US Advisory Against St Kitts-Nevis Citizenship Programme Still in Effect
While the United States has welcomed the efforts made by St Kitts and Nevis to tighten its citizenship by investment programme, and is working with the federation to make the programme a model one, according to US Ambassador Linda Taglialatela, a May 2014 FINCEN advisory from the US Treasury that targeted Basseterre over its CBI programme is not likely to go away anytime soon.
The advisory expressed about US concerns that so-called illicit actors were using St Kitts and Nevis passports for sanctions busting activity, and that the programme, described as lax at the time, required urgent revamping.
Bridgetown-based Taglialatela in an interview with WINN FM on Tuesday, said she understands why Caribbean countries operate economic citizenship programmes in these harsh economic times.
“There are obviously economic benefits to the programme, we have no opinion one way or the other, what we do ask is that people do have due diligence and set up a programme that has controls and balances to it, to ensure that the people that are getting citizenship through the programme are actually people who you really want to be there. I think that at the beginning we had a number of questions, I think working with the St Kitts and Nevis government we have been able to tighten up the controls on the programme. I think there are a lot of changes that were made for the good.
“We are working with St Kitts and Nevis to look at how we can work with the Department of Treasury on the FINCEN advisory. I am not sure that the advisory will go away but what we’re hoping is that they will be able to refine it and make it less restrictive,” she said.
The American ambassador acknowledged that the US has concerns about CBI programmes in the region, especially in the area of due diligence.
She outlined specific measures she would like to see implemented to make these programmes top of the line.
“We just want to make sure that you have a programme set up that will provide you with the security you need to ensure that you know who you are giving the citizenship to. Again, we have worked with the various countries and talk to them about what we consider to be acceptable criteria. I would prefer that each country require the individual to come to the country to be fingerprinted and have their fingerprints on file for passport purposes and other things. I know I would feel more comfortable because then you know who you are dealing with and if you have bio-metric data on individuals then you can perform additional checks and balances on people to see exactly where they stand.
“I understand that by one country making you do it and the other country not it may in fact some way disadvantage your programme over someone else’s, so I understand why some are reluctant to do it, but it would be nice if they could set a standard across the five countries that have programmes in an attempt to rationalize their programmes a little bit more,” she explained.
Taglialatela emphasised that proper vetting of applicants for citizenship is key.
She told WINN FM that properly implemented first steps along with other necessary measures will help enhance the effectiveness of the programme.
“Each of the countries has a process by which they vet candidates, they do research into their backgrounds, they check for different things in their records, whether they have criminal records, whether there are any questions about where their money came from or where their money is coming from. They do a whole host of background checks on people and they decide whether or not they want to do it.
“I honestly believe that if you are going to have an effective programme again, you’re going to have to bring the individual here. There should be some kind of residency requirement, whether you come once a year to the island particularly if you’re going to need to revalidate your passport. I think that everyone went to bio-metric data passports and the individuals have to come here and meet immigration authorities and go through a final interview and provide bio-metric data and get their passports here in the country, it would be more sound,” she added.
Taglialatela was on an official visit to St Kitts and Nevis.
She met with premier of Nevis Vance Amory and Deputy Premier Mark Brantley on Tuesday, and she had discussions with Prime Minister Timothy Harris on Wednesday.