The Antigua and Barbuda Economic Citizenship Program was established by the Government of the Caribbean country to support the island nation’s economy. It provides wealthy foreign investors with a clean track record a second passport and citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda in exchange for significant contributions to the country’s economic development.
Potential applicants and their families have to go through a solid vetting procedure. But after successfully completing all the procedures, they get a lot of great benefits. These include certain benefits in the UK and other Commonwealth countries (of which Antigua and Barbuda is a member), and visa-free travel to more than 13 dozen countries, including Canada (a unique benefit in the context of all other Caribbean citizenship by investment programs), guaranteed confidentiality, the right to dual citizenship, and a low tax burden (Antigua has no tax on foreign income, capital gains, dividends, gifts, wealth or inheritance).
But in the near future, the availability of the local citizenship by investment program may decrease somewhat. The authorities of this Caribbean country are considering excluding wealthy Syrians from the list of foreigners who are allowed to buy second citizenship by investment of Antigua and Barbuda. Experts on the world second passport market do not rule out that this is only the beginning of tightening the program. Thus, on the sidelines of the Government they already talk about abolishing the possibility of reselling real estate, the purchase of which allows to obtain a second passport of Antigua and Barbuda.
Syrian Citizens May be Banned from Buying Second Citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda
Following the terrorist attacks in the French capital of Paris, where nearly 1,500 people were killed, and which were organized, among other things, with the participation of militants from Syria, the Government of the Caribbean country of Antigua and Barbuda has begun considering the possibility of excluding Syrian citizens from the list of persons who are allowed to participate in the local program of citizenship by investment.
The terrorist group of Islamic State (ISIS) that controls part of Syria and Iraq, claimed responsibility for the bombings and shootings in the French capital. At the same time, many militants who took part in the attacks came to the territory of the Western European state under the guise of refugees.
Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne said that the initiative was driven by growing government concern about the terrorist threat. Caribbean officials want to make sure that the Economic Citizenship Program of Antigua and Barbuda is not used to promote or fund terrorist groups like ISIS, and other illegal activities. The politician also stated the need to tighten border controls in order to ensure national security.
It is fair to say that such steps had been taken by the Antiguan government before. In December 2014, for example, the local authorities decided to exclude citizens of Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea, Somalia, Yemen and Iran from the list of persons who are allowed to participate in the Economic Citizenship Program of Antigua and Barbuda.
Commenting on sanctions against Syrians, Browne said that continuous optimization of the citizenship by investment program is part of the national security strategy of Antigua and Barbuda. At the same time, he did not rule out the possibility of its periodic revision towards expanding or narrowing the existing list of countries whose citizens are prohibited from buying the second citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda. Everything will depend on the current situation in certain countries.
So, if you decide to get a second passport and citizenship by investment of Antigua and Barbuda, it is best to do so as early as possible. After all, some other countries might be added to the stop list. It is possible that this will be justified by other considerations besides terrorism. The Antiguan officials may be forced by the Western countries’ governments that have their own agenda.
Why is the Sale of Passports So Important for the Economy of Antigua and Barbuda?
The Antiguan Government values the reputation of its citizenship by investment program and seeks to minimize the risk of an unreliable foreigner or even a criminal obtaining a second citizenship by investment of Antigua and Barbuda. Antiguan officials focus primarily on the bitter experience of their neighbors.
A similar situation has previously damaged the economic citizenship program of St. Kitts and Nevis quite seriously. Due to the fact that an Iranian managed to obtain a diplomatic passport of that country not quite legally and named a false purpose of his visit when crossing the Canadian border with this ID (he was allegedly late for a meeting with the local Prime Minister), Canada reintroduced visa restrictions on citizens of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. Obviously, this has reduced the attractiveness of the Federation passports for foreign investors.
The Government of Antigua and Barbuda is trying to prevent such a scenario. The local citizenship by investment program brings too much money. Thus, according to CNN, the economic citizenship program of Antigua and Barbuda that was launched in 2013, has proved so popular and profitable that it now accounts for about 25% of the state income of this Caribbean country. So far, the program has been used by more than 1,500 wealthy foreigners (these are wealthy Chinese, Russians, and investors from the Middle East) which is quite an impressive figure for a small island country with a population of only about 90,000. At the same time, the success of Antigua contributed to the fact that the neighboring island states such as Grenada and Saint Lucia followed suit and launched their own programs.
The Government of Antigua is using this mechanism to attract investment and help revive the country’s weakening tourism industry by building new resorts with the financial support from those wishing to buy a second citizenship by investment of Antigua and Barbuda. In addition, Caribbean officials are channeling donations received to finance health care and education systems, as well as to repay debts to foreign creditors such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
At the same time, Antiguan officials are well aware that this source of income is in fact very unstable. A variety of factors can lead to a sudden halt in this financial flow from abroad. And all of that goes on against the background of the country’s increasing national debt the volume of which, according to the IMF experts, will grow by 2 percent of the GDP.
By the way, the IMF experts note that due to the volatile demand from wealthy foreigners considering obtaining a second passport and citizenship by investment of Antigua and Barbuda and the risk of a sudden halt in the financial proceeds from the sale of passports, the economic citizenship program should not be used to finance public spending. According to the International Monetary Fund, the money thus received should be used only to pay off public debt, create buffer funds and finance key strategic infrastructure projects.
Other Reasons to Obtain a Second Passport and Citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda
Yet another reason not to sack it and get a second passport and citizenship by investment of Antigua and Barbuda as soon as possible is the probability of the real estate resale getting cancelled. This refers to the real estate that is used as investment for obtaining Antiguan passport. Currently, this asset can be resold when the five-year mandatory ownership term expires. The real estate buyer also gets the right to buy a second citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda.
A number of Government officials, led by the President of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Damion Hobson, are promoting the abolition of this possibility by means of amendments to the law. According to Hobson, the right of investors to resell real estate can be harmful to the program. It has a negative effect on the current and future development projects and can lead to a permanent transition of real estate from one owner to another. As a result, implementation of new real estate projects will be slowed down. According to the politician’s estimates, this will have a significant negative impact on the construction sector and other segments of the small island nation’s economy, as well as make creating new jobs for Antiguans more difficult.
Hobson and his associates called on the Government to take urgent action to repeal this option by adjusting the law governing the economic citizenship program of Antigua and Barbuda.
Further Changes to the Antigua and Barbuda Economic Citizenship Program
But that is not all. Grand plans of the Antiguan officials also include establishing a mechanism to allow indigenous islanders to participate directly in the distribution of income from the Economic Citizenship Program of Antigua and Barbuda.
The essence of their new proposal boils down to the following. Let us say that an Antiguan owns a land plot in one of the regions where it is planned to develop a project financed under the Economic Citizenship Program of Antigua and Barbuda. In such a situation, the landowner may not sell his land, for example, for USD 1 million but take part in the citizenship by investment program. Such an Antiguan can become the founder of a development company, invite 10 investors to finance a project to build a multi-storey resort. Each of these investors will contribute USD 400,000. Thus, the Antiguan will collect USD 4 million. He will spend, for example, USD 3 million to build this resort. USD 1 million will be kept as a backup. At the same time, the project initiator will remain the land owner while the building located in the site will be owned by investors.
Local officials are currently negotiating the initiative with the interested parties. They did not share further details on the new initiative and did not give any specific dates for the launch of such projects, but they said that the mechanism could be rolled out as soon as possible. Either way, the relevant amendments should be first made to the law that governs the economic citizenship program of Antigua and Barbuda.
How Can I Buy a Second Citizenship by Investment and a Passport of Antigua and Barbuda
At this stage, wealthy foreigners who wish to buy a second passport and citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda have a large number of investment opportunities available. Investors are offered three types of investments, which distinguishes this program from its regional competitors in the Commonwealth of Dominica and St. Kitts and Nevis where they only offer two investment options. So, you can obtain a second citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda by choosing one of the following options:
- Firstly, a one-time non-refundable donation to the National Development Fund. This means a cash contribution to the state fund of a minimum amount of USD 100,000. Previously, this amount used to be USD 250,000 and USD 200,000, but the Government reduced it. In addition, there is a processing fee of USD 50,000 for the main applicant and their spouse, among other things, and it is possible to exempt up to two dependents from the fee. The offer applies to collective applications from families of four or fewer.
- Secondly, real estate investment. The applicant needs to invest at least USD 400,000 (fees and duties on top) in an officially approved development project. The property can be resold 5 years after purchase. It is the possibility of resale of the asset, as well as the right to rent it out after the purchase that make this investment option very popular at this stage.
- Thirdly, business investment. The applicant must invest at least USD 1,500,000 in an existing or proposed business in Antigua and Barbuda. Two or more applicants can make a collective investment in the local businesses. In this case, the investment amount per person must be at least USD 400,000, whereas the total investment should be at least USD 5,000,000. Businesses in which foreigners invest in to obtain a second citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda must be approved by the ABIA (Antigua and Barbuda Investment Authority).
Applications processing is quite simple and fast. It is possible to buy a second citizenship by investment of Antigua and Barbuda within 3 to 4 months. However, recently the program has become so popular that the applications processing can take up to 9 months. There is no requirement to visit the Caribbean country at the time of application or during its examination. The investor only needs to fulfill the formal requirement to visit their new homeland after naturalization and spend at least a few days in the Caribbean country within a five-year period after obtaining a Caribbean passport.
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