Friday, July 20, 2018

Buying nationalities

 Investing in Grenada, with its white sand beaches, buys more than a slice of paradise - it comes with citizenship and a passport with visa-free entry to almost 130 countries. Few who take up the offer may ever visit their new homeland. Grenada is one of a growing list of countries cashing in on a booming industry that offers citizenship or residency in return for investment as more people look for political and economic safe havens. Saint Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Lucia are also tapping into the global citizenship market estimated by international advisory firms at $2 billion a year. All those countries' passports allow visa-free travel to the European Union. Various European nations including Britain, Spain and Malta, as well as New Zealand, Singapore and the United States have similar, albeit more expensive schemes, some of which require residency. The relatively low cost of Caribbean citizenship sets the islands apart from other countries.

Nationals of China and the Middle East are the biggest buyers of Caribbean citizenship. Dominica charges $100,000, and Saint Kitts - which has the region's longest-running programme set up in 1984 - until recently offered citizenship for a family of four for a $150,000 donation to a hurricane relief fund. In Grenada, to gain citizenship, investors can buy a $350,000 stake in a development like Mount Cinnamon, or donate $150,000 to a national transformation fund for the island. The U.S. State Department last year described Antigua's citizenship programme as "among the most lax in the world". In 2014, the U.S. Treasury Department warned banks that passports from Saint Kitts could be used for "illicit financial activity".

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