Dominica is the cheapest place in the world to buy citizenship, according to a report by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
“For an investment of $100,000 plus various fees, as well as an in-person interview on the island, citizenship can be bought,” the repor dated June 3, said. “However, experts caution that because the interview committee meets only once a month, actually getting a Dominican passport can take anywhere from five to 14 months.”
The report stated that since Dominica is a Commonwealth nation, “citizens get special privileges in the UK, and citizens can also travel to 50 countries, including Switzerland, without a visa.”
Next in line is St. Kitts, which according to the report, has the longest running citizenship-by-investment programme (CIP) in the world, which was founded in 1984.
“There are two methods to obtain citizenship, with the cheapest option being a $250,000 non-refundable donation to the St Kitts and Nevis Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation, a public charity,” the report stated. “A second option involves a minimum $400,000 investment in real estate in the country.”
The program in St. Kitts was recently “singled out by the US Treasury, which cautioned that Iranian nationals could be obtaining passports and then use them to travel to the US or make investments, which could violate US sanctions.”
In late 2013 Antigua and Barbuda introduced its CIP for a $400,000 real estate investment or a $200,000 donation to a charity.
Prime minister Baldwin Spencer said CIP was essential because of economic slowdown and “the virtual disappearance of traditional funding sources”.
However, he warned that Antigua’s program “is not an open-sesame for all and sundry.”
Othe countries on the list include Malta and Cyprus.
The BBC report quoted Henley and Partners citizenship expert, Christian Kalin, as estimating that every year, “several thousand people spend a collective $2bn (£1.2bn; 1.5bn euros) to add a second, or even third, passport to their collection.”
“Just like you diversify an investment portfolio, you want to diversify your passport portfolio,” he said. The option has proven popular with Chinese and Russian citizens, as well as those from the Middle East.
Concerns have been raised about transparency and accountability, according to the BBC.
In January, Viviane Reding, vice-president of the European Commission, said in a speech: “Citizenship must not be up for sale.”
Late last year the Dominica Cabinet approved regulations for a new ‘variant’ of the island’s Economic Citizenship Program.
The new variant targets investors who prefer “fixed investments, such as real estate and /or a local address” and is separated from the Financial Services Unit (FSU).
“It is a stand alone unit so that we could give more focus and attention to administrative issues and concerns in respect to the Economic Citizenship Program,” prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, explained.
In August last year attorney general, Levi Peter, projected that Dominica will earn in excess of $60-million from the economic citizenship program for the financial year of 2013-2014.