So you want to move to one of the Eastern Caribbean islands and start a new life? There are many decisions and even more options involved in such a move, and one of them can be economic citizenship.
Why economic citizenship? Economic citizenship programmes in the region allow foreign nationals a fast track to full citizenship of a participating country, through a government sponsored programme. For both personal and professional reasons, this can be a perfect solution for a number of reasons. If you have made a commitment to a lifestyle change, economically, physically and emotionally you want to move forward and finalise that commitment as soon as possible, which can include becoming a citizen.
Of course, its not going to be a cheap option, but a great alternative to waiting the normal five or seven years for full citizenship with passport and voting rights. Although it can take up to 30 years in the worst case countries, and even then, there are no guarantees of success. So you must do your research carefully and find out which countries are most welcoming to new citizens.
There are few Caribbean countries with an active disincentive policy towards new citizenry, but the BVI is currently creating just that, so unless you were particularly determined to live and work in the BVI, you will find it an uphill struggle to start your new life there. For example, a new policy document states that businesses may not employ foreign workers for longer than 4.5 years, after which the worker must leave.
Most Eastern Caribbean countries do not have an economic citizenship programme, although many are amenable to an approach from a private individual with a very deep pocket.
It has to be a win/win situation, for the country and for the aspiring citizen. It has to be well thought out by each country to maximize the benefits, and those countries that have not set up the correct framework for the process have found themselves bogged down with their own bureaucracy and frustrated potential citizens. Small countries especially have to protect themselves with a legal framework that doesn't bend under political or commercial pressures. Countries with tiny gross national incomes of, for example, less than 200 million US dollars are small cheese for a private wealthy investor and could be bought out a number of times over! Nevertheless the benefits can be considerable and include, capital investment, generating a new wealth class, and giving room to motivated citizens who are likely to start businesses, add to the education and even the gene pool, and generally stimulating the economy.
Over the years different countries in the EC region have tried or implemented an economic citizenship programme but times change, and few of them have been particularly well done. Grenada's ground to a halt in 2001 and a local law firm made the following statement on its website: "In the light of the events of September 11th, the Government of Grenada has decided to temporarily suspend the Economic Citizenship Programme. The Government announced that there will be further review of requirements and procedures to ensure that when the programme resumes, the requirements will be even more stringent. No new applications were accepted after October 24, 2001. It is very unlikely that the programme will be resumed."
But this is at the opposite end of the spectrum from the Caribbean countries whose Economic Citizenship Programmes are alive, kicking and working well.
These are Dominica and the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. There are many, many good reasons for relocating to any of these three countries, and much of this has been said in previous articles, but it is important to know that behind the excellent framework of these Programmes sponsored by elected Governments, there is a genuine desire from the ground up to welcome new citizens and help them start a new life.
For both countries an application can be made on behalf of an individual, or an entire family (applicant, spouse and two unmarried dependant children). Those meeting the requirements of the investment programme are rewarded by full citizenship, including a passport and the right to permanently reside, vote and work in the participating country.
Set out below is everything you need to know in order to apply to one of these programmes. However if you want to quickly decide on the basis of cost alone, the total cost in government fees, investment and lawyers fees for economic citizenship for a single person in St. Kitts & Nevis is approximately US$400,000 and in Dominica is approximately US$97,500. Quiet a difference, but still expensive.