Antigua and Barbuda's Citizenship-by-Investment Program: A Boost for the Economy
Antigua and Barbuda is a twin-island nation located in the Caribbean with a service-oriented economy based on financial services and high-end tourism. However, the global financial crisis of 2008 had a significant impact on the nation, with a drop in visitor numbers and a decline in overseas investment leading to a recession that lasted up until 2011. However, the country has undergone an impressive turnaround under the leadership of Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
One of the initiatives that has contributed to this turnaround is the citizenship-by-investment program, which has attracted high net worth individuals to the nation. The Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship by Investment Act was passed in April 2013, which gave jurisdiction to the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU). Managed by a dedicated team of professionals, the CIU is the authority responsible for processing all applications submitted for the citizenship-by-investment program, issuing all agent licenses as well as approving authorized representatives, projects, and business investments.
The program offers three options for acquiring citizenship, including a contribution to the National Development Fund, real estate investment, or investment in a business. Applicants must be over 18 years of age and submit to thorough background verification processes. In addition to visa-free travel to 140 countries, eligible investors have the right to reside permanently on the islands. The only residence stipulation is that new citizens spend at least five days on Antigua or Barbuda in the five years following the granting of citizenship.
The National Development Fund option requires a USD 100,000 contribution for a single applicant or a family of four or less, while a family of five or more must contribute USD 125,000. The real estate investment option requires a minimum investment of USD 400,000, and the investment in business option requires a single investor to contribute USD 1.5 million or two or more investors to contribute USD 5 million (each at least USD 400,000).
In only four years, the Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship-by-Investment Program has grown in leaps and bounds. Due to the program’s high level of transparency, efficient processing time, and robust due diligence process, in 2017 global leaders in residence and citizenship planning Henley & Partners ranked Antigua and Barbuda as the Caribbean’s best citizenship-by-investment program destination. The program has resulted in over 2,500 citizenships being granted and more than USD 200 million flowing into the economy.
The revenue flows from the program are expected to foster cottage industries, improve the agricultural sector, and support the creation of new industries to ensure diversification of the economy. Antigua and Barbuda's government is critically aware of the importance of the citizenship-by-investment program for the country's economy and of the need to be responsive to market demands to maintain a competitive advantage.
Despite the recent hurricane destruction in the region, Antigua and Barbuda remains open for business. However, Barbuda was completely destroyed, and residents were evacuated to Antigua. The government has undertaken the task of mobilizing domestic and international resources to restore Barbuda to its former glory. Prime Minister Browne made a passionate appeal to the global community at the 72nd UN General Assembly to seek aid for the rebuilding process, which is estimated to cost USD 200 million.
To this end, the government has reduced the contribution requirement to the National Development Fund for a limited time. The reduction is effective from November 1, 2017, and is set at USD 100,000 for a single applicant or a family of four or fewer and USD 125,000 for a family of five or more. It is expected that the revenue generated from the citizenship-by-investment program will contribute significantly to the restoration process.
In addition to economic benefits, eligible investors who acquire citizenship through the program enjoy visa-free travel to 140 countries, including the UK, Singapore, and the EU’s Schengen states, making it an attractive prospect for business and travel. Moreover, they also have the right to reside permanently on the islands, which is a great advantage for individuals seeking an alternative residence or a second home.