5 Easy Ways to Identify Legal Citizenship Programmes

Citizenship by investment (CBI) programmes are found in many countries across the world, particularly in the Caribbean, allowing individuals to gain citizenship of a nation in return for investing in its infrastructure. Considering the many benefits of a second passport, as well as the fact that countries can pump the money they receive back into their economies, CBI schemes are incredibly valuable.

Unfortunately, fraudulent CBI programmes are all too common. As a result, it can be hard for would-be applicants to determine whether or not their programme of choice is legitimate. That’s why we’ve put together this guide, which highlights some key questions which can help you identify legal citizenship programmes.

1. Does the government endorse the programme?

Countries with legitimate programmes tend to have official government-endorsed websites that outline information about the scheme and assist potential applicants with determining fees and requirements. The CBI programme of St Kitts and Nevis provides all of these details and is officially linked to the Office of the Prime Minister. Any schemes that don’t have endorsements of this nature aren’t to be trusted.

2. Does the programme do its due diligence?

Legitimate programmes will run lengthy background checks on their applicants. For instance, Dominica has ranked first in the CBI Index for four years running and conducts comprehensive internal and external checks. These are carried out in partnership with some of the world’s leading financial institutions which specialise in identifying corruption, terrorism, and money laundering.

Individuals must also provide documents like police certificates, birth and marriage certificates, evidence of employment, bank statements, and references. The process can take up to three months to complete, proving that the country goes above and beyond with due diligence on applicants. Conversely, any programmes that promise a return in just a few days or weeks should sound alarm bells.

3. Is the citizenship offer too inexpensive?

As touched upon, CBI programmes are meant to be win-win solutions for applicants and countries alike. Consequently, legitimate governments are unlikely to offer citizenship to non-nationals at low prices — though of course, the size and economic prosperity of a country will have an impact on what they consider substantial. As a result, you should be wary of schemes that purport to sell citizenship at a bargain. If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

4. Is the programme written in a nation's law and regulations?

Citizenship is a matter of high importance, and no CBI programme can come into existence unless it is transcribed into the country’s legislation. Anyone seeking to apply for citizenship in Dominica, for example, can read the relevant laws online. These include the Commonwealth of Dominica Citizenship Act, the Commonwealth of Dominica Citizenship by Investment Regulations 2014, and the Commonwealth of Dominica Citizenship by Investment (Amendment) Regulations 2016. Again, any country without legislation around its CBI scheme should arouse suspicion.

5. Is the agent or service provider recognised as an official government representative?

Most CBI schemes rely on agents, who will submit applications on an applicant’s behalf. To safeguard this process, the majority of CBI jurisdictions only use agents who have been extensively vetted, and whose licences can be removed if they fail to present genuine applications. A list of these agents is often made available online for transparency. Dominica, for example, regularly updates its list of authorised agents and marketing promoters. Applicants should be sure to find similar lists themselves before applying for a programme.