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Investments in “Golden Passport” of St Lucia Doubled in Financial Year 2021-2022

Foreign applicants for economic citizenship of St Lucia invested in the economy of the country twice as much money in the financial year 2021-2022 as they did a year before. The most notable change was a sharp growth of applications from foreigners buying real property in St Lucia in exchange for passports of the country. Independent experts recommend that the St Lucian Government should not ‘rest on laurels’ and use the surplus money wisely.

Saint Lucia

Record-breaking financial year

The St Lucian Citizenship-by-investment Unit (CIU) has finally published a report on the performance of the local citizenship-by-investment program in 2021-2022 financial year. A 70-page document contains various indicators that reflect the effectiveness of the program. The report shows that the St Lucian economic citizenship program was more successful than ever in the abovementioned financial period. The number of applications for citizenship from foreign nationals, the number of approved applications, and the amount of investment that the program attracted were record high.

583 applications were filed in the 2021–2022 financial year, which is 43% more than the year before. The immigration authorities of the Caribbean country approved 433 applications (the number includes the applications that were submitted in 2021–2022 and those submitted earlier). This is 38% more than the year before. Nine applications were rejected.

Saint Lucian Economic Citizenship Applications
Number of applications for St Lucian citizenship in yellow, number of approved applications in green, number of rejected applications in red, and number of withdrawn applications in grey. Source: St Lucian CIU.

The increase in the number of applications is mostly attributable to the opportunities to buy real property in St Lucia in exchange for passports that finally became fully available. The legislation of the country requires that a foreign investor should purchase only a piece of property that has been approved by the Government for immigration purposes if he/ she is to qualify for citizenship of St Lucia. There had actually been no Government-approved development projects before and thus, this route to St Lucian citizenship had been unavailable. As of today, however, several construction projects have been completed and approved by the Government of St Lucia so foreign nationals have a great choice of investment projects in the country. The number of applications for St Lucian citizenship from foreign nationals wishing to buy property in the country amounted to 184% in 2021-2022 of the number of similar applications a year before.

Nevertheless, non-returnable donations to the National Economic Fund (NEF) remained the most popular route to St Lucian citizenship (46% of all applications). At the same time, the percentage of applications for citizenship by investment into property increased from 20% in 2020-2021 to 40% in 2021-2022. The number of applications for St Lucian citizenship by investment into government bonds also grew even though the growth was modest: from 25 applications in 2020-2021 to 81 applications in 2021-2022.

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Citizenship by investment into property as the most economically sound option

If we measure the interest towards St Lucian citizenship by investment into property in dollars rather than in the number of applications, we will have a different picture. We will see that investments into property were the largest source of income that the national citizenship-by-investment program generated in the 2021-2022 financial year. 

We have to note that the Government Report mentioned above does reveal the exact amount of investments into real property that came from foreign nationals applying for St Lucian passports. But we can do our own maths and calculate the approximate investment amount that sale of real property in St Lucia brought.

The minimum required investment into property is US$ 300,000 in St Lucia and we can multiply this figure by 233, which is the number of applications. We should also account for possible application rejections and unprocessed applications by deducting 10%. These calculations will show us that foreign nationals buying property in St Lucia in exchange for passports of the country brought about 63 million US dollars to the local economy.

The total amount of investments made through donations to the NEF is quoted in the Report and it was 51.8 million US dollars. The investments in Government bonds amounted to 44.9 million dollars in 2021-2022.

In total, foreign nationals brought around 160 million US dollars to the St Lucian economy via the citizenship-by-investment program in the financial period discussed here. This is approximately twice as much as the year before.

Improvement of the financial statistics of the St Lucian CIU

The Government Report also shows the statistics of the national citizenship bureau performance. In the 2021-2022 financial year, the total income of the CIU (from provision of administrative services to foreign nationals applying for citizenship and issuance of immigration agents’ licenses) grew to 54.2 million East Caribbean dollars. This is 62% more than the year before.

The expenditures also grew, which is quite natural, but to a lower degree. The St Lucian CIU spent 25.7 million East Caribbean dollars in 2021-2022, which is 43% more than the year before. The following two items of expenditure amounted to 85% of total costs incurred by the CIU: due diligence procedures and commissions payable to immigration agents and promoters. Once again, the financial year of 2021-2022 was the most profitable year for the CIU in history.

The average application processing time was 75 days in the period discussed here. The application processing period fell within the 90-day limit set by the law, which had not always been the case before. However, the CIU officials claim that they are going to process applications for citizenship within 50 days in the near future. The accelerated application processing is not going to involve any additional costs for the applicants. Government officials hope that this feature of the national citizenship-by-investment program will allow St Lucia to ‘stand out from the crowd’, that is, compare favorably to other citizenship-by-investment programs available in the Caribbean and elsewhere.

Records to be broken in 2023

We must note that figures that the Report provides do not exactly show where the St Lucian citizenship-by-investment program stands at the moment. The financial year covers the period between April 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022. We wanted to develop an understanding of how efficient the program is right now and so we asked licensed immigration agents who help applicants to obtain second passports of St Lucia about their current figures.

The agents informed us that the number of applications had grown sharply during the last six months. In 2019-2020, a total of 193 applications for St Lucian citizenship were filed. Now, a single agent has already received a larger number of applications in the first quarter of 2023! Fancy that!

Experts are hesitant to put the success of the St Lucian citizenship-by-investment program in recent times down to a single factor. They believe that several factors have contributed to the improved performance of the program including some uncertainties in obtaining citizenship of other Caribbean countries by investment into real estate.

We are looking forward to reading the next Government Report that is going to come out in about 12 months and show the figures for the 2022-2023 financial year.

IMF calls on St Lucia and other Caribbean states to be careful in spending the money that their citizenship-by-investment programs generate

Nigel Chalk, acting Director of the IMF Western Hemisphere Department (see the photo below), urged the Caribbean Governments to put some of the surplus money aside. According to the IMF expert, the authorities of the countries administering citizenship-by-investment programs have to realize that the incomes from such programs are ‘highly volatile’.

Nigel Chalk

Speaking at a conference dedicated to the economic prospects of Latin American and Caribbean countries, Chalk told the journalists that the economic citizenship industry was of great importance for Caribbean states. He also assured them that his Washington-based organization was supportive of the work of the industry in the Caribbean.

“They (the economic citizenship programs) generate considerable incomes for the countries in the region. The money can be used to meet some pressing needs including social problems that exist. One must remember, however, that the Caribbean is susceptible to hurricanes. Besides, the local infrastructure has to be made more resistant to the consequences of climate change”, said the expert.  

“I assume that economic citizenship programs are of great importance for the Caribbean countries. I would like to make two notes, however. First, the income that they generate is unstable. For this reason, the money that the programs bring has to be spent with care. Second, the programs need to remain sustainable and the economic citizenship schemes need to continue improving. Their viability largely depends on their perception on the part of large world economies”, Chalk added.  

The IMF official stressed the importance of the transparency of citizenship-by-investment programs. He reminded the journalists that such programs were under close supervision of the EU as well as USA authorities.

Professional assistance in acquiring second citizenship of St Lucia

The St Lucian Citizenship-by-Investment Unit accepts family applications for citizenship of the country. Thus, you can obtain second passports of St Lucia for all members of your family. Please request a free expert consultation on applying for citizenship of St Lucia. We will help you choose the best financial route and the best piece of property that you can buy in St Lucia thus qualifying for citizenship of a beautiful Caribbean country.

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