In an age of the increasing need for mobility, becoming a global citizen has never been more desirable. 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 — obviously began experiencing a reduction in their disposable incomes and, therefore, 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-attract foreign direct investments, renew interest in the real estate market and spur investment in the general economy.
When was the Programme Established?
The Antigua and Barbuda CIP Act was passed in April 2013. The Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU), a creature of the legislation, was staffed on August 26, 2013, and opened for business on October 10, 2013. The CIU is responsible for processing applications and for recommending the approval of real estate and business investment options. The first application was received in November of that year with the first citizenship granted in February 2014.
What are the Benefits of Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship?
In addition to visa-free travel, CIP-eligible investors have the right to reside permanently on the islands. The recent elimination of personal income tax makes it even more attractive.
What are the Four Options offered under the CIP?
Option 1 - Contribution to the National Development Fund
Option 2 - Investment in Approved Real Estate
A joint investment by two parties of minimum US$200,000 for the purchase of qualifying real estate valued at minimum US$400,000 plus the payment of government processing fees and due diligence fees.
For a single applicant, or a family of four or less: USD $50,000 processing fees.
For a family of five or more: USD $15,000 processing fees for each additional dependent.
Option 3 - Investment in an Approved Business
Where a person proposes to make an investment in an approved business, two thresholds apply:
Option 4 - University of the West Indies Fund
A family of a minimum of 4 persons: US$150,000 (processing fees: USD $25,000 increasing by USD $15,000 per additional applicant).
After approval, one member of the family will be eligible to one-year paid tuition.
What makes the Antigua and Barbuda Programme So Successful?
There are several factors that contribute to the rapid success of the programme, which include the Unit’s highly competent staff, drawn almost exclusively from the private sector.
Additionally, with a turnaround time of about 60 days, the CIU has quickly become one of the most efficient units in the region, surpassing countries that had been in the industry much earlier.
Thirdly, due to 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 advanced investment infrastructure in place, the country quickly became an attractive portal for those seeking to invest in real estate and business.
Fourthly, the twin-island state had the opportunity to learn from the already-established programmes and to model its real estate offerings and escrow arrangements to craft a robust programme. In order to assure investors that developers would deliver quality real estate, the unit exerts some control over the management of escrow funds.
Lastly, the CIU has been very visible in the international community by participating in 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 of the programme, made international industry partners like Henley & Partners and Arton Capital confidently brand Antigua and Barbuda as the number one programme in the region. Henley & Partners went a step further and ranked the programme third globally.
As far as innovation is concerned, Antigua and Barbuda was the first Caribbean nation to permit investment in approved businesses. Other programmes have since integrated this feature. We were also the first to expand the investment offerings to include the opportunity to live and study for a year in the country.
Additionally, new citizens are afforded the opportunity to add dependents after approval. There is also a no-HIV test requirement for minors under 12.
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 due diligence 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 from around the world. 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 World Bank Ineligible Firms List, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and 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 10 years.
The CIU also collaborates with regional and international law enforcement agencies and focuses on such things as direct or indirect involvement with terrorism, international investigations or cross border money laundering activities.
It is only after this entire process is completed that a decision is rendered. If 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 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 programme will create more employment opportunities to improve the economic livelihood of normal Antiguans and Barbudans.
Looking to the future, the country anticipates that the revenue flows from CIP will assist in fostering cottage industries such as agro-processing, improve the agricultural sector and support the creation of new industries, thereby ensuring diversification of the economy.
For more information about the Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship by Investment
Program, go to cip.gov.ag or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
*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.