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Caribbean nations woo rich Indians with cash-for-citizenship offers
Publication Date : 12-08-2013
Caribbean countries like St Kitts and Nevis (St Kitts), Dominica and Antigua have rolled out attractive cash-for-citizenship programmes to woo rich Indian immigrants.
The latest to launch a citizenship-by-investment (CIP) programme is Antigua & Barbuda, a tiny independent Commonwealth state in the eastern Caribbean, which will open up its borders to other nationals in a month. It is giving full citizenship for an investment of at least US$400,000 in an approved real estate project.
A St Kitts citizenship can also be bought for $400,000 while citizenship in tiny tropical Dominica is even cheaper, retailing at $100,000).
Both countries have set their sights on wealthy Indians and Chinese nationals. "Since the programme was announced in March, we have had a number of inquiries from Indian nationals. Most of them view it as a lifestyle investment," says Jason Taylor, CEO, Janik Partners, an Antigua-based company that specialises in CIP.
Besides the tropical breeze, swaying palm trees and white sand beaches, what else can one look forward to in becoming a citizen of these Caribbean states?
An Antigua passport can get you visa-free travel to 126 countries including Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, the UK and Europe. St Kitts gets you into over 100 countries while an Indian passport only allows you into 55 countries.
As a Commonwealth citizen, one also receives certain preferential treatment in the United Kingdom. For example, your children may enter the UK to study without first having to apply for student visas. After studying, they may work there for two years without a work permit.
Eric Major, CEO, Henley and Partners, the global leader in international residence and citizenship planning, says in a report published in The Times of India today: "Most Asian clients are keen on providing a western education for their children, and this is one of their primary reasons for seeking a citizenship. Another reason is mobility thanks to visa-free travel."
Henley and Partners recently advised the Antiguan government on the design, implementation and administration of its CIP and also reformed the CIP of St Kitts and Nevis.
Major adds that about 20 per cent of its overall clientele for immediate citizenships are Indians, many of them non-resident Indians (NRIs).
"We get about a 1,000 such applications each year in total and the overall numbers are growing. NRIs account for much of the demand because of the situation in Dubai.
Even though many Indians work there, most don’t have the privileges of residency. Those who have done well there but don’t have status often want a better standing, passport-ranking wise. This is the new breed of people we call 'global citizens' and we are helping them become that," says Major.
That the Caribbean nations are serious about taking in Indian immigrants became clear when Denzil Douglas, prime minister of St Kitts, who was in India in April, requested that Indians look at its citizenship programme and invest in it. St Kitts has the world’s oldest CIP that was launched in 1984.
What is the profile of potential Indians seeking citizenship?
Amir Zaidi, managing director of Westkin Associates, a London-based immigration law firm says: "They are mostly married with children, very successful and are involved in businesses that generate a lot of cash very quickly, such as property and real estate. A vast majority of our clients for CIP may apply from the US or Dubai (NRIs).
Indians often apply for UK citizenship and apply for St Kitts' CIP simultaneously, so that the quickly processed St Kitts passport can give them easy access to the many countries, till they get a UK passport after six years."
And what will an investment in a $400,000 house in Antigua get you? "European finishings, Italian designs and German kitchens," says Taylor, whose company also develops luxury real estate projects meant for CIP investments.
If that isn’t enough, the island also boasts the presence of celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Giorgio Armani, Timothy Dalton and former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.