The Citizenship By Investment Unit of Antigua and Barbuda explains the benefits of its CIP offering.
Located in the Leeward Islands group of the Lesser Antilles, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, the independent Commonwealth state of Antigua and Barbuda comes close to many people's idea of paradise. Known as the 'Land of 365 Beaches’ – one for every day of the year – the twin-island state is home to over 90,000 people and is considered one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Historically, as a result of tourism and real estate, the country has experienced continuous growth in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). 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 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in the sub-region.
Along with seven other states, Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU), a development of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), using the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC) as its currency. The EC has been pegged to the United States dollar for the last forty years, contributing to long term financial stability.
In an age of increasing international mobility, becoming a global citizen has never been more desirable. As such, in just three and a half years, Antigua and Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP) is already proving very popular with investors. Speedy processing and the quality of real estate offerings give the Program a serious competitive advantage.
Why was the Antigua and Barbuda Program established?
Like many countries around the world, Antigua and Barbuda’s economy suffered a major setback after the 2008 global economic crisis. Citizens in the country’s source markets (Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States) began experiencing a reduction in their disposable incomes and began travelling less frequently.
With tourism being the main driver of the economy, the government, in considering various options to jumpstart the economy, saw the CIP as the most effective way to re-fuel FDI, renew interest in the real estate market and spur investment in the general economy.
When was the Program established?
The Antigua and Barbuda CIP Act was passed in April of 2013. The Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU), a product of the legislation, was staffed on 26 August 2013 and opened for business on 10 October 2013. The first application was received in November of that year with the first citizenship granted in February of 2014.
The Act, most recently amended in April of 2016, allows anyone 18 years and older (and their family) to make an investment under one of three options to apply for citizenship.
What are the benefits of Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship?
• Visa free access to over 130 countries, including the United Kingdom and the Schengen area.
• Decision rendered in 60–90 days on most files.
• No restrictions on dual nationality.
• Citizenship for life, once residency requirement is met.
• Straightforward application process, no minimum net worth requirement or previous business experience.
• No tax on worldwide income, inheritance, capital gains or investment returns.
• History of a stable currency US$1 = EC$2.70 (XCD) since 1976.
• Antigua and Barbuda is a stable ‘Westminster’ style democracy.
• Well-established legal and regulatory framework, supporting civil and commercial relationships.
• Well-educated work force, skills and abilities for modern work place.
• Active and committed member of the International community.
In addition to visa-free travel to over 130 countries, eligible investors have the right to reside permanently on the islands. The recent elimination of personal income tax makes this even more attractive.
What are the three options offered under the CIP?
Applicants must be 18 and above and must submit to a rigorous due diligence (DD) or background check process. The only residency stipulation is that new citizens spend at least five days in Antigua or Barbuda in the five years following the granting of citizenship.
1. Contribution to the National Development Fund
A. For a single applicant, or a family of four or less;
• US$200,000 contribution
• and processing fees of: US$25,000 for a family of up to four persons with incremental payments of US$15,000 for each additional dependent
B. Family of five or more;
• US$250,000 contribution
• and processing fees of: US$25,000 for a family of up to four persons with incremental payments of US$15,000 for each additional dependent.
The minimum investment amount has been reduced from US $200,000 to US$100,000 until 31st October 2019.
2. Real Estate Investments
US$400,000 investment minimum – in an approved project (must be owned for at least five years)
Until 31st October, 2019, two applicants from related parties can make a joint investment, with each applicant investing a minimum of US $200,000 in order to qualify.
3. Investment in Business
• Single investor US$1.5M
• Two or more investors US$5M (each at least US$400,000)
4. Contribution to the University of the West Indies fund.
• Applicants to the Citizenship by Investment Programme who choose this option will be required to make an investment of US $150,000 for a family of 4 persons or more (the minimum number of persons per application is 4).
• Participation in this option will entitle one member of the family to a one year, tuition only scholarship at the University of the West Indies.
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 are afforded the opportunity to add dependents after approval. There is also 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 few factors that contribute to the rapid success of the Program.
First, with a turnaround time of about 90 days, the CIU quickly became one of, if not the most efficient Unit in the region, surpassing countries that had been in the industry for far longer or just prior to its entry.
Second, the fact that Antigua and Barbuda has maintained a strong presence in the high-end tourism sector for more than four decades and already had certain infrastructure in place, the country quickly became an attractive portal for those seeking to invest in real estate and business.
Third, the twin-island state had the opportunity to learn from the already established programs and model its real estate offerings and escrow arrangements accordingly. In order to give investors the confidence that developers will deliver on their promise, the Unit exerts some control over the management of escrow accounts.
Last, 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 the culture of efficiency, a robust due diligence process, transparency and accountability, made international industry partners like Henley & Partners and Arton Capital confidently brand Antigua and Barbuda as the number one program in the region. Henley & Partners went a step further and ranked the Program third globally.
How many citizenships have been granted to date?
As of December 2018, over 1,900 applications have been processed resulting in more than 3,500 citizenships being granted and more than US$1.2billion flowing into the economy.
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 gives this demographic the opportunity to become a global citizen; an opportunity that should be afforded every individual by virtue of them being a resident of planet Earth. In addition to mobility, citizenship and residency investment programs allow families greater security, access to education, quality of life, stability and protection of wealth.
Does the Program 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 these countries may only apply if:
• They reside outside of the country but are lawfully permanent residents of Canada, the United Kingdom, United States of America, Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for a period of not less than ten years.
• Their source of income is generated outside of the country (they maintain no economic ties to the country).
• The principal applicant must have attained the age of 18.
How are applicants vetted?
All applicants must apply through a locally licensed agent and are subject to processing and due diligence/ background (DD) 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 governmental 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. Also included are individuals and entities appearing on lists such as the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
The Unit engages the services of international DD providers to conduct extensive research on all members of the family in every place they would have lived for more than six months during the past ten years.
The Unit also focuses on such things as direct or indirect involvement with terrorism, international investigations or cross border money laundering activities. 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 Program?
Over the life of the Program, 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 reverse osmosis 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 Program will create more employment opportunities to improve the economic livelihood of normal Antiguans and Barbudans.
With its efficient processing, rigorous due diligence, wide choice of investment options and the sheer physical attraction of the islands, the Antigua and Barbuda CIP is fast becoming a jurisdiction of choice.
i. A Locally Licensed Agent is a natural person who is a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda or who is lawfully ordinarily resident for a period of not less than seven years.