Antigua and Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment Unit invites investors and their families to become full-fledged citizens in paradise through the Citizenship by Investment Programme. Established in 2013, it unlocks all the benefits of citizenship with the added perks of pristine beaches and a vibrant culture. In return, investors help the government support vital social programs and boost the economy. Unit CEO Charmaine Quinland-Donovan talks through the different ways of investing, the streamlined application process and the copious benefits of citizenship by investment.
How has your background helped you shape the vision of the Citizenship by Investment Programme here in Antigua and Barbuda?
I have almost two decades of experience in compliance and the regulatory environment, as well as some banking. This gives me a clearer indication of the direction that we would like to take to guarantee our due diligence process is fully robust and able to ensure the people who obtain citizenship through the programme are of reputable character and are likely to make further investments and boost our economy.
And for those investors of reputable character, how can they get involved?
There are three options for investors. We have the National Development Fund (NDF), which is a one-time investment in a government fund. This is the fund we primarily use for the social development schemes and the affordable housing. The minimum contribution for a family of four is $100,000. The principal applicant, the spouse and dependants all receive a certificate of registration indicating that they are approved citizens of Antigua and Barbuda and then each of them is entitled to a passport. You also have the government processing fees, which are $50,000, and due diligence fees. When the application extends to a family of five or more then the contribution raises to $250,000.
You can also make an investment in real estate. The minimum amount is $400,000 and that is for a family of any size. The difference is the processing fees and you must hold the investment for at least five years. The third option is an investment in business. The minimum investment amount for a single investor is $1.5 million and for more than one investor the minimum is $5 million, with each individual investor contributing at least $400,000.
We know that you can live anywhere in the world but we would like you to come to Antigua, to invest in Antigua, to take part in the wonder and splendour that is Antigua
What is the thinking and philosophy behind the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU)?
The unit was set up to administer the Citizenship by Investment Programme, which was established by an Act of Parliament in April 2013. Applications come to the unit through licensed agents – no applicant can submit an application directly. In the case of people who want to develop real estate projects, our unit would do the first review and assessment of the application and make a recommendation to Cabinet. There’s a similar process with applications for business investment projects. Our unit is mainly staffed by people from the private sector so they have a professional approach and are highly competent, which is evident from the efficient way they process applications. The legislation requires that we respond to an application within 90 days of receipt. Invariably, we are able to respond within 60 days once the application is submitted with all the required documents and all questions are thoroughly answered.
Are the individuals who take part in the campaign able to have dual nationality?
In Antigua and Barbuda we allow dual nationality, though there are people who might have to renounce their citizenship of the substantive country if they take up the nationality. What we are really pushing is an opportunity for a second citizenship, so that you have a choice. We know that you can live anywhere in the world but we would like you to come to Antigua, to invest in Antigua and to take part in the wonder and splendour that is Antigua.
We’ve had Robert De Niro, Oprah Winfrey, Beyoncé, Will Smith, Giorgio Armani… Any number of celebrities visit this country and feel at home
What does the Citizenship by Investment programme mean for the economy in terms of tangible results?
The government has been able to use funding coming from the programme to boost various aspects of Antigua and Barbuda. There’s been a lot of focus on social development schemes: ensuring that pensioners are able to receive their pensions on time, providing affordable housing for nationals who may not be able to acquire housing through regular financing, contributions to the cancer treatment centre as well as various improvements in our health sector. When the government came into power three years ago, it inherited a high degree of debt so it is heavily reliant on the programme to be able to fill that gap by lowering long-standing debt and improving the debt-to-GDP ratio of the country. The ratio has moved from over 100 percent to well within 75 percent, so that’s a huge accomplishment. The sustainability of this programme is hugely critical to the survival of the economy. I shudder to think what our economy would look like if it came to a halt.
What competitive advantages does this programme have compared with others in nearby countries?
There are five such programmes in our Caribbean region. The advantage in Antigua is the quick response time for applications. Also, once a person becomes a citizen and acquires an Antigua and Barbuda passport, they are able to travel to 134 countries without requiring a visa, including the UK and the Schengen area. You’re a citizen for life once you fulfil the residency requirement. Our legislation is peculiar in that once you are approved as a citizen, there are certain requirements you have to meet in order to extend the life of your passport, depending on the option in which you invested. Within the first five years you must have visited Antigua and Barbuda and spent five days. Invariably, once people come here they easily exceed that. Most of them stay for an additional week and bring back their family within the five-year period. After they have had a tour of the country, most of them make further investments or inquire about opportunities to create a business here. We have a straightforward application process. There is no minimum net worth or educational requirement. There is no tax on your worldwide income, only income generated in Antigua and Barbuda. Our system of government is a Westminster-style democracy and we have a well-established legal and regulatory framework and a well-educated workforce.
We really call this place paradise. Where else can you get summer 365 days a year and a different beach for each of those days?
One of the other key benefits to stress is how accessible the government is. Even meeting with the prime minister takes just a phone call.
In Singapore in 2014 the prime minister gave an address at an industry conference and he said: “Come to Antigua. As soon as you get off the plane, you can head straight into my office.” He was just stressing how accessible he is and how invested he is in ensuring that investors get value for their money and are able to invest as quickly as possible in the country.
Could you tell us about some of the celebrities and influencers who have come to Antigua and Barbuda?
We’ve had Queen Latifah, Robert De Niro, Timothy Dalton, Eric Clapton – he created a retreat centre here called Crossroads. Oprah Winfrey has been here and she has a house in Jumby Bay. Beyoncé has been here as well, and Will Smith, Giorgio Armani… Any number of celebrities visit this country and feel at home, and just want to ensure that whenever they need a getaway, they can come to paradise.
Culture is something that often gets overlooked when it comes to investments and relocations, but it can make or break a business. How would you define the culture of Antigua and Barbuda?
We’re a very friendly and accommodating people. I don’t know what it is about us, but we just go out of our way to ensure that people feel comfortable. Especially when we know this person is making a contribution to the country that will benefit us, our children, our children’s children… The culture is to make the process as seamless as possible. We’re also rich in history. For example, we still celebrate our emancipation from slavery. We have a huge summer festival towards the end of July/beginning of August, which is Carnival. This year marks its 60th anniversary. Leading up to it you have a number of fetes – parties – on various themes. During Carnival itself there is Breakfast Fete, a huge event that starts at around 5am and doesn’t end until maybe 6pm. There’s non-stop food, alcohol galore, and just a lot of music. It’s beautiful. We celebrate emancipation on the first Monday and Tuesday in August; there are bands and parades on the street. It’s really spectacular.
For business investors, what sectors would people be most likely to invest in besides tourism? Are there any projects that are needed now?
There are opportunities in manufacturing and agro-processing. If we want to be self-sufficient, we have to look to these avenues to be able to produce for our people. We also have opportunities in technology as we could use some improvement in our bandwidth.
What about the soul of Antigua and Barbuda? What makes it special for an entire family to relocate here?
Our rich heritage, our rich history. We have transformed from sugar cane plantations into a beautiful country with the requisite infrastructure to support investment. There’s also our welcoming people, which make for an enabling environment. Because we have a rich history in tourism we know how to make people feel at home. In fact, we really call this place paradise. Where else can you get summer 365 days a year and a different beach for each of those days? Where else can you get the Antigua black pineapple – the sweetest pineapple in the world? And where else can you get such tranquillity?