Golden passport and visa programs offer permanent residency to foreign nationals in exchange for investment in the country. Such programs come with visa-free travel and provide taxation advantages. They were first instituted with the intention of attracting foreign direct investment. In addition, some countries offered citizenship or passport along-with visa-free travel in exchange for lump sum investment in the country.
There are examples of countries having used such programs to bolster the economy especially during and after a recession. These programs help in the economic welfare, advancement, and development of the country when conducted in a transparent and legal manner. The foreign nationals seeking such citizenships also bring with them their dependents, investment in real estate, and the promise of expanding their businesses in the country.
Most of the golden passport programs were first instituted in the citizenship by investment Caribbean Island nations in the 1980s. St. Kitts & Nevis golden passport program (or golden visa or citizenship by investment program) was first instituted in 1984 as part of the Citizenship Act and is the longest-standing program of its kind. This program enjoys a sound reputation, as only a few such passports have been issued over the years.
It offers to foreign nationals permanent residency as part of St. Kitts & Nevis golden visa and citizenship as part of St. Kitts & Nevis golden passport. This was immediately after its independence from British rule in 1983. It is the oldest known citizenship by investment program in the world and does not require any prior residence in the island nation for foreign nationals looking to acquire such citizenship. Investment in real estate or donations and a clean track record are primary criteria to obtain the St. Kitts & Nevis citizenship by investment. St. Kitts & Nevis citizenship by investment program also has provisions for fast-tracking applications to obtain citizenship for extra processing fees.
St. Kitts & Nevis
St. Kitts & Nevis, alternatively known as St. Christopher & Nevis, is a Federation island nation in the Caribbean Sea in West Indies. The island nation has an area of 69 square miles and a population of just over 55,000. St. Kitts & Nevis are two separate islands with Nevis being located just 3 km south-east of St. Kitts. It is accessible through ferries that leave the Major’s Bay on the South-East peninsula. Basseterre, the capital city of the island nation is located on the larger island of St. Kitts.
St. Kitts & Nevis, a former British colony, gained independence in 1983 and is a sovereign, democratic, and federal state. St. Kitts & Nevis is a part of the Commonwealth realm along with fifteen other Commonwealth Nations. It is referred to as a constitutional monarchy and shares the same monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, as the other Commonwealth nations. St. Kitts & Nevis is a full member of the Caribbean Community (Caricom). A passport from St. Kitts & Nevis is a Caricom passport and enables visa-free arrival to 150+ countries. It is ranked 27th on the travel freedom index instituted by a popular international travel consultancy firm, as of March 2019.
Life in St. Kitts & Nevis
St. Kitts & Nevis are separated by 3km on the southeast peninsula and access each other through the ferry system on Major’s Bay. Mount Liamuiga is the highest peak and is located in St. Kitts. The slopes are covered with tropical rainforest and most of the population resides close to the sea on the flat-lands. The primary source of water for citizens is from rivers flowing down the mountain slopes, though St. Kitts also has a lake. The climate is pleasant all year round with minimum average temperatures being 25 degrees Celsius and an average rainfall of 200mm.
More than 92% of the island nation’s population is African, with mixed-race, European, Indian, and others constituting the rest. The official language is English but St. Kitts Creole is also widely spoken. The country is also known for a vibrant music scene with multiple music festivals organized around the year. The annual St. Kitts Music Festival is held in June by the government to attract tourists from all over the globe. Nevis also hosts a separate musical festival, Culturama at the end of July. These music festivals serve to showcase local artists and include performances in jazz, reggae, street dance, and calypso to name a few.
The St. Kitts & Nevis economy relies on tourism, agriculture and manufacturing industries like electrical light. The major export item was sugar until the government-run sugar company was closed in 2005 due to losses incurred from rising production costs and low export prices. Much of the sugar-cane fields have been burnt down to make way for real estate development in the country. The government has thus diversified into other avenues in agriculture, apparel assembly, and electronics assembly. Tourism also serves as a major contributor to the economy. The government also attracts foreign direct investment through its economic citizenship program or the St. Kitts & Nevis golden passport program. Over the years, several tax treaties have been signed to make this program further attractive with little to no additional tax liability for applicants.
St. Kitts & Nevis Golden Passport Program
The St. Kitts & Nevis golden passport program has been acknowledged as an industry-leading program by Professional Wealth Management instituted CBI Index. The program emerged on top in four categories used by the index vis-a-vis due diligence checks, ease of application processing, and mandatory travel or residency requirements.
The St. Kitts & Nevis golden passport obtained through the citizenship by investment program allows visa-free travel to 102 countries and visa on arrival to 35 other countries. Such citizenship is transferred to all direct descendants of the applicant. Further, the applicant and his direct dependents enjoy this citizenship planning for life. Since the passport is also a Caricom passport, it allows travel and ability to settle in any of the Caricom member states, effectively opening doors to the entire Caribbean islands. Approved applicants wishing to work in other Caricom states need to obtain the CSME skills certificate.
St. Kitts & Nevis golden visa holders enjoy visa-free travel and stay in all member states of the European Union Schengen area, for a period of 3 months every 6 months. Such citizens can also live and work in the OECS states which include Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
St. Kitts & Nevis golden passport program approved applicants can also avail visa-free entry and stay in the U.K., provided they fulfill important criteria, some of which include – not working in the UK during their stay, not getting married or entering into a civil partnership during their stay in the UK, being able to sponsor their stay in the UK, and having plans to leave the UK post their stay, and being able to fund their travel back.
Benefits of St. Kitts & Nevis Golden Passport
Citizenship from St. Kitts & Nevis citizenship by investment program accords applicants a host of benefits. Being the longest running citizenship by investment program in the world, applicants benefit from a pre-defined and structured application process. The major St. Kitts and Nevis citizenship benefits are enumerated below:
- Dual citizenship: St. Kitts & Nevis levies no restriction on dual citizenship and does not report citizenship obtained under the citizenship by investment program to any other country. Applicants need to ensure they are aware of the laws of their home country with regards to dual citizenship, as they may have to give it up in case their native country does not allow it.
- Economic: The St. Kitts & Nevis citizenship by investment program is one of the most economical citizenship by investment program among the countries that offer such arrangements. A minimum investment of $250,000 in SIDF or $400,000 in approved real estate, can help obtain the golden passport under this program.
- Dependents covered: The main applicant’s dependents including spouse, children up to 30 years of age, and parents aged 55 years and above, may be included for citizenship in one application.
- Visa-free travel: The St. Kitts & Nevis golden passport allows visa-free travel to 152 countries including the Caricom members, EU Schengen visa zone members, the UK, Ireland, and Switzerland.
- Passport Validity: The St. Kitts & Nevis golden passport is valid for 10 years, after which it can be renewed.
- Taxation Benefits: St. Kitts & Nevis levies no personal overseas income tax, wealth tax, or inheritance tax. Second citizenship from the country allows applicants to strategize their tax planning and wealth protection.
- Approval time: The application takes 4-6 months to be approved. Under the Accelerated Application Process, the St. Kitts & Nevis citizenship by investment is the only program that ensures citizenship issuance in 2 months.
- Non-residency: Applying and obtaining a St. Kitts & Nevis golden visa does not require any prior residency in the island nation on the part of the main applicant. Applicants need not even visit the country to apply for the second citizenship under the St. Kitts & Nevis citizenship by investment program. They can apply through approved international agencies as long as they fulfill all the required criteria
All applicants can avail the above benefits provided they meet the requisite eligibility criteria set by the St. Kitts & Nevis government.
St. Kitts and Nevis Citizenship Requirements
The St. Kitts & Nevis citizenship by investment program mandates certain predefined requirements be fulfilled with regards to general requirements, main applicant’s background and financial investment requirements. Such regulations have been laid down in the Citizenship Act of 1984.
General Requirements and Qualifications
- The main applicant should be at least 18 years of age. A birth certificate should be submitted as proof of age.
- No country with which St. Kitts & Nevis has an agreement for visa-free travel should have denied a visa to the main applicant at a prior date. If the visa was denied, the applicant must have obtained a visa subsequently on re-application to be eligible for St. Kitts & Nevis citizenship by investment program.
- The application should be submitted on forms prescribed by the St. Kitts & Nevis government and must be accompanied by either all original documents or certified copies of all original documents.
- The Citizenship by Investment unit of the St. Kitts & Nevis government makes the form available for the application to only the main applicant and the authorized agents only on the payment of the prescribed fee. The completed application forms should also be submitted to the unit.
- The application form should be completed in English and all documents submitted as proof should also be in English. If not in English, all forms and documents should be accompanied by a vetted translation.
- If married, a certified copy of the marriage certificate needs to be submitted.
- A sworn affidavit which indicates support for each dependent over the age of 18 years (except spouse) needs to be provided.
- For all dependent children:
- Below the age of 18 years, the application form must be signed by both parents provide both are the child’s legal guardians. If only one parent is the legal guardian, appropriate legal documentation to that effect must be provided
- Between the ages of 18 and 25 years, an official transcript must be submitted as proof of enrolment of the child in an institute of learning.
- Applicant must ensure they provide the correct information in the application form, as any false information or omissions may lead to citizenship being denied and also make them liable to perjury under the Perjury Act, 2005.
- A police certificate to indicate no criminal record needs to be submitted during the application process.
- The citizenship by investment unit may request for a personal interview of the candidate at its discretion before approving the application. Such interview may be either held in St. Kitts & Nevis or in any diplomatic or consular post of St. Kitts & Nevis.
- All applicants above 16 years of age will have to undergo due diligence background checks. Such due diligence is typically conducted by an independent third-party organization on behalf of the citizenship by investment unit of St. Kitts & Nevis and in accordance with the guidelines set by it.
The main applicant must make financial investments in either the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) or the Sustainable Growth Fund (SGF) or in approved real estate development. A contribution of $150,000 to the Sustainable Growth Fund is required for a sole applicant or a contribution $195,000 + costs for a family of up to four people.
Requirements for Investment Contribution to SIDF
- The minimum qualifying investment amount to the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation under the St. Kitts & Nevis golden visa program is $250,000 for a single applicant, $300,000 for applicants up to 3 dependents, $350,000 for applicants up to 5 dependents, $450,000 for applicants up to 7 dependents, and $50,000 additional amount for each dependent above seven dependents. Such an investment is charitable and non-refundable.
- The citizenship by investment unit informs the applicant within 90 days of submission of application, the status of the application as to whether it is approved in principle or declined or delayed due to any reason. Up to 90 days post a notification of approval in principle, the applicant has to deposit the full amount towards the SIDF in a designated escrow account for citizenship to be granted.
- If citizenship is denied, the amount deposited is refunded after deduction of due diligence background check fees, within 10 days of communication of such denial.
Requirements for Investment Contribution to Real Estate
- The minimum qualifying investment contribution in real estate is $400,000 in designated and pre-approved real estate projects. Such an investment can be diluted after five years.
- A binding purchase and sale agreement must be executed between the applicant and the developer of the approved project.
- Within three months of submission of application, the main applicant is informed if his/her application is approved in principle, declined, or delayed with a suitable reason. If approved in principle, the main applicant within six months of such notification needs to submit proof of ownership of property.
Requirements of Government Fees
- A registration fee of $5,000 is to be submitted before applications can be filed.
- A fee of $7,500 for a due diligence background check and processing needs to be submitted for the main applicant.
- An extra fee of $4,000 for due diligence background check and processing for every dependent of the main applicant above the age of 16 years.
- On approval of citizenship through investment in real estate, a fee of $50,000 for the main applicant, $25,000 for the spouse of the main applicant, $25,000 for dependent children under 18 years of age, and $50,000 for dependent children above 18 years of age.
St. Kitts and Nevis Citizenship Application Review Procedure
To review an application submitted under the citizenship by investment program, a review panel may be appointed by the Minister. Such a panel may request the main applicant to appear in person before it for an interview. The review panel comprises of the Attorney General’s Chambers representative, the Permanent Secretary of the Immigration Ministry, the Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, the Financial Services Department Director, and the Citizenship by Investment Unit Legal Advisor. The review panel is entrusted with the responsibility of making a recommendation to the Minister with reference to granting citizenship for the application under review.
Individuals looking to gain access to second citizenship can greatly benefit from the reputed, long-standing, and robust citizenship by investment program offered by St. Kitts & Nevis.
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