A number of Caribbean countries offer citizenship for investment schemes whereby passports are provided for an investment in real estate or a donation with little or no requirement to reside in the country. St Kitts has the oldest scheme dating from 1984; Antigua, Dominica and Grenada also offer them; and other Caribbean islands have been considering them.
Caribbean Governments facing difficult economic challenges see the schemes as a new source of income; property and other developers are using them to raise capital for new schemes; and wealthy individuals from around the world see the advantage in owning a passport which gives them visa-free travel to many countries.
However, Governments in North America and Europe are beginning to look more closely at the Caribbean’s citizenship for investment schemes, after a small but growing number of incidents have raised concerns about who passports are being issued to and the robustness of due diligence checks on applicants.
In May 2014, the US Treasury issued an advisory on the St Kitts citizenship scheme due to concerns that some are using the scheme for money laundering. Most recently, the Canadian Government announced that it would impose visas on all citizens from St Kitts-Nevis on 22 November 2014, due to its ‘concerns about the issuance of passports’ and ‘the identity management practices’ by the St Kitts authorities in relation to its Citizenship by Investment programme.
It is clear that the whole question of being able, in one or another way, to offer citizenship without a residence requirement is coming under increasing international scrutiny; with the real danger being that ordinary citizens may come to face blanket requirements for visas where none previously existed, as has happened with the case of St Kitts and Canada. Moreover, it appears that some Governments are increasingly seeing the schemes as a threat to security.
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