CARIBBEAN: Caribbean islands increase cost of golden passports under international pressure

As published on: traveltomorrow.com, Wednesday 10 April, 2024. 

A group of Caribbean island states have come together to increase the cost of their golden passports and close off legal loopholes that allow discounted citizenship sales.

Coming into force from 30 June 2024, golden passport charges in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, and St Kitts and Nevis will now go up to at least US$200,000, twice the previous price in some instances. However, ignoring neighbourly criticism and international condemnation, Saint Lucia did not become a signatory to the new agreement. The former British territory will continue to sell golden passports for US$100,000, and will be making no changes to that policy.

The move, reported by VisaGuide.World, comes after pressure brought on various nations around the globe from European and US authorities to end such schemes. A number of high profile leaks and media investigations have led to mounting and widespread suspicion that the schmes are being abused by entities with no connection to the countries that operate them and growing evidence that they facilitate tax evasion, money-laundering, and other improper business practices.

In 2023, 88,000 golden visas were issued by the group of Caribbean island states according to a Guardian report, including applicants from China, Iran and Russia where international business sanctions apply. The vast majority of these were issued by Dominica (34,500) and St Kitts and Nevis (36,700).

“A scourge” that undermines state finances
In defiant mood, Dominica’s Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, struck back at critics last year, arguing there is little difference between the rights conferred by the golden passports and US’s green card programme.

Among the states making changes, St Kitts and Nevis’s citizenship-by-investment scheme is the oldest, in place since 1984 and charging US$250,000. Prime Minister Andrew Drew has described discount-selling of passports as “a scourge” that undermines state finances, infrastructure and investment.

Punitive visa suspensions possible
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has said citizenship-by-investment makes it easier to “perpetrate massive frauds and launder proceeds of crime and corruption reaching into the billions of dollars.”

How US and EU regulators will now respond to the ongoing schemes remains to be seen, but the EU has called for punitive visa suspensions to be applied to states that continue to operate them, saying the bloc should have “the possibility to suspend the visa exemption for a third country that chooses to operate an investor citizenship scheme whereby citizenship is granted without any genuine link to the third country concerned.”


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