Caribbean countries set CBI passport price floor

Four Caribbean countries set CBI passport price floor

11 April 2024

As international pressure mounts, four of the five Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) countries which have citizenship by investment (CBI) programmes have agreed to set a minimum price for passport sales.

The compact, which is based on the six principles agreed by the OECS CBI countries during a roundtable discussion with the US in 2023, will see measures implemented to address concerns of western countries about their operation.

Starting 30 June 2024, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, and Antigua and Barbuda have pledged to increase their golden passport prices to at least US$200,000, with some countries as much as doubling the current price of some categories.

These changes follow concerns from European and US regulators about irregularities in CBI schemes.

They aim to counteract financial improprieties linked to CBI passport sales, which have reportedly collectively issued 88,000 passports, including to individuals from Russia, Iran, and China, raising concerns of money laundering and corruption.

“We have professed to have a robust system that we go through in different layers of due diligence, and if somebody were to become a citizen of today and tomorrow morning the person goes and does something and finds himself in problem with the law, you can’t blame the program for that,” said Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerritt, as he defended his country’s programme following the UK’s move to end visa waivers for holders of Dominican passports in 2023.

The agreement also includes pledges such as exchanging data regarding CBI candidates to bolster transparency and supervision, instituting upgraded transparency protocols like divulging finances obtained through CBI, carrying out independent audits, cooperation with international countries in retrieving invalidated passports, and establishing a rule-making body.

“The parties agree to assign or to establish a regional competent authority to set standards in accordance with international requirements and best practices, and to regulate the programmes,” said the agreement, which some have since criticised for not legally binding the four countries to implement and adhere to the changes.

“It does not constitute a legally binding agreement and is not enforceable in any court of law,” says a clause in the agreement itself, with another allowing for it to be amended or terminated by unanimous consent of the signatories. 

However, Prime Minister Skerritt has said that the islands are cooperating on the development of mutual legislation to address the concerns raised by European countries. 

“As you know, there are countries within the OECS who have these programmes – Antigua, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, and St Kitts-Nevis”, and there is “the need for all of us to take certain actions to set aside the concerns which the EU in particular would have had with these programmes,” said Skerrit. 

The agreement also speaks to marketing and promotional practices, establishing agreed-upon standards including making it clear to applicants that the CBI programmes requires a commitment to citizenship in the respective country, rather than merely participating in a passport scheme.

“Such standards shall prohibit marketing of CBIPS for granting of ‘visa-free access’ and the use of photographs of parties’ passports in advertisements,” said the agreement. 

“This move will show the world that our four nations are responsible and serious about operating investment migration programmes that respect the rule of law, are sustainable and do not offend the interests of our brothers and sisters in the international community,” said St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Terrance Drew. 

St Lucia, which currently has a CBI programme which offers passports (some reportedly at as low as US$100,000), declined to modify its programme at this time and did not sign the agreement. 

Source: Caribbean Insight – Issue 8