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Revamp of St. Kitts and Nevis Citizenship By Investment Program Curbs Wait Times

The Second Citizenship Market is Increasing

St. Kitts and Nevis, a two-island country in the West Indies, has probably the most discussed Citizenship by Investment Programme in the world. The program was introduced in 1984, just after St. Kitts & Nevis gained its independence from Great Britain; making it the oldest program of its kind. The country has had a rough history when it comes to its Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP). In the first decades, there was little interest in the program, and then this interest skyrocketed, leading to long processing wait times. Even worse, there were some concerns with the country’s due diligence process which, once discovered led to an overreaction by the government that turned away worthy, potential CIP applicants. Now; however, reforms are putting this program back on the map.

Why Did St. Kitts & Nevis Need to Reform its Citizenship by Investment Program?

Initial improvements to the country’s CIP program started before the country signed a visa waiver agreement with the European Union in May 2009, but the most recent, and greatest advances were initiated in 2014 by the former Douglas government. Some saw these changes as too little too late and that the government was forced into doing them following some major revelations about the program, including that Alizera Moghadam, an economic citizen of St. Kitts & Nevis with Iranian origin was travelling on a St. Kitts & Nevis diplomatic passport. He claimed that he has paid US$1 million for this diplomatic passport. It appeared that someone took a bribe in order to issue the diplomatic passport. This controversy is one of the reasons that Douglas was not reelected.

In February 2014, when Dr. Timothy Harris became the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, he declared a revamp of the country’s citizenship program as one of his major priorities. Other major problems previously plaguing the citizenship program were lengthy delays, with citizenship applicants sometimes waiting more than two years.

What Was Wrong With the CIP Program?

Previous challenges to the Kittitian CIP program were many. Due to the demand of foreign governments following the realization that some people had been approved under the prior CIP regulations without today’s demanded background checks, the due diligence process of the CIP was increased. Starting in July 2014, the Citizenship by Investment Unit, the responsible department which processes the citizenship applications, increased its level of due diligence. They now even require a background check for any sponsor of an applicant’s application. Furthermore, they require now bank statements to prove the source of the applicant’s funds as well as detailed military records.

The Result of the Reform of the Kittitian Citizenship Program

In discussing the changes to the Citizenship by Investment process, the new Prime Minister said in October 2015, “We are restoring trust and confidence. In the last eight months, there has not been one public embarrassment on the program because difficulties are addressed through quiet diplomacy. Far from dead, we still have one of the best performing CIUs processing more applications per month than our regional competitors and more importantly providing more revenues than any of the other CIUs. This is an outstanding achievement for the Team Unity Government and the success of our reform efforts to date.”

Furthermore, there are tougher CIU directives in force which have denied some applications considered as a potential risk to the country’s and the citizenship program’s reputation. Not all of these denials are clearly comprehensible, and some critical voices say the denials for CIP applicants are just for the sake of it.

Citizen Application Management System

Beyond the due diligence adaptions, one of the major changes to the Citizenship by Investment applications process was the creation of the Citizen Application Management System (CAMS), which enables the officers to manage citizenship applications digitally and allows applicants to track the progress of their applications. With support of this tool the CIU is trying to reduce the processing time of citizenship applications. According to the government’s updates, the goal is for citizenship application processing time to be below three months; but the application processing times are currently beyond that goal.

Investors Regained Their Trust in the Citizenship Program of St. Kitts & Nevis

All these changes have made the route to citizenship through investment in St. Kitts & Nevis a very interesting option for those seeking a second citizenship. The country has shown its ability to handle this delicate situation, and has emerged from the situation, making improvements to the process. This proves that the citizenship of St. Kitts & Nevis comes with a stable democratic standing. Last but not least, the fact that St. Kitts & Nevis has spent so much effort into improving its CIP shows that it is not a just a passport scheme and that the country is truly interested in attracting new citizens to the country through the correct mechanisms.

The St. Kitts & Nevis Citizenship Programme in Brief

Those interested in becoming a citizen through an investment in St. Kitts and Nevis can either invest in a government-approved real estate project with a minimum investment of US$ 400,000, plus about US$80,000 of fees, or they may contribute irrevocably to the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) a minimum of US$250,000, plus fees of about US$30,000.

At Citizen Lane we know the approved Real Estate developments and can assist you with the choice of the right investment, which can generate yields. Furthermore, we will assemble the application together with you and file it with the authorities in St. Kitts & Nevis.

Once a citizen, there are a host of benefits including: visa free travel to 132 countries and territories including the Schengen countries, no physical residency requirements, no income tax, wealth tax or inheritance tax for citizens. St. Kitts & Nevis recognizes dual citizenship, and does not require people to renounce their current citizenship.