application turnaround times.
1. Select a Citizenship by Investment Agent
The first step in your citizenship by investment process is choosing your agent. The government does not deal directly with the public regarding applications. However, it channels all applications through approved and partnered agents who handle the entire process for you. These agents walk beside you through your citizenship by investment journey, so it is imperative to do your homework and ensure you choose the right agency to suit your needs.
After selecting an agent, they advise on the necessary next steps, which includes everything from filling in relevant paperwork, what copies you need of which documents, any doctor’s appointments that need to be coordinated and the like. Once all the preliminary boxes have been ticked, it’s time to put the wheels into motion.
All citizenship by investment government units have a highly refined case management system that allows them to do everything virtually, which has proved incredibly beneficial during the COVID-19 pandemic. This way, applicants are able to get the process underway by submitting their documents online, bearing in mind that no applications will be approved without the original physical form in hand.
2. The Due Diligence Process
Next comes the somewhat lengthy, but always necessary step of due diligence. This is a step that is repeated multiple times throughout the application process through various internal and external parties. Thus, allowing these countries to maintain the highest standard of applicants ensures all investors are vetted, reputable and legally sound.
These initial vetting measures by the agent are done upfront before any applications are accepted and used to rule out any suspicious activity or people that could mar the application process. This is where the Caribbean stands out.
Once vetted by the agent, applicants submit their applications to the country’s government unit. Within this unit, specially qualified individuals delve further into the applicant’s background and are trained to spot any anomalies that may have been missed previously.
After receiving a clean report from the internal due diligence department, the application then goes to an external due diligence agent to sift through with a fine-tooth comb. Regional and international bodies including Interpol, and within the Caribbean, the JRCC, then review the applicant’s credentials against the respective organisation’s database.
These background and credibility checks take about two to three months. The agency then produces a report which goes to all parties involved, including the government unit which sends it on to the minister for approval. At this point, the applicant has been approved in principle, and all that is left to do is make your investment!
3. Make your Investment
Both Dominica and St Kitts and Nevis offer investors one of two ways to acquire second citizenship, either through a contribution to a government-approved fund or by investing in real estate. The most expedient route is usually through a government fund contribution, as this requires payment into the government bank account of the host country, and quick due diligence by the bank. Once the funds have cleared in the account, the government issues the individual with a certificate, granting immediate citizenship to the investors. Barring a few minimal outstanding fees, your citizenship by investment process is complete.
Upon choosing the real estate option for investment, the process is slightly more protracted for obvious reasons, including the property transfer timeline, which is essential as an application cannot be processed without a property purchase and sale agreement. The investor may also wish to view the real estate options first, which also takes time.
While you are effectively investing into a new citizenship, you still need to apply for your second country’s passport to enjoy the full benefits of visa-free travel and access to the country itself, depending on what passport you currently hold. The application process for your second passport is like any other and would require copies of your birth certificate and your newly acquired citizenship certificate, and is usually granted on a 10-year basis.
Once you have your second passport in possession, you are free to travel to your country of second citizenship as often or as little as you like. The world is your oyster.