Successive governments in St. Kitts might have been one of the first countries in the Caribbean Community to allow foreigners to buy local citizenship and use its national passport to travel the world as if the person was actually born there but authorities in Antigua have in recent days been showing off various innovations of its version of the program.
Using the Citizenship by Investment Program to raise millions, several governments, most of them in the Eastern Caribbean which have lost revenues to free trade within the region, the collapse of the banana industry, the American crackdown on online gaming and an unstable offshore financial sector have turned to the sale of citizenship and passports to make up for significant shortfalls.
Just this week, the chief executive of the program in Antigua held a meeting with both beneficiaries of the program and people working in the support industry to update them on developments in a sector that officials say is increasingly important to Antigua.
Thomas Anthony says government will soon enact measures to pay people who go out and recruit foreigners who are eligible to apply for citizenship and the right to travel with a local passport.
Those eligible to be paid will be regarded as licensed agents who will interact with applicants and then liaise with authorities.
“Every applicant who comes to the program or applies must do it through a locally licensed agent. They do not come directly to us,” Anthony told the gathering.
A recruiter or agent will be eligible for payment after recruiting 30 foreigners and compensation will be made after the “31st file in a calendar year.”
The moves now set the stage for an increase in efforts to recruit foreigners to the CIP program as Antigua’s economy is reeling for the shortfall in revenues from the U.S. crackdown on the gaming industry which at its height had been employing thousands of locals.
Antigua took the U.S. to the Geneva-based World Trade Organization and won the case but the U.S. has used its might and has bullied the small Eastern Caribbean nation into submission to the extent where nothing has change and it has received no compensation from Washington.
Still, CEO Anthony says his department will liaise with the state treasury to monitor applicants who recruit non nationals and arrange for payments.
As an indication of how serious authorities are with the international citizenship recruiting exercise, Prime Minister Gaston Browne says that government wants to ensure as many people have a chance to make a dollar from the program as possible.
“We have a couple of agents who work for us presently. What we’ve decided is to just totally liberalize it to give it to everybody. What is decided now, is to give permission to all agents in order to be competitive,” Browne told the local Observer Newspaper.
Grenada, St. Lucia and Dominica are other countries actively participating in the program. Nationals from several countries, including those in the Middle East who find it hard to get visas, usually apply as Antiguan nationals travel visa free to several countries around the world so anyone holding a local passport can also take advantage of this privilege.
People buying into the program are asked to pay up to $5 million to be eligible and can do so through property, contributing to the national investment fund or set up a business on the island employing locals.
Prime Minister Brown says regional neighbors also pay agents.
Nationals from Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea, Somalia and Yemen are restricted from applying.