Citizenship by Investment is Global, and So is Residence by Investment

Caribbean: The citizenship by investment industry is one that, in recent years, has been growing exponentially. Born in the Caribbean’s Federation of St Kitts and Nevis, it is a phenomenon that has spread to all corners of the globe, including the Middle East, Europe, Asia, and even Oceania.

While some of this growth found its roots in the economic crisis, in the aftermath of which Bulgaria, Cambodia, Malta, and Cyprus all either launched or overhauled their citizenship by investment offerings, many recent launches are more rightly attributable to countries’ need to diversify their economy, stimulate foreign direct investment, and draw successful businesspersons to their shores.

In the past four years alone, five new citizenship by investment programmes were launched: the Montenegro Citizenship by Investment Programme in 2019, the Jordanian Citizenship by Investment Programme in 2018, the Turkey Citizenship by Investment Programme and the Vanuatu Development Support Programme in 2017, and the St Lucia Citizenship by Investment Programme in 2016.

Some of these new programmes are among the world’s most popular. This is the case, for example, for Turkey, where the Government revealed that, as of May 2020, 10,493 main applicants had been approved under its programme (a number, therefore, that excludes any family members that may have applied together with the main applicant). Of those 10,493 investors, 4,000 received citizenship between March 2020 and May 2020 alone.

Vanuatu’s citizenship by investment schemes have also been successful, particularly among applicants from China. In the first six months of 2020, twin programmes Vanuatu Development Support Programme and Vanuatu Contribution Programme brought in VT 7,094.2 million (around 63 million dollars) – a sum that amounted to 38% of the Government’s overall revenue, and that was around 32% higher than in the same time period in 2019.

To date, there are 12 active citizenship by investment programmes. The number was even higher in the summer (14), but, since then, both Malta and Cyprus have suspended their programmes pending a re-evaluation of their requirements and due diligence.

Indeed, much of the success of a citizenship by investment programme rests on due diligence, and the country’s ability to thoroughly vet applicants, their families, and their source of funds. The Caribbean has led the way in this respect, with countries enshrining multi-tiered due diligence regimes in their programme regulations. These regimes include background checks performed by specialised Government entities, as well as by external and independent due diligence firms. Intergovernmental agencies are also involved, including Interpol and the Joint Regional Communications Centre, which receive information from partner countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom. Due diligence also takes the form of banned nationality policies, which exclude people from countries where accurate due diligence cannot be performed.

While the citizenship by investment industry is certainly one that is popular and, in large part, successful, it pales in comparison to the residence by investment industry. Residence by investment programmes are far more widespread, encompassing countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Australia, Singapore, and Japan – to name but a small handful. Residence by investment nations have also seen incredible returns on their programmes. Between 2012 and August 2020, Portugal received €5,488,957,942.38 in investment. Spain is estimated to have generated a minimum of €711,000,000 in 2019 alone.

Citizenship and residence by investment have made their mark all across their globe, and, with the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic largely behind us and countries needing new ways to stimulate their economies, they look set not merely to stay, but to hasten their prominence.

Published: 20 November 2020

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