Modern programs for obtaining citizenship by investment have appeared relatively recently. The island jurisdiction of Saint Kitts and Nevis was the first to issue ‘golden passports’ (another name for such programs) in 1984. At that time, it was a real breakthrough. Since then, many investors have perceived Caribbean citizenship as a backup emergency option that will allow you to protect yourself and your family from possible force majeure situations in your home jurisdiction.
- How a Haiti passport became the forerunner of modern citizenship by investment programs
- Why is it essential to have an escape hatch in the example of Venezuela
- ‘Golden passport’ programs in modern realities
- Traditional options for obtaining a second citizenship
- Figures and facts about Caribbean citizenship by investment
- Recommendations and conclusions
How a Haiti passport became the forerunner of modern citizenship by investment programs
The prototype of modern citizenship by investment programs (also called ‘golden passport’ or ‘offshore passport’ programs) appeared in the 1930s. At that time, the reasons for the CBI program’s appearance were completely different, not related to business, tax planning, or asset protection.
In those days, dark clouds gathered over continental Europe, especially the Jewish population. People were in great danger just because they did not work on Saturday or their last name had a specific ending, such as ‘stein’ or ‘berg’. If CBI (citizenship by investment) programs had existed at that time, there would have been significantly fewer victims among the Jewish people. The only real possibility was a Haiti passport, but the availability of this option was relatively low.
Another problem was the vagueness and uncertainty of prospects, as well as the unwillingness to leave their homes. Undoubtedly, many Jews would give their savings to obtain a Haiti passport if they knew what was going to happen next. But in the first half of the 1930s, there was hope that order would soon return to Europe.
Only 100 families from Eastern Europe, who in 1937 sailed to the American continent, risked breaking away from their homes. In fact, they become the first people to test a CBI program. They chose not the US, Brazil, or Argentina, which were the usual migratory destinations of the time. Jews who left Eastern Europe became citizens of Haiti. Only this country in those distant times offered the opportunity to obtain the so-called ‘golden passport’.
A few words about the price requested by the Haitian authorities: in 1937, it was pretty high – USD 5000 (about USD 100,000 in modern terms). Many Jews considered it too high and stayed at home. They would soon regret it, but it would be too late. That is why only 100 Jewish families decided to move to Haiti. The citizenship of Haiti became about the same as the famous Schindler’s list for 1200 Polish Jews. In this way, they were able to survive by obtaining the first citizenship by investment in the world’s history.
Why was such a sizeable historical introduction needed? We wanted to show you that citizenship by investment programs are not only about the prospect of material benefits. Caribbean citizenship (it is no longer possible to move to Haiti by purchasing a ‘golden passport’) is an effective protection for your family, an escape hatch in case of force majeure. This is especially true given that Caribbean citizenship is one of the most affordable. Therefore, many people will be able to obtain a Caribbean passport and not just the wealthiest.
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Why is it essential to have an escape hatch in the example of Venezuela
If the historical parallels seem too far-fetched for you, here is a fresh example of how an ‘offshore passport’ could save the lives of people locked up in their own country. When the internal political situation in Venezuela deteriorated significantly (2014), the country’s economy quickly went downhill.
Inflation accelerated significantly, exports fell, and prices and unemployment soared. Against that background, many citizens of Venezuela wanted to leave the country and save their families. Caribbean citizenship would be an excellent option for many Venezuelans, and optimists even discussed historical parallels with Haiti.
But these plans never materialized into something concrete. Jews who moved to Haiti in 1937 managed to leave Germany before the anti-Jewish hysteria became part of the national policy. The citizens of Venezuela were even less fortunate in this respect. The sharp depreciation of the national currency made emergency investments in CBI impossible. They could not leave even as refugees without obtaining a residence permit. All CBI programs required investments that no one had. As a result, most Venezuelans, to some extent, repeated the fate of the Jews, who considered the move to Haiti untimely in 1937.
Such historical parallels, in this case, are pretty appropriate. If the Venezuelans had obtained an ‘offshore passport’ in advance, they could have saved their families. But they decided that citizenship by investment programs were too expensive and untimely.
‘Golden passport’ programs in modern realities
In the 21st century, CBI programs are not something unique as they were in the last century. A Haiti passport in the 1930s and current offshore CBI programs are fundamentally different proposals. Those who seek to protect their families and insure against any force majeure have much more choice in 2022.
Caribbean offshore jurisdictions provide more opportunities and more freedom. They do not limit the owner and do not tie them to a specific country. This is an almost ideal option for those interested in CBI who care about the sum of all characteristics, not individual indicators. But to appreciate the offer five Caribbean countries are ready to make to you (Antigua and Barbuda, Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Lucia), you need to understand what benefits you get.
The main advantages of obtaining a Caribbean passport:
- Travel freedom.
- Escape hatch for you and your family.
- Freedom to conduct business – traditional or offshore.
- Legal tax optimization (both personal and corporate).
- Simplified and accelerated opening of bank accounts.
- Classic British education for children. Families with minors will be able to take full advantage of the educational system built on the age-old principles and traditions of the United Kingdom.
Traditional options for obtaining second citizenship
Citizenship by investment programs are not the only option for obtaining second citizenship for yourself and your family members. If we leave out ‘golden passport’ in any of its incarnations (not necessarily Caribbean CBI – there are similar proposals in other countries), only traditional ways remain.
How can you change citizenship without participating in CBI programs:
- Right of soil (‘jus soli’) principle. A child born in a particular country that follows this principle automatically becomes its citizen. The nationality of the parents does not matter.
- Right of blood (‘jus sanguinis’) principle. A child born to a citizen of the country receives the same status as one of the parents. The child’s place of birth does not matter.
- By ancestry. Citizenship can be obtained if one of the person’s ancestors was a citizen of the country (most often – grandparents, less often – great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers).
- Naturalization. This is traditional and the most common way to move to another country. If a Haiti passport could be bought, then during naturalization, you have to earn a passport of the new country. First, you have to get a residence permit, live in the country for a certain period (a pretty long time), and learn its language and culture. And only after that, you can apply for citizenship by naturalization.
- By marriage. This is a compromise option in terms of time and cost, located between classical naturalization and citizenship by investment programs (it depends heavily on the country).
The conclusion from a direct comparison of all currently available options for obtaining citizenship is obvious. If you are not ready to wait 5-10 years, you have no relatives from another country, and creating and maintaining romantic relationships seems too insecure, Caribbean citizenship by investment (also known as ‘golden passport’, ‘offshore passport’, CBI) will be a perfect option. And for many, this will be the only option.
Figures and facts about Caribbean citizenship by investment
An ‘offshore passport’ that will protect your family and minimize losses in case of negative changes in your home country has been a noticeable trend over the last few years. Citizenship by investment programs have come a long way from a Haiti passport in the 1930s to current offerings in the Caribbean and dozens of offshore jurisdictions around the world. But Haiti’s proposal came first, and this should not be forgotten.
Chronology of CBI offers:
- 1984 – Saint Kitts and Nevis.
- 1993 – Commonwealth of Dominica.
- 2013 – Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Cyprus (citizenship by investment program was closed in 2021).
- 2015 – Vanuatu.
- 2016 – Saint Lucia.
- 2017 – Turkey.
- 2018 – Moldova (citizenship by investment program was closed in 2020).
- 2019 – Montenegro, North Macedonia.
The approximate level of costs for obtaining a ‘golden passport’ (in thousand USD):
|Country offering CBI||One applicant||Husband + wife||Family of 4|
|Antigua and Barbuda||148||158||161|
|Commonwealth of Dominica||119||175||203|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||193||200||203|
Recommendations and conclusions
Citizenship by investment and a ‘golden (offshore) passport’ is a case where timely measures taken to protect your family’s interests are definitely worth the money spent. Even if everything goes well in your home jurisdiction (we sincerely wish this is true), citizenship by investment can be helpful.
There are many examples of this, and Caribbean CBI is just one of the possible options (perhaps one of the best, but not the only one). After all, there is nothing more important in the world than the safety of the family. And citizenship by investment programs are a perfect tool to achieve this goal. With the help of our experts, you can make the best choice for your specific needs.
You can find extended information on the topic in our other articles: Foreign citizenship by investment in 2022: all available options and Caribbean Citizenship by Investment and Immigration to the Region.
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