Commentary: Insights into the citizenship by investment program of Antigua and Barbuda

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Dr Hussain Farooq is the president of HF Corporation, a consulting firm that is specialised in providing services for residence and citizenship by investment programs, around the world, to high net worth individuals. The firm also runs a government-advisory practice to liaise with the different governments to build up strategies that could help in boosting FDI in their respective countries.

By Dr Hussain Farooq

Antigua and Barbuda, with 365 beaches, one for each day of the year, launched its economic citizenship program in April 2013. At that time, there were only two other citizenship by investment programs in the Caribbean, the St Kitts and Nevis citizenship by investment program launched in 1984 and the economic citizenship program of Commonwealth of Dominica launched in 1993.

Over the period of two years, after its launch, the program attracted good number of applicants from all across the world owing to the benefits offered.

The greatest number of applications came from Chinese applicants, with the number reaching 381, from the inception of the program to 31 December 2016, while Lebanese were the second nationality in terms of number of applications, with 48 applications from inception to 31 December, 2016. Russian citizens were the third in number, with 44 applications from inception to 31 December, 2016 while Syrians were fourth in number, followed by Libyans.

The total number of applications, received under the program, from inception until 31 December 2016, was 934, out of which 700 were for NDF contribution (donation), 177 under real estate investment and 57 under the business investment category.

The number of applications, submitted for the citizenship by investment program of Antigua and Barbuda, decreased in 2017 because of different factors, the revocation of visa-waiver agreement with Canada being an important reason, while competition from other neighbouring countries, in terms of pricing of the program, being another important contributing factor.

In this era of competition, robust due-diligence standards, pricing befitting the offered benefits, smart processing and effective channeling of the foreign direct investment for the economic development of the countries, by the recipient governments, will keep on determining which programs will outperform.

Our firm was pleased to present its proposals to the government of Antigua and Barbuda in September, 2017, suggesting some amendments to the program.

The government of Antigua and Barbuda realizes that, if its program is to maintain its market share in the industry, it must be flexible and be able to respond to the evolving demand dynamics.

With extensive market research and an assessment of the program, the government of Antigua and Barbuda has announced on Thursday, 12th October 2017, its intention to reduce the investment threshold for the National Development Fund (NDF) option, by 50 percent; from US$200,000 to US$100,000 for a family of up to four persons, and from US$250,000 to US$125,000 for a family of five and over.

The legal work required to effect this change will likely take up to four weeks.

The processing and due diligence fees, however, will remain unchanged.

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