IFC: Antigua and Barbuda is globally respected as a reputable financial centre. What makes the jurisdiction so attractive for investors?
CQD: Mobility is the main attraction for individuals seeking out second citizenship. As the awareness of the Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) rises, prospective applicants are discovering unique benefits for citizens of this twin-island beauty which has been influencing their decision to make this their programme of choice. Following are just a few of these captivating benefits:
IFC: Your Citizenship by Investment programme is particularly successful. What are the key ingredients for this success?
CQD: Our programme has the most diverse options through which individuals can apply for citizenship. For example, it is the only programme in the region which offers a business investment option through which applicants can invest in existing business opportunities or new ventures. The government has been encouraging investment in agriculture, agro-processing, manufacturing, technology and other economically viable industries to support the nation’s developmental goals. The Antigua and Barbuda programme is known for its foresight and innovation and this trend can be expected to continue into the foreseeable future.
IFC: Which investment options are on offer?
CQD: There are currently four pathways to citizenship:
IFC: How does the country benefit from this programme?
CQD: The benefits of the Programme to the people of Antigua and Barbuda are significant. More than US$200 million from inception to date has been generated by the CIP. These earnings have been utilised to meet monthly Social Security and pension shortfalls, support the National Solid Waste clean-up programme, contribute to the project to provide affordable homes for Antiguans and Barbudans, support social programmes and health care, and support the Barbuda Council in meeting its expenses.
IFC: There have recently been some negative reports regarding due diligence and security; which processes do you have in place to ensure thorough investigation and vetting of applicants?
CQD: The Citizenship by Investment Unit takes great pride in the extensive processes involved in assessing citizenship applications. During the vetting process, the Unit goes above and beyond the normal global best practices and includes thorough background checks conducted by international due diligence entities, checks against sanctioned lists, and intelligence from the international law enforcement network.
A decision is made on the application only after the full analysis of all information obtained during the vetting process has been completed.
IFC: Have you put systems into place to overcome restrictions imposed by the pandemic?
CQD: The pandemic has served to strengthen the resilience and flexibility of our programme. From our staffing protocols to our operational procedures, we have re-engineered our processes and deployed our officers to ensure optimal performance, even in a restrictive business climate. Programme modifications, including those referenced earlier, have increased our competitive advantage and have further heightened interest in our programme.
Full digitisation of the application process is a project that the CIU had commenced since the latter half of 2019. The Agent’s online Portal was launched at the beginning of 2020 and a small control group of Licenced Agents was used to test the system. Following the testing period, the portal was rolled out to all Agents in March 2020. This portal enables Agents to upload, submit and track applications on behalf of their clients. Documents required for the application process were also simplified, and timing of their submission was modified based on the primary documents required at each stage of the application life cycle. Electronic submission of applications is a permanent feature of the Programme as this was a planned major objective in enhancing overall efficiency and the general management of applications.
IFC: Are you finding that applicants’ origin countries have changed as a result of the pandemic and if so, which new markets are now opening up to you?
CQD: If this global pandemic has taught anything, it has certainly brought into focus the need for mobility and safer living environments. We have seen a surge in the number of inquiries from persons seeking safer, less densely populated options, and countries which have demonstrated a greater ability to manage the pandemic. Applications from the traditional jurisdictions have been consistent; however, particularly for 2020, we have noticed an increase in applications from Southwest Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. The Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship by Investment Programme is the premier choice for families and the recent modification to the Ultra Wealthy Individuals (UWI) option has made us the most attractive choice for large families.
IFC: Have applicants’ priorities changed in any way because of recent events?
CQD: Ease of mobility continues to be the primary reason for acquiring second citizenship thus far. However, we could say that health and personal safety are perhaps the drivers for the increase in the numbers that we have been seeing.
IFC: How do CBI programmes need to adapt to meet present and future changing needs of investors?
CQD: The Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship by Investment Programme has demonstrated its responsiveness to industry trends and needs. We listen to our stakeholders and prospective clients and this is evident given the pace of the evolution and prominence of the programme since its inception in 2013.
IFC: CBI programmes are now offered widely throughout the Caribbean region: how do you intend to remain competitive?
CQD: Antigua and Barbuda has myriad investment opportunities and benefits for new citizens. In addition to mobility, there is something unique for every category of applicant, from the executives and entrepreneurs seeking business and investment opportunities to the applicant looking for attractive, high-quality real estate as a vacation home and/or to earn rental income.
Antigua and Barbuda offers a safe and healthy living environment, world class education and healthcare, perennial sunshine, pearl white beaches, warm friendly people and, by no means least, paradise that you can call your home.
IFC: Why should CIP investors choose Caribbean jurisdictions, such as Antigua and Barbuda, over European options?
CQD: Our programme has the most diverse options through which individuals can apply for citizenship. For example, it is one of the two programmes in the region which offers a business investment option through which applicants can invest in existing business opportunities or new ventures, and it is the most competitively priced in the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). The government has been encouraging investment in agriculture, agro-processing, manufacturing, technology and other economically viable industries to support the nation’s developmental goals. The Antigua and Barbuda programme is known for its foresight and innovation and this trend can be expected to continue into the foreseeable future.
Our development partners have also been working towards expanding investment opportunities, even in these unprecedented times. Look out for new real estate boutique developments and expansions in existing high end properties which offer incomparable returns to the savvy investor.
IFC: Would you like to add anything else?
CQD: I believe the global migration industry will continue to experience the dynamism we have seen over the last decade which will undoubtedly require flexibility and creativity in policy direction and legislative amendments. I am excited about the possibilities this industry will inspire in the next few years.
CEO of Antigua and Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment Unit.