Citizenship by investment (CBI) is the legal process that allows individuals — and often their families — to obtain second citizenship in exchange for a monetary contribution to the host country’s economy.
Also known as economic citizenship, the concept developed in the Caribbean, with the oldest programme running in St Kitts and Nevis since 1984. Only around a dozen countries offer such programmes, five of whom are in the Caribbean, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia and St Kitts and Nevis. Other countries with established CBI programmes include Austria, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Cyprus, Malta and Vanuatu.
2018 saw another four countries announce their intention to launch CBI programmes — Jordan, Moldova, Montenegro and Turkey — three of whom are in their incipient stages, while Moldova’s has been cancelled.
There is an annual ranking, known as the CBI Index, that compares all active economic citizenship programmes. It is typically issued in late August every year by the Professional Wealth Management — a publication of the Financial Times. It is elaborated in association with investor immigration lawyers and citizenship specialists from CS Global Partners, perceived as industry thought leaders.
It is important to note the difference between citizenship and passport — two terms that are incorrectly interchanged. Legally, citizenship represents an individual’s relationship with a state. It comes with human rights, as well as responsibilities, while a passport is a travel document. For some, second citizenship means safety from unfair persecution, an alternative to political asylum, security from an unstable environment, a safety net for the children, or as vital as a plan B in a conflict-torn region.
At CS Global Partners, we have met clients from many walks of life and have witnessed situations where the success and speed of an application was a matter of physical survival. Luckily, our legal background and experience across the board in investment immigration, as well as having multinational teams in-house, resulted in a happy endings for all the difficult cases we have dealt with — a track record we are extremely proud of.
Therefore, it is inaccurate to assume that a citizenship by investment programme can be reduced to idioms like “buy a passport scheme”, “passport for sale”, “passport by investment” or even “get a golden visa” (which actually refers to European residency by investment, rather than citizenship — an entirely different concept).
There are also two caveats to bear in mind: unlike native citizens, an economic citizen is typically stripped of the right to vote; and the fact that economic citizenship can be revoked under extraordinary circumstances. This is done so that native citizens feel safe in their home countries, but also to ensure that CBI programmes are not abused, which can happen if the quality of the programme is low, its due diligence checks are undermined or poorly managed or the country’s external partnerships are strained for valid reasons.
As for the benefits of successfully acquiring high-quality citizenship by investment, the most often quoted reason we hear from our clients is not visa-free travel, as is often the assumption, but, in fact, safety and security from whatever uncertainty tomorrow may bring.
Nonetheless, other practical benefits can indeed include increased international mobility, lifestyle perks, access to better education and healthcare, business opportunities, and protection under a functioning rule of law, where applicable. Learn more about the CBI Benefits.