For the past few months, Citizenship by Investment programs offered by Caribbean countries have come under much scrutiny and have led many to question the viability and long-standing success of this income generator for small island developing states. This focus and debate come off the heels of recent announcements and amendments made to legislation by UK and US Governments respectively. More and more, there’s much evidence to note metropolitan countries’ attempt to clamp down on the access and movement of second citizenship holders.
However, a recent US-Caribbean roundtable held in Saint Kitts and Nevis on 25th February 2023 leaves the region optimistic, as stakeholders came together to have an open discussion to unravel threats and challenges arising from and faced by Caribbean CBI offerings, and the concerns of the US Government. The meeting, which was described as “productive and mutually beneficial” brought high-level representatives from the Caribbean, the USA Government, Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) together. This US- Caribbean roundtable augurs well for the future of Citizenship by Investment Programs in the Caribbean and signals a new beginning of open and fair collaboration between all parties involved. Here’s how:
- The US Government Accepts CBI Programs as A Legitimate Service of National Importance
It’s no secret the critical role revenue raised from CBI programs play in supporting the development of small island states. Whether it be investing in government-endorsed real estate projects or funding massive infrastructural development, Saint Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Antigua have benefitted immensely from offering CBI over the years. The USA recognised and accepted the CBI Program’s legitimacy as a service that has led to securing invaluable funding for infrastructural and development projects, and for building resilience. It was noted that this program has supported countries grappling with inflation due to the ongoing War in Ukraine and rippling effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic. In the case of Grenada, for example, a percentage of the CBI revenue earnings will be put aside to finance climate emergency. The parties noted that dismantling these programs will have an adverse effect on the economies of the islands.
- Regional Governments and US Government Collectively Commit to Principles
What continues to stand out as a teething issue for the United States is how the CBI offerings in the Caribbean can be seen as vulnerable, leaving a gap for illicit actors to use the citizenship to circumvent existing laws, standards, and agreements with countries. The principles agreed upon, therefore, focused on due diligence and auditing, and an overall deep focus on strengthening and safeguarding the integrity of their CBI Programmes. The “six” principles to which the parties agreed on in the St. Kitts meeting range from proactively sharing information on application denials and not processing previously denied applicants in other jurisdictions, conducting interviews, additional checks, and auditing. Most notably is the agreement to suspend processing applications from Russians and Belarusians. Grenada, which is the last country to suspend its service to Russians, will halt service to Russians from March 31, 2023.
- Commitment to Review, Retool and Work Together
All stakeholders agreed to meet within the next four to six months to assess the implementation of the agreed principles. There is a commitment to continue ongoing constructive engagement, appreciating the unique circumstances and needs of small island developing states. Processes are also in motion to ensure that at the next sit-down, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa can be discussed with regards to processing Russian applicants. A similar engagement is on the books to take place with European and United Kingdom Governments.
In short, meetings like these, in the true spirit of nationhood and collaboration, signal shared resolve by all parties to come to the table to discuss a way forward with regard to address matters of mutual importance, such as investment migration.
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