Caribbean Citizenship for Sale?

BBC reports that the controversial issue of the sale of economic citizenship or residency has recently resurfaced in Caribbean countries as cash-strapped nations search for ways of raising revenue in the present economic crisis.

Economic citizenship has been offered at varying times in a number of Eastern Caribbean countries since independence but has always been viewed as problematic, to say the least. Some time ago, Grenada considered the option until Canada threatened to impose visa restrictions. Since the topic has been revisited, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has rejected the idea of exchanging citizenship for investment and has expressed his concern that the program could open the door for “international rogues and vagabonds” to become Vincentian citizens.

On the other hand, St. Kitts and Nevis and Dominica still appear to offer the option as a “fast and reliable method to legally acquire citizenship.” Some of the programs were devised on the basis of encouraging investment; for example, St. Kitts and Nevis requires a minimum US$350,000 in approved projects.

Presently, the Cayman Islands which as a British territory cannot sell citizenship as such, is proposing to offer a new permanent residency category, for a $1 million fee, to a “limited number” of people. Premier McKeeva Bush has explained that the holders would be expected to spend a certain amount of time in the Cayman Islands each year. He is keen to reform immigration laws in the Cayman Islands to encourage more financial experts to locate to the territory, saying that “This new facility will create both a new revenue stream for Government and inward investment in the Islands.” About 80,000 international companies are registered in the Cayman Islands, where the offshore financial services sector represents about half of the territory’s economy. The companies were attracted by low tax rates and a flexible system that allows capital to be moved easily around the world.

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