A quick guide to buying St. Kitts and Nevis citizenship (residence not required)

A recent column in the Bermuda Royal Gazette arguing that Bermuda is missing an opportunity by not promoting investor immigration programs for the “uber-wealthy” led to an article on the WealthX website about a supposed craze among the rich for “nationality swapping”.

This part stood out:

“…one of the most popular options for individuals from the emerging markets, particularly those that experience trouble traveling, is the scheme offered by St. Kitts and Nevis.”

Why would St Kitts and Nevis be so popular among nationality swappers?

Here is what I could find:

1. The Citizenship by Investment programme exists, and has a website. After a one month break, new applications for 2014 will be accepted again starting 8th January, 2014.

2. Neither residing in nor travelling to St. Kitts and Nevis are required to acquire citizenship, although applicants “may be requested to attend an interview”.

3. The documents required include a medical certificate and certificate of no criminal record.

4. There are 2 options to acquire citizenship: a) The Real Estate Option, which requires investment of at least USD 400.000 in “designated real estate” and b) A contribution of at least USD 250.000 to the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation, “a public charity audited by PriceWaterhouseCoopers”.

5. The Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation has nothing to do with sugar: the sugar industry in St. Kitts and Nevis closed in 2005.

6. The Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation also has very little diversification: 98% of the Foundation’s annual revenues of USD 88 million came from “contributions made to the fund under the Citizenship by Investment programme” according to its most recent available annual report (2011).

7. Based on the 250k fee for individuals, this means that at least 340 people obtained St. Kitts and Nevis citizenship in this way during 2011, although given that there are special fees for families as well as the real estate option the actual amount of people acquiring citizenship was certainly higher.

8. The majority of the Foundation’s operating expenses – USD 22 million – went to “citizenship processing fees” in 2011 while USD 5 million went to “government support” and just under USD 4 million to donations to tourism, farming and training programmes.

9. The Foundation also had USD 25 million in cash in the bank and USD 14 million in investments.

10. On July 29th 2013, a press release announced that Iranian and Afghanistan nationals were suspended from participating in the St. Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment Programme.

A couple of final notes:

St Kitts and Nevis (population 50.000) has 80 secrecy points out of a potential 100 on the 2013 Financial Secrecy Index.

– The Citizenship by Investment programme was featured on Tax Research UK in 2012:

“As an example of a secrecy jurisdiction literally putting itself and its regulation – right down to citizenship – up for sale this one takes some beating”.

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