Citizenship by investment
There are certain things that should not have a price tag attached to them, citizenship is one of them. Apart from the three common factors that determine citizenship; right of blood, right of soil and marriage, most countries have a structured process of naturalization for foreigners who have met the requirements and this can include several years of residency, a citizenship test and sometimes renouncing of prior citizenship. Strategic programs are in place in some countries to attract investment from wealthy foreigners and job creators with the possibility of achieving citizenship later on. An investment worth just £1 million is all you need in the UK, $1 million in the US (depending on where you invest) and C$800,000 in Canada. This is just to get you started on the citizenship journey, usually it starts with the issue of an investor visa which leads to permanent residency and after a number of years, citizenship is attained. However, not everyone can afford C$800,000 or not everyone can wait 5-10 years for a passport.
A person of talent and means needs unlimited access to more than one country.
Welcome to St. Kitts and Nevis, the first citizenship by investment program was established here. For just $250,000 – $400,000 depending on how you choose to invest, you can become a Kittian or Nevisian if you like……within the space of three months. If you consider that price range to be for wealthy investors, how about the Commonwealth of Dominica, you become a citizen by investing between $100,000 – $200,000. You become a citizen of these countries without setting foot on their soil. Why on earth would anyone be interested in such countries? Henley & Partners ranks them high on the visa restrictions index; with a passport of St. Kitts and Nevis, you have visa free travel to 128 out of 196 countries in the world.
Travel is not the only motivation for a second passport; More Americans are renouncing their citizenship in order to escape the tax burden of an American, wealthy Chinese don’t trust their government and according to Henley’s CEO “when North Korea shoots missiles, we get a lot of South Koreans. When there’s chaos in Cairo, we get lots of Egyptians on the phone.” Interestingly, a number of countries in recession hit EU have already begun implementing similar programs to raise revenue, most offer just permanent residency. Latvia offers permanent residency for the purchase of real estate worth just $91,000, a bargain price for access to all countries in the EU for non-EU citizens.
If supply continues to increase and outstrips demand, the price of citizenship might fall to a level where every Tom, Dick and Harry becomes an investor. Hopefully it will never get to that stage as that will lead to the dilution of citizenship, trivializing of citizenship obligations and fragmentation of national identity; an unpleasant situation in the long term for the concerned nations.