Caribbean Islands' Easy-Pay Citizenship Easier, Cheaper Than US

Wednesday, 13 Feb 2013 03:21 PM

By Michael Mullins

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For a hundred grand or so, a foreigner who's never stepped foot on Dominica or St. Kitts-Nevis can quickly become a citizen of one or the other eastern Caribbean islands.

To reduce national debt, the islands are selling citizenships for between $100,000 to $400,000, depending on what you bring to the table in terms of donations or investments. After the Arab Spring caused a surge in violence and regional instability, many from the Middle East with wealth are taking advantage of the offer.

Seem unseemly? The United States and other large nations do basically the same thing to attract what are called "economic citizens," but for far larger fees and with higher hurdles.

After 90 days of processing, including background checks, a foreigner can become a citizen on St. Kitts by making a $250,000 donation or a minimum real estate investment of $400,000. On Dominica, the cost to become a citizen is even less: $100,000.

St. Kitts has had the citizenship initiative since 1984, but the Arab Spring has brought it recent attention.

"The more they fight over there, the more political problems there are, the more applications we get here," Victor Doche, managing director of a company offering condominiums to new St. Kitts citizens, told The Associated Press.

"Investor visas" and citizenship programs are available in many nations, including the United States, Canada, Britain, and Austria, but they come at a much higher premium and it takes a far longer time to attain the status.

Foreigners who want to become U.S. citizens have two options to get a temporary visa: they can invest $1 million in a U.S. business that employs 10 or more people or they can offer $500,000 to a designated economically-depressed area. Then, after two years, the investor can apply for residency. The person must be a resident for at least five years before applying for full citizenship.

In Canada, demand for citizenship is so great that the country stopped accepting new applications in July, according to the AP.

The number of people who have recently purchased Caribbean citizenships is unknown. When the AP asked Dominica's Attorney General Levi Peter, he didn't give a number.

Former Dominica Attorney General Bernard Wiltshire said there were already around 3,000 economic citizens when he left government a decade ago. The country now has roughly 73,000 residents in total.

Due to the apparent success of the citizenship programs offered by St. Kitts and Dominica, other Caribbean island nations which now largely depend on tourism, including Antigua and Barbuda, are planning to launch similar programs to increase other revenues for their economies.

Related stories:

3 Scam U.S. Visa System for Seasonal Workers

Ship of Gay, Nude Passengers Barred From St. Kitts

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