The Covid-19 pandemic has changed our everyday life. Travel restrictions and global lockdowns compelled many high-net-worth individuals to re-evaluate priorities and means to accomplish them. Turbulent social, economic, or political times force wealthy people to think again about those opportunities, which a second passport or a ‘golden visa’ creates.
In the heat of the pandemic, almost all major immigration and relocator companies reported about the increased inquiries about alternative residency and citizenship by investment programs. If before the pandemic, one of the major motives for applying to such programs was to enhance international mobility; now, the quality and accessibility of the healthcare system have become decisive factors.
The pandemic has made the process of acquiring a second passport easier and more affordable. Some Caribbean states have introduced limited-time offers and reduced the investment thresholds. For instance, the federation of St Kitts & Nevis slashed the minimum contribution fee under the Sustainable Growth Fund option for the family of four and couples by $45,000 and $25,000, respectively. This coveted offer had been in force for about a year and a half and expired on December 31, 2021. At the same time St Lucia has started to offer a special ‘Covid-19 Relief Bonds’ for $250,000, while the minimum investment amount for these interest-free bonds previously was $500,000. Unlike St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia has decided to extend the offer and ‘Covid-19 Relief Bonds’ will be available at least until the end of 2022.
But it is not just reduced cost that has changed. Once the global lockdowns had been imposed, administrations of Caribbean citizenship by investment programs started to accept applications remotely. Even before the pandemic, applicants to these programs were not required to travel to the Caribbean – all application job was done by the intermediary firms, Authorized Agents, selected by the applicant. Investors just need to provide the Agent with all required documentation and certificates, and in the end, second passports for the whole family can be delivered directly to their homes.
The most straightforward and easy application process of the citizenship by investment programs are in the Caribbean and the Oceanian island-nation of Vanuatu. Programs of St. Kitts & Nevis, Grenada, Dominica, Antigua & Barbuda, St Lucia, and Vanuatu do not require any kind of special managerial experience, education, or language tests. Physical residing in those countries is not optional, neither prior nor after the citizenship is granted.
In the beginning, almost all immigration firms perform an online consultation with prospects and future clients. During this procedure, immigration experts and lawyers will thoroughly evaluate your needs and objectives and suggest ways of achieving them. Specialists will meticulously recommend you the most appropriate program for you and the investment option for it.
In general, there are possibilities to invest in real estate, purchase government bonds and securities, make a non-refundable contribution, or invest in a business. All these can be done remotely, with the help of the Authorized Agent and lawyers.
Your selected Authorized Agent will perform its own due diligence in order to maximally reduce the risk of application rejection. Rejected applications are black spots on the reputation of the firm and are highly undesirable. All duties and responsibilities will be written in a retainer agreement with the Authored Agent, including the time frame of the application process. You will need to collect the required documentation in accordance with a special checklist. Some countries may have special requirements, while others do not. That is why a professional consultation with the immigration lawyer is highly recommended.
Authorized Agents will submit your citizenship by investment application to the relevant government agency, which takes several months to process the application. St Kitts & Nevis and Dominica even offer citizenship and a second passport through the Accelerated Application Process (AAP) and Fast-Track routes. But the record probably belongs to Vanuatu, where you can obtain citizenship in just 45 days. All these routes envisage a non-refundable contribution to the special governmental fund, and investment thresholds start from $100,000.
Remarkably, the Caribbean countries and Vanuatu allow scanning fingerprints remotely and perform an oath of allegiance online through messengers. The pandemic has changed office life as well, but the application process kept straightforwardness. Moreover, you can buy real estate in a country without even traveling there. However, you will have to sign your legal representative for that case.
Enrolling in the citizenship by investment program assumes that you will need to open a bank in a foreign country. Access to alternative banking services will definitely come as a perk of your second passport. It can help to internationalize your business.
The issued second passports are sent via the delivery service to the Authorized Agent and afterward be transferred to you. By obtaining new citizenship, you are becoming entitled to those rights, which are due for the locals of your new country. Your future generations can inherit these rights.
It has been around three decades that the citizenship and residency by the investment industry have started to blossom. Today, more and more states across the globe are launching their schemes to attract more investment and skilled people; you can choose from various options.
Below are the countries of the Caribbean, with some characteristics, where you can acquire a second passport or residency, in addition to Vanuatu, Turkey, Malta, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Cyprus, Greece, Portugal, and Spain.
St. Kitts & Nevis:
It started in 1984.
Investment threshold – $150,000
A second passport in 60 days, with visa-free travel to more than 156 destinations, including the EU Schengen area.
Started in 1993
Investment threshold -$100,000
A second passport in 60-90 days, with visa-free access to 137 destinations.
Started in 2012;
Investment threshold – $150,000
A second passport in 90-120 days, with visa-free access to around 143 destinations, including the EU, China, Russia. Possibly apply for the E-2 investor visa, which gives you the right to reside and run a business in the United States legally.
Investment threshold – $100,000
A second passport in 90-120 days, with visa-free access to 132 destinations worldwide, including the EU.
Antigua & Barbuda
Started in 2012;
Investment threshold – $100,000
A second passport in 90-120 days, with visa-free access to more than 140 destinations, including the Schengen area.
It started in the 2010s and reformed in 2019
Investment threshold – $130,000
A second passport in 45 to 60 days, with visa-free travel to 130 countries, including the EU Schengen Area.
Reformed in 2019
Investment threshold – buying a real estate with a minimum value of $250,000
A second passport with the opportunity to acquire an E-2 investor visa in the United States, granting visa-free travel to 111 countries and territories.
Started in 2014, reformed in 2020 – Malta’s Citizenship by Naturalization for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment Program
Minimum investment threshold – EUR 600,000 plus renting (EUR 16,000 per year) or buying a real estate with a minimum value of EUR700,000.
A second passport in 12 to 36 months, with EU rights and visa-free travel to more than 182 countries and territories, including the United States.
You can also apply to the Malta Permanent Residence Programme (MPRP) and obtain residency status in Malta. The new ID cards – ‘golden visas’ can be delivered by the Authorized Agent to any address.
Cyprus started its citizenship by investment program back in 2011 and suspended it in November 2020. Although, it maintains a residency by investment scheme. You have to buy real estate with a minimum value of EUR 300,000.
Issued in about 120 days, an Identity Card allows you freely to travel across the EU.
Greece has only residency by investment program started since 2013.
If you want to obtain a Greek ‘golden visa’, you will have to buy real estate in Greece with a minimum value of EUR 250,000
Issued in about 60 days, Identity Card allows freedom to travel across the EU.
Portugal launched the residency by investment program in 2013.
The investment threshold starts from EUR 280,000 into real estate.
The Identity Card issued in 90 days allows you to reside in Portugal and travel across the EU.
Spain has run a residency by investment program since 2013
A minimum investment of EUR 500,000 into real estate is required to apply for the program
The Spanish Identity Card is issued in about 60 days, allowing you to reside and work in Spain and access visa-free the whole EU Schengen Area.