Recent events have shaken the Caribbean Citizenship By Investment (CBI) landscape, leaving little room for optimism. Just a week ago, St Kitts offered an extended limited-time discount on its CBI program, providing a glimmer of hope for prospective applicants. However, within two days, Vanuatu and Dominica suffered visa-free access restrictions to the UK due to alleged approvals of CBI applicants previously denied UK visas.
The European Union has long been critical of CBI and Golden Visas, and speculation about potential changes in the region has been circulating for days. Unfortunately, these speculations proved true as St Kitts and Nevis' Citizenship By Investment Unit announced a series of sweeping and unprecedented changes to its program.
The European Commission reportedly demanded six crucial modifications for all countries offering CBI programs. These demands include the introduction of Enhanced Due Diligence (EDD) on all applicants, mandatory interviews for all CBI applicants, no postal service delivery of citizenship documents or passports, increased investment thresholds (a minimum of US $200,000 for donation-based applications and US $400,000 for real estate investments), strict Anti Money Laundering (AML) monitoring of investment funds, and the discontinuation of promotional materials focusing on visa-free access to the EU as a program benefit.
Initially, there were doubts among industry experts about the accuracy of these predictions, but St Kitts and Nevis promptly confirmed their acceptance of the EU's demands, effective immediately.
Critics argue that CBI applicants seek a second passport for geopolitical diversification and visa-free travel opportunities, not an allegiance to the cultural norms of St Kitts and Nevis. They question the EU's expectations of applicants to conform to specific norms when purchasing citizenship.
The situation has left many stakeholders disheartened, with previously successful CBI programs like Portugal's Residency By Property Investment, and citizenship programs in Montenegro and Cyprus, also facing challenges due to the EU's uncompromising stance.
It remains unclear whether St Kitts' decision to comply with the EU's demands was driven by a genuine belief in appeasing Brussels or by individual politicians influenced by external factors. The truth behind the decision might take time to surface.
As visa-free access privileges for Caribbean CBI programs are revoked seemingly overnight, a cautious and wait-and-see approach might be prudent before investing substantial sums into uncertain travel booklets. The evolving situation highlights the need to seize favorable citizenship or residency opportunities promptly to avoid potential future setbacks.