After considering various options to jumpstart the economy after the 2008 economic crisis, the government saw the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) as the most effective way to bring back foreign direct investment.
Dubbed the ‘heart’ or ‘gem’ of the Caribbean because of its strategic location in the middle of the Leeward island chain, the independent Commonwealth state of Antigua and Barbuda comes very close to many people’s idea of paradise. This ideal geographic positioning makes the tropical twin-island jewel a regional travel hub, with excellent air links to North America and Europe.
Home to over 100,000 people and blessed with powder-white sand beaches and year-round sun, the country is revered as one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Antigua and Barbuda has historically depended on tourism and real estate development to fuel its economic growth, however, more recently, financial services, tertiary education and e-commerce have become significant contributors. Bolstered by generous government incentives, foreign investment has contributed to the rapid development of the economy, resulting in the country having one of the highest GDPs per capita in the sub-region.
Antigua and Barbuda, along with seven other states, is a member of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU), a development of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), which uses the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC) as its currency. The EC has been pegged to the US dollar for the last 40 years, contributing to long-term financial stability.
Why was the Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship by Investment Programme Established?
Like many countries around the world, Antigua and Barbuda was adversely affected by the 2008 economic crisis. Tourism, the main driver of the economy, began to falter with a decline in the numbers of visitors from the country’s source markets; namely Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States.
After considering various options to jumpstart the economy, the government saw the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) as the most effective way to bring back foreign direct investment, renew interest in the real estate market and spur investment in the general economy.
Just a few months shy of its fifth birthday, the Antigua and Barbuda CIP is still a relatively new entrant into the economic investment arena. However, it has become very popular owing to its straightforward and transparent application process, fast turnaround time and the quality of real estate offerings. The reduction in processing fees in August 2017 gives the Programme an additional competitive advantage.
After the devastation of Barbuda, the smaller, lesser-populated of the two islands by Hurricane Irma in September 2017, a further decision was taken by the government to decrease the National Development Fund (NDF) contribution for a limited time period. This, the government feels, will allow for the allocation of the estimated US$200 million urgently needed to rebuild a stronger, greener Barbuda, while simultaneously reducing the carbon footprint.
When was the CIP Programme Established?
The Antigua and Barbuda CIP Act was passed in April of 2013. The Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) opened for business on 10 October 2013. The first application was received in November of that year and the first citizenship was granted in February of 2014.
What are the Benefits of the Antigua and Barbuda CIP?
• The CIP awards visa free access to over 135 countries, including the United Kingdom, the Schengen area, Hong Kong and Singapore.
• A decision is rendered in 60–90 days on most files.
• There are no restrictions on dual nationality.
• The CIP provides citizenship for life, once the residency requirement is met.
• The application process is straightforward and there is no minimum net worth or previous business experience requirement.
• There is no tax on worldwide income, inheritance, capital gains or investment returns.
• Antigua and Barbuda has a history of a stable currency – US$1 = EC$2.70 since 1976.
• Antigua and Barbuda is a stable Westminster-style democracy.
• Antigua and Barbuda offers a well-established legal and regulatory framework, supporting civil and commercial relationships.
• The jurisdiction has a well-educated work force, offering the skills and abilities required for the modern workplace.
• Antigua and Barbuda is an active and committed member of the international community.
What are the Three Options Offered under the CIP?
The Act allows anyone 18 years and older and their family to make an investment under one of the three following options:
The National Development Fund
The Real Estate and Business Investment Options
As far as innovation is concerned, Antigua and Barbuda was the first Caribbean nation to permit investment in approved businesses, an initiative that other jurisdictions are now copying.
Additionally, new citizens can add new dependents after approval and there is no HIV test requirement for minors under 11.
What is the Function of the CIU?
The CIU is responsible for processing applications and for recommending the approval of real estate and business investment options.
There are a number of factors that have contributed to the rapid success of the Programme, which include the Unit’s highly competent staff, comprising mostly of private sector individuals. With a turnaround time of 60 days on average, the CIU quickly became one of the most efficient units in the region, surpassing countries that had been in the industry for much longer. Antigua and Barbuda’s strong, four-decade-old presence in the high-end tourism sector and the islands’ developed infrastructure has also attracted investors keen to buy real estate or set up a business to the jurisdiction.
In addition, the twin-island state had the opportunity to learn from the already established programmes and model its real estate offerings and escrow arrangements accordingly. To give investors the confidence that developers will deliver on their promise, the unit exerts some control over the management of escrow accounts.
Lastly, the CIU has been very visible in the international community by attending and presenting at various industry conferences and establishing a strong presence in a number of high-quality publications. This visibility, along with a culture of efficiency, a robust due diligence process, transparency and accountability, made residence and citizenship industry experts, Henley & Partners, rank the Programme number one in the region, and number four globally.
What are some of the Reasons People May Desire a Second Citizenship?
Unfortunately, the politics of one’s home country generally dictates the freedom of movement of many people. A second citizenship can give this demographic the opportunity to become a global citizen. In addition to mobility, citizenship and residency, investment programmes allow families greater security, access to education, quality of life, stability and diversification of wealth.
Does the Programme Accept Applications from any Country, or are There Exceptions?
There is a ‘Restricted Country List’ comprising Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan. Nationals of the countries listed are eligible to apply for citizenship in Antigua and Barbuda if they migrated before the age of 18 and/or have maintained permanent residence in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, for a period of not less than 10 years and maintain no economic ties to any restricted country
How are Applicants Vetted?
All applicants must apply through a locally licensed agent and are subject to processing and due diligence (DD)/background check fees, depending on the ages of the members of the family. The DD process is an extremely involved and stringent procedure.
The CIU employs a multi-tiered process which involves, but is not limited to, searches in global sanctions and embargo lists, alerts and watch lists issued by financial regulators, law enforcement and other government agencies worldwide. These lists contain the profiles of high risk and ‘potentially’ high risk individuals and entities, politically exposed persons (PEPs) and their relatives and close associates, high-profile criminals and blacklisted entities.
The Unit engages the services of international DD providers to conduct extensive research on all members of the family in every place they have lived for more than six months during the past 10 years.
The Unit also focuses on ruling out direct or indirect involvement in terrorism, international investigations or cross border money laundering activities when assessing eligibility. Where derogatory information is discovered at any of these stages, the applicant is denied.
What are some of the Benefits that Have Been Derived from the Programme?
Over the life of the Programme, Antigua and Barbuda has seen a resurgence in the country’s real estate sector and renewed interest in the hotel sector. This economic boost has allowed for environmentally responsible projects such as solar energy and water purification technologies to be developed.
The local populace has also benefited from direct contributions to social development schemes. Additionally, the construction boom expected as a result of the Programme will create more employment opportunities and other spillover benefits, to improve the economic livelihood of normal Antiguans and Barbudans.
Looking to the future, the country anticipates that the revenue flows from CIP will ensure diversification of the economy by assisting in fostering cottage industries such as agro-processing, for example, and by supporting the creation of new industries.
With its efficient processing, rigorous due diligence, wide choice of investment options and the natural beauty of the islands, the Antigua and Barbuda CIP is fast becoming a second citizenship programme of choice.
For more information about the Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship by Investment Programme, visit: www.cip.gov.ag or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Citizenship by Investment Unit