Soon, cricket may not be the only connection Indians have with the Caribbean. Antigua and Barbuda have rolled out attractive citizenship-for-cash programs to woo Indian immigrants.
The latest to launch a Citizenship by Investment program is Antigua & Barbuda, a independent Commonwealth state in the eastern Caribbean which will open up its borders to other nationals in a month. It is giving full citizenship for an investment of at least $400,000 (about Rs 2.4 crore) in an approved real estate project.
They have also set their sights on wealthy Chinese as well as Indian immigrants. “Since the program was announced in March, we have had a number of inquiries from Indian citizens. Most of them view it as a lifestyle investment,”.
So what are the advantages of an Antigua and Barbuda passport besides the tropical breeze, swaying palm trees and white sand beaches, of course? An Antigua passport can get you visa-free travel to 126 countries including Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, the UK and Europe. St Kitts gets you over 100 countries. An Indian passport only gets you 55 countries.
As a Commonwealth citizen, one also receives certain preferential treatment in the UK. For example, your children may enter the UK to study without first having to apply for student visas. After studying, they may work there for two years without a work permit.
“Most Asian clients are keen on providing a western education for their children, and this is one of their primary reasons for seeking a citizenship. Another reason is mobility thanks to visa-free travel.”
“We get about a 1,000 such applications each year in total and the overall numbers are growing. NRIs account for much of the demand because of the Dubai situation. Even though many Indians work there, most don’t have the privileges of residency. Those who have done well there but don’t have status often want a better standing, passport ranking wise. This is the new breed of people we call global citizens and we are helping them become that,”
But what is the profile of potential Indian customers?
“They are mostly married with kids, very successful and in businesses that generate a lot of cash very quickly, such as property and real estate. A vast majority of our clients for CIP may apply from US or Dubai (NRIs). Indians often start UK citizenship and Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship by Investment program applications simultaneously, so that the quickly processed Antigua and Barbuda passport can give them easy access to the world till they get a UK passport after six years.”
And what will a $400,000 (about Rs 2,40,00,000) investment house in Antigua get you? “European finish. Italian designs. German kitchens,” . If that isn’t enough, the island also boasts the presence of celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Giorgio Armani, Timothy Dalton and “Berlusconi”.