As Britain begins formal exit procedures to leave the European Union, many are concerned about what possible consequences may arise for travel – and the concern is not just raised by Britons or other Europeans.
Non-EU nationals who currently enjoy visa-free travel to the United Kingdom and mainland Europe are worried that Brexit may alter or abolish their rights to visit the United Kingdom. What few realise however, is that the United Kingdom already has an immigration regime that is independent of other EU member states. The regulation of non-EU migration and travel to Britain will thus continue to be subject to these existing immigration arrangements.
Every year, more than a billion people cross borders and there are approximately 250 million expats living in countries that they have relocated to. These numbers are rapidly increasing; socio-political uncertainty and domestic turbulence have driven many to explore their relocation options, especially through the avenue of dual citizenship.
To put it into perspective, the number of Americans applying for New Zealand citizenship increased by 70 percent within three months of the new president being elected, and, since the shock Brexit vote, there has been a 42 percent increase in Britons applying for an Irish passport. France too saw a surge in applications from Britons, with a 50 percent increase in applications for French citizenship recorded during the first quarter of 2017 as compared to the entirety of 2016.
But truth be told, there is a small elite, primarily composed of businesspersons and high net worth individuals, that has long been exploring dual citizenship, and in particular citizenship by investment.
A branch of ‘investment immigration’, citizenship by investment has been in place since 1984 when the first Citizenship by Investment Programme was established by the Federation of St Christopher (St Kitts) and Nevis, a twin-island nation in the Caribbean Sea. The Programme was pioneering, and citizenship by investment is now offered by several countries, including a number within the European Union.
Citizenship by investment provides impressive economic contributions to host nations; Cyprus’ budget for 2016 revealed that the island’s Programme had yielded €2.5 billion in revenue for the government since 2013.
While EU countries Cyprus and Malta are popular destinations for those wanting to explore a second citizenship, it’s the Caribbean that lead the citizenship by investment industry. Countries like St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, and Dominica offer regulated, efficient, and financially attractive programmes, and are consequently benefiting from high application numbers. This, in turn, stimulates economic growth, both through direct contributions from applicants and through the indirect effect of investment in key industries such as tourism.
Many citizenship by investment programmes require investment in pre-approved real estate, including residential and hotel projects. Of course, the building of real estate creates a number of construction jobs for residents. In addition, where commercial real estate is developed, often in the form of hotels and resorts, long-term roles and relationships are established, such as employment in the tourism services sector and demand for local agricultural produce – allowing many to flourish.
The real estate market in the Caribbean is a sector that is seeing growth. A report by Century 21 has revealed that property sales in Grenada continued to rise in 2016 after having already increased by 71 percent in 2015. The total sales over the two years amounted to almost $100 million. Grenada is also experiencing steady growth in its tourism industry, with figures showing a 10.3 percent increase in the first half of 2016. This growth is causing a further demand for tourist facilities and accommodation, and the arrival of luxury resorts is cited as a major factor for the influx of tourists.
The other most common citizenship by investment route is a contribution to a national fund, which in turn sponsors initiatives for the development of existing businesses, supports future-oriented industries, stimulates job creation, and encourages strategic growth.
An example of this is the Economic Diversification Fund (EDF) in Dominica, an entity launched to invigorate the economy and to sponsor education, infrastructure development, and agriculture. Another example is the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) found in St Kitts and Nevis. Established in 2006, the Foundation assisted the nation in its transition from sugar growth to economic diversification. Projects included promoting clean energy sources, supporting new businesses, and rebuilding infrastructure. Earlier this month, the Social Security Board of St Kitts and Nevis reported a dramatic increase in job creation and employment earnings across the nation: the highest in the country’s history. The total earnings for 2016 has been recorded at EC$995 million.
As well as providing a number of benefits for the residents and governments of countries offering citizenship by investment, aspiring citizens are also reaping several benefits. Obtaining dual citizenship often means that investors and their families become more mobile, more secure in their physical and financial safety, and more likely to live the healthy lifestyle they crave.
The ability to travel the world without the need for lengthy visa applications or without being impeded by other bureaucratic restrictions is particularly prized by those currently holding a passport or other travel document that entitle them to visa-free travel to only a handful of destinations. Grenadian citizenship, for example, enables visa-free travel to the People’s Republic of China, a key jurisdiction for business and trade. Furthermore, as political uncertainty leaves many questions on travel between nations unanswered, citizenship by investment is providing peace of mind for those who travel widely for both business and pleasure.
Another reason why ‘future-thinking’ high net worth individuals are drawn to these investments, is the security blanket that they offer their families. By obtaining a second citizenship, parents can educate their children in some of the world’s most prestigious institutions, and in countries where the official language is English.
Of course, financial and wealth security is of utmost importance in today’s economic panorama. Investing in dual citizenship enables families to create connections with countries that provide an abundance of business opportunities. Moreover, certain jurisdictions do not over-tax citizens, freeing them from taxes on worldwide income, inheritance, and gifts.
Although someone may have sufficient funds to invest in a citizenship by investment programme, this does not mean that he or she will be automatically awarded citizenship; there are strict personal and background checks carried out on all applicants that ensure only quality candidates ultimately receive citizenship. The nations that offer citizenship by investment are not willing to forgo their international reputation, foreign relations, and visa waiver agreements and their due diligence and vetting procedures are a clear demonstration of their commitment to transparency and integrity. Not surprisingly, they require all individuals to have a ‘good reputation’, provide evidence of their source of funds, and demonstrate a clean criminal background.
In today’s volatile global environment, the value of certainty and security cannot be underestimated – and this is why citizenship by investment programmes are appealing options for those wishing to protect all elements of their lives. For host countries, they are an effective means of encouraging growth and prosperity through foreign investment.
Micha Rose Emmett is CEO at CS Global Partners, a legal consultancy firm that specialises in residency and citizenship