Caribbean Nations Acknowledge that the US Can End CBIs at Any Time
5 Caribbean states held discussions with US government officials last month to discuss changes to their citizenship by investment programs (CBIs). According to the OECS the officials met in St Kitts & Nevis to discuss challenges and threats to the citizenship programs. The meeting was attended by Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, ST Kitts and Nevis and St Lucia. It was led by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury Department.
All Prime Ministers of the Caribbean states attended. Also present were the heads of the Citizenship by Investment units from each country. Discussions were said to be ‘Frank’, by US officials in attendance. The US has demanded six key changes to the Citizenship by Investment Programs in the Caribbean:
Agreement on Treatment of Denials
If an applicant is denied by one country they will no longer be able to apply in another Caribbean jurisdiction. All details of denials will be shared between the Caribbean CBI countries.
Face to Face Interviews for every Citizenship by Investment Applicant
Every candidate for CBI will, in future, have to attend an interview, either online or in person.
Additional Due Diligence
The US is demanding that additional financial due diligence is carried out on each applicant. This is ostensibly to combat money laundering.
Each Citizenship by Investment program will undergo a full audit every 2 years.
It’s being demanded that law enforcement agencies be used to retrieve passports from anyone whose citizenship is revoked by any of the Caribbean countries. Expect revocation of Caribbean CBIs to become more common in future.
Russians and Belarusians
One of the main demands of the US was the Caribbean nations stop processing applications from Russian and Belarusians. All except Grenada had already stopped accepting Russian applicants. Grenada has already announced that they’ll stop accepting applications from Russians and Belarusians from 31st March 2023.
All of the above measures are likely to be implemented in the next few months. The Caribbean states have agreed to meet again to discuss how they’re going to implement the changes.
The Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda, Gaston Browne pointed out what is obvious, but rarely mentioned. The Americans can stop these Citizenship by Investment Programs in the Caribbean whenever they choose. The threat of US sanctions is always there: “If we try to buck them and use the issue of sovereignty, all they have to do is issue a sanction stopping us from using the banking system, and then we are in trouble.”
He went on to say that the Caribbean countries had “little choice but to cooperate and collaborate”.
CBIs also Face Challenges from Europe
The EU recently cancelled visa free travel for Vanuatu passports. Visa free travel to the EU is already one of the top attractions of Caribbean CBI schemes. The EU doesn’t like CBI programs and will be watching developments closely.
The US government said in the joint press release following the meeting that they recognise the economic benefits of citizenship by investment programs for the Caribbean countries. They have said that they will help to facilitate a similar agreement on the 6 principles with the EU and the UK to keep the CBI programs alive.
I’ve never been a fan of CBI programs. There are many better and less expensive ways to get a second citizenship. The same Caribbean nations were selling bank licenses 30 years ago before they embarked on the CBI schemes. They merrily took the money for the bank licenses and then cancelled them with no notice after a few years. I would not be surprised to see citizenship by investment going the same way.
At the very least anyone considering CBI should be aware that the US is in control.