Most of the demand for a citizenship-by-investment programme among rich UAE expats is coming for Caribbean countries as they offer some of the world's best schemes to obtain a second passport.
According to the latest report released by Professional Wealth Management (PWM), Dominica, St Kitts Nevis, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia, Vanuatu, Cyprus, Malta, Bulgaria, Turkey and Austria offer the best citizenship-by-investment programmes based on seven key factors.
These include freedom of movement, standard of living, minimum investment outlay, mandatory travel or residence, citizenship timeline, ease of processing and due diligence. Caribbean countries Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda scored highly on minimum investment outlay, citizenship timeline, ease of processing and due diligence.
Dominica remained the world's best economic citizenship option, coupling low investment thresholds with efficiency, speed and the certainty of permanency. St Kitts and Nevis, a strong contender, improved its visa-free travel options and lowered its entry thresholds. Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda performed well, but also suffered from a slowing down of the application review process.
In the Caribbean, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia and St Kitts and Nevis all achieved full scores under mandatory travel or residence, as none of them require applicants to travel to, or reside within, their territory at any time prior to or after receiving citizenship.
Similarly, Dominica and St Lucia have been accepting contributions of $100,0000 for some time. ?Although Antigua and Barbuda nominally requires a $100,000 contribution for a single applicant, a substantial $25,000 government fee must also be added.
With average processing times of under two months, Dominica and Vanuatu both received the highest score. Also, Dominica scored highly in terms of due diligence, indicating that efficiency can be achieved without compromising quality. Jordan and Turkey also score highly, with minimum processing time for applications at two and three months respectively.
In addition, Caribbean nations also showcased the most streamlined and clear procedures for economic citizenship.
PWM's Citizenship by Investment (CIB) index included Turkey and Jordan for the first time in the list.
According to UAE-based immigration consultancies, nationals of Syria, Yemen, Oman, Kuwait, India and Pakistan are the biggest applicants for the programmes to certain Caribbean and European countries.
In order to cash in on strong demand from the UAE, Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit announced during his recent visit that an embassy and consulate would be opened soon in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, respectively.
"Dominica offers full residence status and dual citizenship, with the right to live and work in Dominica and there is no requirement to reside before or after citizenship is granted... Dominica's programme is the world's most affordable CBI option, with investment thresholds starting from $100,000 for a main applicant," Skerrit said.
Imran Farooq, CEO of AAA Associates, an advisory firm in citizenship-by-investment programmes, said obtaining citizenships of Caribbean countries opens up over 100 countries to do business and live a secured and happy family life.
He said a lot of demand is coming from rich Indians, Egyptians, Pakistanis and Jordanians based in the UAE.
"Citizenship-by-investment is a tool for ultra-rich to get hassle-free visas because these are powerful passports, allowing you to travel visa-free to 127 countries including Europe and Russia. Many rich expats here have wealth and changing citizenship gives them visa-free travel and also help in tax planning. A lot of rich Indians and Egyptians are taking up this citizenship-by-investment and giving up their first passports. Because if any tax resident rescinds local citizenship, he will be liable to file tax liabilities only on local income and not on foreign income.
He said most of the demand from UAE residents is also coming for the Caribbean countries.
Globally, the total citizenship-by-investment market is around 8,000 cases, with less than 500 cases coming from the UAE market.
Veronica Cotdemiey, CEO of Citizenship Invest, said that due to current rigidity in worldwide immigration policies, many Arab nationals find it difficult to obtain business or tourist visas, so a second nationality will allow visa-free travel to many countries. The Caribbean countries' passports, for example, will allow roughly 140 countries to enter all Schengen states, plus the UK, China, Russia, Singapore and other major countries.
"As we continuously monitor market trends, we clearly see a significant increase in high net worth UAE residents for the Cypriot citizenship programme. Cyprus provides a powerful real estate investment that grants investors a second European passport in only six months, allowing them visa-free travel to over 170 countries including Schengen states, the UK, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore and other major countries," she said.
"It also makes them European nationals where they can live, work and study anywhere in Europe. Applicants are required to purchase a property in Cyprus of ?2 million to be eligible for the citizenship programme," she said.
She noted that the Antigua and Barbuda citizenship programme is also high in demand by UAE expats in 2018 because Antigua has a limited-time offer of $125,000 for an application of four family members.
"Since the offer ends in October 2018, this is probably the reason why many investors are trying to take advantage," she added.
By Waheed Abbas
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