St. Kitts and Nevis citizenship scheme gets a lift from coronavirus pandemic

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St. Kitts has been relatively unscathed by COVID-19. The island was placed on lockdown on March 31 after its number of cases rose to eight. (Supplied)
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Updated 12 August 2020

St. Kitts and Nevis citizenship scheme gets a lift from coronavirus pandemic

  • Holders of passport of Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis have visa-free access to 156 countries
  • Citizenship by Investment program proves attractive to individuals of high net worth and their families

DUBAI: If you have been dreaming of getting away from the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, you can — provided you have some cash in hand.

For the starting sum of $150,000, you can buy your citizenship of the pristine Caribbean islands of Saint Kitts and Nevis.

With their pure white sands, swaying palm trees and sparkling blue waters, the islands offer the affluent both a welcome retreat and a secondary citizenship.

The Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program grants citizenship to individuals of high net worth and their families, who get in addition visa-free access to 156 countries, including EU member states and the UK.

Seemingly for this reason, the St. Kitts and Nevis CBI program has witnessed a notable increase in applications from the Arab world during the pandemic.

St. Kitts has been relatively unscathed by COVID-19. The island was placed on lockdown on March 31 after its number of cases rose to eight.

The lockdown was lifted on April 27, but the government has imposed the mandatory use of masks while outdoors.

To date, there have been 15 COVID-19 cases and no deaths.

“We have been seeing an increase in interest recently from the Middle East, especially as the lockdowns ease,” Les Khan, CEO of the St. Kitts and Nevis CBI Unit, told Arab News.

“Most of our applicants from the Middle East are families. Due to the pandemic, these individuals want to have the flexibility to travel and visit their families and children overseas with ease.”

Moe Alhaj, CEO of Migrate World Ltd, said, “There’s been a notable increase — of around 40 percent — in applicants from the Arab world during the pandemic.”

Migrate World Ltd is one of the authorized representatives for the St. Kitts and Nevis citizenship program for the Middle East and Africa regions.

Nationals of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are not allowed to hold dual citizenships.

“The individuals that the program caters to in the Middle East are largely from Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia,” added Alhaj. The program does not accept applicants from Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea.

Due to the current global restrictions in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, applications are being received electronically.

The highest number of applications following those from the Middle East come from China, the program spokesperson told Arab News.

Launched in 1984, the St. Kitts and Nevis CBI program’s initial purpose was to assist the islands’ economy, which had suffered due to the collapse of its sugar industry.

“The CBI program began as a way to stimulate foreign direct investment into the country,” explained Khan.

There are currently around eight countries that offer citizenship by investment, but the St. Kitts and Nevis program is by far the oldest. In the Caribbean, there are currently around five other programs of this nature.

FASTFACT

The St. Kitts and Nevis citizenship affords visa-free travel to 156 countries, including EU and UK

“The St. Kitts and Nevis CBI program has become recognized as the platinum brand,” said Khan.

All other programs — such as the Canadian visa program and the US EB-5 investor visa — came in the wake of this one and are largely residence programs, Khan explained.

“This means that you invest a lot of money, get residency and after five to seven years, you obtain citizenship. In the case of the St. Kitts and Nevis CBI program, you get citizenship after three months.

“One of the main reasons why people want this citizenship is to able to travel with a passport that allows them visa-free access to numerous countries,” Khan said.

“Secondly, citizenship acts as an insurance policy; a second passport gives individuals flexibility. Thirdly, people are looking for alternative lifestyles. Where else would you want to be other than in the Caribbean, on one of the finest islands?”

Education is also an important factor to consider, especially for parents who are looking to enroll their children in a different environment.

“There are multiple reasons why people want another citizenship,” said Alhaj.

“Some do it for work mobility, so that they don’t have to obtain a visa to attend a meeting in the UK or elsewhere in Europe. With the St. Kitts passport, you can hop on a plane and go directly to Europe or to the UK or to the many other countries that are part of the visa-free list.”

“Another aspect that lures applicants is the lifestyle — the vacations that St Kitts and Nevis offers,” said Alhaj. “There is also healthcare access for individuals with long-term issues.”

Alhaj said the process of application is straightforward and takes anywhere from three to six months.

“This is after a due-diligence process that runs a check from all government agencies around the world to make sure that the individual is in good standing and hasn’t been arrested before,” he explained.

The checks also involve looking out for money laundering instances by the applicant and whether they have been or are on any sanctions lists.

In terms of documentation, applicants need to submit birth and marriage certificates, bank statements, reference letters, utility bills, and title deeds or rental agreements, among other documents. They must also undergo a medical check-up, which includes taking an HIV test.

With regard to the cost of obtaining citizenship, Alhaj explained that the applicant could choose between two options — a contribution option that starts at $150,000 in addition to other fees, and a real-estate option that begins at $200,000 and includes investment in property or in the shares of a resort on the islands.

The contribution amount, he informed, increases depending on the size of the family that is applying.

“For the life-changing services you’re getting, these are very inexpensive options,” said Alhaj.

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@rebeccaaproctor


Macron says Syrian mercenaries operating in Karabakh

Updated 28 min 12 sec ago

Macron says Syrian mercenaries operating in Karabakh

  • Macron said he had evidence that militants had travelled through the Turkish city of Gaziantep on their way to the conflict in the Caucasus
  • The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Ankara had dispatched at least 300 proxies from northern Syria

BRUSSELS: French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday Syrian extremist fighters were operating in Nagorny Karabakh, where Armenia and Azerbaijan are engaged in heavy fighting.
Macron said he had evidence that militants had travelled through the Turkish city of Gaziantep on their way to the conflict in the Caucasus, where the fiercest clashes in years have left nearly 130 people dead.
"We have information today that indicates with certainty that Syrian fighters from jihadist groups have transited through Gaziantep to reach the theatre of operations in Nagorny Karabakh," Macron said as he arrived for a summit with EU leaders in Brussels.
"This is a very serious new fact, which changes the situation."

Meanwhile, RIA cited the Russian foreign ministry as saying that Moscow knows about Syrian mercenaries in the Nagorno-Karabakh region independently of media reports.

Two Syrian rebel sources have told Reuters that Turkey is sending Syrian rebel fighters to support Azerbaijan.
Armenia has accused Turkey of sending mercenaries to back its ally Azerbaijan and on Monday the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Ankara had dispatched at least 300 proxies from northern Syria.
Macron himself this week condemned what he called Turkey's "reckless and dangerous" statements backing Azerbaijan.
Claims of Turkish meddling in the conflict look set to colour Thursday's summit talks about the EU's relations with Ankara, as Greece and Cyprus push for a tough line against their old enemy.
Nagorny-Karabakh, a majority ethnic Armenian breakaway region inside Azerbaijan, declared independence after the fall of the Iron Curtain, sparking a war in the early 1990s that claimed 30,000 lives.
It is still not recognised as independent by any country, including Armenia, and talks to resolve the conflict have largely stalled since a 1994 ceasefire agreement.