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James McKay on Citizenship by Investment

This story originally appeared in the November/December 2017 issue of Elite Traveler.

Recognizing a gap in reliable information in the citizenship by investment industry, James McKay developed the CBI Index — a guide that provides accurate, up-to-date and unbiased data on all 12 current citizenship by investment programs.

Citizenship by investment is a burgeoning industry that involves making a contribution to a nation’s economy in exchange for citizenship.

First developed by St Kitts and Nevis in 1984, it was for decades associated with just a handful of countries, but this changed around 2013, when citizenship by investment programs were adopted in quick succession around the world and programs that had remained dormant for some time experienced a renaissance. Socio-political turbulence at home, a pressing need to access international markets, the availability of international travel and exposure to better lifestyles have all been identified as significant drivers behind the increasing interest from applicants in citizenship by investment.

With this in mind, the CBI Index identifies the seven pillars to consider when determining where to obtain second citizenship. Some pillars, like freedom of movement and standard of living, focus on the benefits of citizenship itself. A family looking to relocate may focus on standard of living, which analyzes factors such as education, economic prosperity and safety. Other pillars, including minimum
investment outlay, ease of processing and citizenship timeline, look at the citizenship process. These are important elements for those with little time to attend face-to-face meetings or wait for lengthy approvals. Due diligence is also one of the seven pillars, rating reputability and legitimacy, which plays a significant role for those wishing to identify a program that will endure and stand up to international scrutiny.

The Caribbean is the overall highest achiever in the CBI Index rankings, with Dominica receiving the best score (63/70).With its long history of citizenship by investment, St Kitts and Nevis also performed well, followed by Grenada. To understand these results, it is perhaps easiest to compare the leading country of Dominica to an average scorer such as Cyprus (47/70). Cyprus, an EU member state, scores slightly better than Dominica for freedom of movement and standard of living. However, Cypriot citizenship is only available to those who spend at least €2m, and comes with the condition of lifetime mandatory travel and real estate ownership.  In contrast, Dominica received perfect scores in minimum investment outlay, mandatory travel or residence, and ease of processing. Dominica offers citizenship for a minimum investment of $100,000, coupled with no residence or travel requirements and no interviews or other assessments. Dominica also scored higher than Cyprus in citizenship timeline, offering faster turnarounds.

Generally, European countries scored significantly lower than their Caribbean counterparts in terms of affordability, processing and timelines, as their turnarounds are longer, requirements more arduous and programs more expensive. Malta processes applications in 12 months, while St Kitts and Nevis offers an accelerated process guaranteeing that successful applicants receive their new passport within 60 days of submitting their application.

Even though the CBI Index positioned Dominica, St Kitts and Grenada as the best of the current programs, there are alternatives that may be better suited to an applicant’s specific needs — something that can easily be identified through the CBI Index’s seven-pronged approach. Grenada and Austria scored the highest in education, which is significant for families with children. Four Caribbean jurisdictions received perfect scores for the straightforwardness of their citizenship processes — an important consideration for applicants who want a hassle-free experience. Comoros, together with St Lucia and Dominica, received perfect scores in minimum investment outlay, while Austria and Malta can lay claim to the best visa-free travel options, both in terms of global destinations and business hubs. These two European nations also obtained the best standard of living scores, thus appealing to high-net-worth investors who want to resettle their families.

Citizenship by investment is a rapidly growing industry, and the CBI Index is a useful tool for those seeking greater clarity before making decisions on where to invest and obtain second citizenship for themselves and their families.

The CBI Index can be downloaded at cbiindex.com