St Kitts
These second passport investment initiatives by Caribbean nations offer visa-free travel to more than 100 countries. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Wealthy UAE residents on the lookout for a second passport from one of the nations in the Caribbean had better start budgeting more for any such move.

Caribbean nations such as Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Grenada have introduced multiple changes to their Citizenship By Investment (CBI) programs. The passports that come with it offer visa-free travel to more than 100 countries, and that had been an especially strong pull for UAE investors who had signed up in the past.

Dominica introduced mandatory online or in-person interviews and said it would not process applications from persons denied from other CBI jurisdictions. In one stroke, the nation has tightened the scope of its program significantly.

Starting September 1, Grenada also introduced mandatory interviews.

St. Kitts’ significant changes include doubling the minimum investment threshold for all investment programs, government–approved real estate projects, and donations to growth funds.

For example, the Sustainable Island State Contribution (SISC) contributions (earlier known as the Sustainable Growth Fund) start at $250,000, double the minimum previous contribution. A family of up to four should now contribute $350,000 instead of $170,000.

The minimum investment amount in the Developer’s Real Estate Option is now $400,000. Moreover, the property must be held for seven years and can be re-sold once to another purchaser who wants to apply for CBI. (These and a slew of other changes came into effect July 27.)

St Kitts and Nevis, St Kitts & Nevis, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Kitts & Nevis
While Canada, the US and Australia remain the most popular choices for UAE residents considering a change, those citizen investment programs from select Caribbean nations had been quite popular with a niche base.

By tightening the norms for such investors, Caribbean nations could be a ‘short-term dip’ in investor interest.

Short-term slow down

“However, it should eventually pick up because UAE-based investors have displayed great enthusiasm for the schemes,” said Mahdi Mohammed, founder and CEO of Dubai-based Guide Consultants, a firm specialising in Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programs.

“Between 2019-22, there was a huge surge in demand, propelling our overall business growth to 80 per cent within the timeframe.”

Not for everyone - or anyone

That said, the changes will safeguard the integrity of the programs. “The change in rules will bring forward high-calibre investors, and be in line with EU and US requirements,” said Mohammed.

Caribbean passports are among the most sought-after in the UAE and the rest of the region, as they offer visa-free travel to over 120 countries. St. Kitts and Nevis, along with the CBI programs offered by Dominica, rank among the most favoured options.

UAE residents from China, Vietnam and Egypt are prominent among those actively exploring the investment programme.

“Numerous UAE-based investors here currently possess Caribbean passports,” said Moe Alhaj, CEO and founder of Migrate World.

“The changes are designed to maintain the integrity of the CIU scheme. Many individuals are happy with the new regulations as they establish a higher standard for CBI.

“It isn’t open to anyone; there are specific criteria for applying now.”

Quality over volume

Citizenship By Investment had been a core part of the revenue model of several Caribbean island nations. However, the focus is now on quality over volume, said Michael Martin, Head of St. Kitts and Nevis’ CBI program.

The changes will now garner the interest of ‘elite’ investors.

We continue to see positive growth from the UAE market thanks to the confidence applicants place in our program We seek quality investors over high volumes.

- Michael Martin

“I am confident that these changes will only increase our favourability with those investors who want a secure and stable base to hedge their bets.”

Martin dispelled the concerns of existing investors by saying the new rules don’t apply to investors who have already submitted their applications. He said, “All files submitted before July 27 this year will be processed according to the regulations that existed before this date.

Year-on-year growth
The global migration through the investment industry has grown from $2.9 billion in 2011 to $21.4 billion in 2022, according to Mimoun A. Assraoui, RIF Trust’s CEO and Latitude Group’s Vice-Chairman.

Last year, Uno Capital, another CBI consultancy, facilitated $27 million worth of investment towards the Caribbean and Turkey.