Opinions & Features November 23, 2020 at 12:00 pm

Here’s why Africans are buying citizenship in the Caribbean island of St. Kitts and Nevis

Abu Mubarik November 23, 2020 at 12:00 pm

November 23, 2020 at 12:00 pm | Opinions & Features

Basseterre, St. Kitts. ST. KITTS AND NEVIS CIB UNIT

Many African countries rank low on the Henley & Partners Passport Index, which ranks the world’s passports according to the countries their holders can visit without a prior visa. The low rankings of many African nations mean that they can visit fewer countries now than they could in previous years without a visa.

The effect of this is, it hinders their chances of traveling across Europe and America as well as the opportunity to access international education in European and American institutions for their wards.

As such, many African elites are finding ways to ease business travel, get elite education for their wards in Western countries and a second home for holidays. The Caribbean island of St. Kitts and Nevis, through its Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP), comes in handy for them. The CIP has been in operation since 1984 as a means to attract investment to the Island and also provide citizenship.

Its passport enables visa-free access to 156 countries including the EU Member States, making it the strongest CBI passport in the Caribbean and the 27th strongest in the world, according to the 2020 Henley and Partners Passport index.

The program has witnessed a growth in application from African nations, particularly Nigeria and South Africa, Les Khan, CEO of the St. Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment Unit tells Face2Face Africa.

This has been due to the fact that the majority of African countries do not rank very highly in passport power indices, which limits individuals and their families when it comes to business expansion and lifestyle opportunities.

“Of course, this growth in interest from African applicants has also been made possible thanks to our tailored dedication to the market. I myself have had the pleasure to travel to your continent, most recently when I was in Nigeria just before the pandemic to host events in Lagos and Abuja.
We are very happy to see increased attention from African applicants and are committed to continuing to offer these opportunities with the highest level of professionalism and quality,” he says.

The route to citizenship in St. Kitts and Nevis (SKN) can be achieved through two options. The first is an investment in an approved real estate project, and the second is through a donation to the country’s Sustainable Growth Fund.

Citizenship may be acquired through an investment in a pre-approved real estate project, which may include hotel shares, villas, and condominium units. The minimum real estate investment is USD $200,000 (resalable after seven years) or USD $400,000 (resalable after five years).

Alternatively, applicants can invest in the twin-island nation’s Sustainable Growth Fund. The time has never been more compelling to invest in this option, as for a limited time only, until January 15, 2021, families of up to four people will be able to secure this platinum standard of citizenship at the substantially discounted rate of USD $150,000 (down from USD $195,000).

Despite the feasibility of obtaining citizenship from the Caribbean nation, Khan says SKN is committed to upholding the platinum standard of its citizenship program through robust due diligence and an efficient application process.

“Our deep four-stage screening process, which includes stringent checks made against sanctioned, terrorist financing/activity, anti-money laundering and international criminal databases is conducted by an experienced and independent third- party. In addition, all applicants go through a mandatory screening with international law enforcement agencies including Interpol. Our process remains efficient, allowing low-risk applicants to be accepted in as little as 60 days through our Accelerated Application Process,” he says.

In this interview, we discuss with Khan, the CEO of SKN Citizenship by Investment Unit, about the program.

  1. Kindly explain the concept of Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP) to our readers

In one sentence, Citizenship by Investment programs allow individuals and their families to obtain  second citizenship following an approved investment in the country of their choosing. In today’s uncertain world, people want the ability to travel the globe on their own terms with confidence and flexibility. Globalization has been a strong catalyst for people to seek business and lifestyle opportunities that transcend borders and physical limitations. In a nutshell, a second citizenship grants global mobility, an increased element of security and access to financial opportunities.

Today the St. Kitts and Nevis passport enables visa-free access to 156 countries including EU Member States, making it the strongest CBI passport in the Caribbean and the 27th strongest in the world according to the 2020 Henley & Partners Passport index. In practice, this can for example mean easier access to international education institutions in Europe or the Americas for children, and increased flexibility for their parents to visit them while abroad. In many ways a second citizenship offers peace of mind and increased freedom in numerous aspects of life, from travel, to business and personal finances.

St. Kitts and Nevis is the pioneer of the CBI industry. Since its inception in 1984, the St. Kitts and Nevis CBI program has helped progress the development of the small island state away from its historic sugar farming industry and onto a more sustainable footing, by helping to grow a thriving tourism industry and allowing the country to invest in its national infrastructure. The program has enabled St. Kitts and Nevis to become one of the fastest growing economies in the Caribbean.

The route to citizenship in St. Kitts and Nevis (SKN) can be achieved through two options. The first is an investment in an approved real estate project, and the second is through a donation to the country’s Sustainable Growth Fund. Both options allow you to obtain citizenship of the idyllic Federation in just two to four months, all from the comfort of your own home.

As the world’s oldest CBI program, SKN is committed to upholding the platinum standard of its citizenship program through robust due diligence and an efficient application process. Our deep four-stage screening process, which includes stringent checks made against sanctioned, terrorist financing/activity, anti-money laundering and international criminal databases is conducted by an experienced and independent third- party. In addition, all applicants go through a mandatory screening with international law enforcement agencies including Interpol. Our process remains efficient, allowing low-risk applicants to be accepted in as little as 60 days through our Accelerated Application Process.

2. Tell us why the program has received global attention and how many passports you have issued so far

St. Kitts and Nevis is the legacy CBI program, being the oldest and most recognized in the world. As a result, the country continues to attract applications from across the globe and is known for its innovative approach to citizenship as well as its efficiency. Indeed, we have worked hard to maintain a quick and efficient application process without neglecting the all-important due diligence checks. These aspects have allowed us to sustain demand and maintain the quality of our program over time.

The global political and health circumstances in which we currently find ourselves have only exacerbated this demand. Many applicants are seeking security for their families, and they can do just that by becoming citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis, which is located in a peaceful and prosperous part of the Caribbean free from political and economic discord. SKN citizenship is an insurance policy – one that allows investors to safeguard the interests of their families all while granting them access to new cultural and leisure experiences.

While we are proud of the continued interest in our program, due to privacy laws and to uphold our commitment to ensuring the confidentiality of our applicants, we cannot disclose the exact number of passports issued so far. 

3. Why is the CIP popular in Africa than any other continent?

We have had the pleasure to witness a growth in applications from Africa, with a number of nations continuing to achieve impactful economic growth over the past few years, contributing both to increased wealth for African investors and ambitions to expand their opportunities globally. Indeed, a majority of African countries do not rank very highly in passport power indices, which limits individuals and their families when it comes to business expansion and lifestyle opportunities. Enabling profitable investments and access to international education opportunities, the Citizenship by Investment program of St. Kitts and Nevis provides a new way to bridge opportunities that had previously not been possible.

Of course, this growth in interest from African applicants has also been made possible thanks to our tailored dedication to the market. I myself have had the pleasure to travel to your continent, most recently when I was in Nigeria just before the pandemic to host events in Lagos and Abuja.
We are very happy to see increased attention from African applicants and are committed to continuing to offer these opportunities with the highest level of professionalism and quality.

4. Which countries in Africa patronize the program the most and why?

Our program provides benefits that are to be enjoyed by all prospective applicants from across Africa. Of course, some countries have a passport power that is slightly lower than others but the increased access that citizenship of  St. Kitts and Nevis provides means for a substantial increase in mobility, creating benefits for all.       

Among African countries, the two that have shown a constant and stable stream of applications are Nigeria and South Africa, countries that have relatively larger economies and wealth. However, there is great potential for more countries in Africa to enjoy the benefits of a second citizenship.

5. Can you tell us the class of people who patronize this program in Africa?

We have mostly seen interest from successful and established business figures who have both the capacity and the will to obtain second citizenship to expand their global capabilities, gain further security for their assets, and move between borders more freely. These applicants see the competitive returns generated through the CBI program as a real plus, for example through the investment in prestigious real estate projects.                                                                            

We have also registered interest from high-net-worth individuals that see second citizenship as a way to access better lifestyle opportunities, for example  eased access to international education for their children.  The idyllic and exclusive nature of St. Kitts and Nevis is also a key factor in decision-making for potential investors, as is the international connectivity of the twin-island nation.  

6. Are there any future plans to set up (more) offices in Africa to attract more people?

We truly welcome the increased demand in Africa and are committed to meeting this as best we can, by providing the high level of service that makes our CBI program the platinum standard of the industry. At the moment we continue to offer a strong international network of agents that are able to successfully take applications in Africa, however, this does not mean we are not considering increased developments in the future with the great potential of the region.

Following the pandemic, we will continue to show our commitment to the region as we have previously done, through dedicated events and business trips alongside the constant and supportive presence of our network of agents. Despite the pandemic, we have already addressed the increasing demand by being the first program to allow for a digitalized application process which accepts documents completely online, and will continue to develop our digital presence while the pandemic keeps us from developing our physical one.

7. How much does one require to be part of the CIP and get the passport of St. Kitts and Nevis

The route to citizenship in St. Kitts and Nevis can be achieved both through investment in approved real estate or through a donation to the country’s Sustainable Growth Fund, and takes between two to four months. Citizenship may be acquired through an investment in a pre-approved real estate project, which may include hotel shares, villas, and condominium units. The minimum real estate investment is USD $200,000 (resalable after seven years) or USD $400,000 (resalable after five years).

Alternatively, applicants can invest in the twin-island nation’s Sustainable Growth Fund. The time has never been more compelling to invest in this option, as for a limited time only, until 15 January 2021, families of up to four people will be able to secure this platinum standard of citizenship at the substantially discounted rate of USD $150,000 (down from USD $195,000).

8. How long will this program run?

As the pioneers of the CBI program, we will continue to offer our services for as long as there is demand in the marketplace for the platinum standard of economic citizenship. The ongoing pandemic has been a significant incentive for applicants, who are seeking the security and stability that we can offer. This has only strengthened our resolve as we remain committed to delivering value and opportunities through the CBI program to all applicants, and aim to maintain its contribution to our country, which is more important than ever in these times.

9. Besides having the passport of St. Kitts and Nevis which makes traveling easier for people from Africa, are there any other incentives?

Not only do people want to overcome travel visa limitations but they also want to be able to go someplace peaceful and beautiful at any given moment, independently of international turmoil. This is why security for citizens, particularly in these uncertain political times, is very important to us. And of course an investment in our Eastern Caribbean nation is a luxury of its own, with its pristine white sandy beaches, lush island forests and a warm climate that has attracted international tourists to its shores for years.  

The benefits of a second citizenship are also coupled with significant financial opportunities. Indeed, the real estate investment route through which applicants can gain citizenship of St. Kitts and Nevis offers  competitive returns on resalable real estate opportunities, which is extremely timely given the ongoing boom in our constriction industry, with the sector accounting for over 18% of our national GDP between 2015 and 2018. In addition to this, our low tax regime exempts citizens from taxes on worldwide income, capital gains and inheritance.

This is all in the context of St. Kitts and Nevis having been forecasted to see the strongest projected growth rate of 3.5%  in the Eastern Caribbean according to the United Nations Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

10. Is there any other thing you may wish to add that was not asked?

One important element I wanted to underline is that investment from the Citizenship by Investment program truly creates added value for all, from investors to our local population. The funds from the CBI program are poured back into the islands and directly contribute to the economic and social development of the nation and its people. Indeed, the program has made a significant contribution to the local economy, with St. Kitts and Nevis achieving the fourth-highest GDP per capita in the Caribbean according to the International Monetary Fund. The funds truly make a difference to the economic growth and social improvement of our country as they target resources into priority areas such as education, health, climate change resilience, infrastructure, and tourism. The true definition of a CBI program like ours is opportunity in all its forms.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the tremendous work of our Prime Minister Dr. the Honorable Timothy Harris, re-elected in the midst of the pandemic through a free and fair election, demonstrating the strength of our democracy and the efficiency of our judicial systems. His Team Unity government continues to provide stable and effective governance for our country, which has been a key element in continuing to attract applicants from across the globe.

This leadership has been more important than ever this year, with St. Kitts and Nevis emerging as one of the model countries in its handling of the pandemic, receiving international recognition for its swift response.  Early implementation of our government’s “Life First” strategy – restricting lucrative cruise ship visits and conducting stringent checks of commercial airline passengers, at a time when many countries were doing relatively little – led to St. Kitts and Nevis being the last country in the Americas to confirm its first coronavirus case. Just 19 people have contracted mild forms of the disease so far, with no cases still active and zero fatalities.

We also had to respond quickly to sustain our economy and ensure the livelihoods of our people. Thanks to our responsible and precise fiscal planning, we immediately rolled out the biggest economic stimulus package in the Eastern Caribbean, one of just under USD $50 million.

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