Antigua & Barbuda is currently leading the region in the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) market, according to CEO and Global Managing Partner of Henley & Partners, Eric Major.
As the biggest player in the global citizenship market, Major said even without published numbers from the Caribbean states involved in CIP, he can say with some certainty that Antigua & Barbuda is leading.
“The landscape is getting busy, there are a few other Caribbean countries getting ready to launch … but at this moment in time it really is Antigua out in the lead,” said Major.
The CEO said with St Kitts & Nevis conducting a review and restructuring of its CIP, Antigua & Barbuda is benefitting. “So in the meantime there is less demand for that programme and Antigua is benefitting from that,” said Major.
However, he warned that as demand grows, the local CIP unit will need to invest more resources to keep apace and has warned that it’s important to send the right signals to the international market.
“They will have to provide a strong signal to the market that they want only the best,” said Major. “It’s one thing to receive 70, 80 or 100 cases a month, what I would like to see also is a double digit refusal rate from the CIU. I think it’s only realistic that a number of these applicants are not qualified and I would be interested from hearing from the CIU on their refusal rates,” Major argued.
Former attorney general Justin Simon, former attorney general and CIP agent Radford Hill and former St Kitts & Nevis tourism minister Dwyer Astaphan disagreed, however, with the need for a double digit rejection rate.
“That’s flawed. If it is the people qualify, we have set out certain requirements for eligibility and if they have passed the test so to speak then they have to be approved,” argued Hill.
“What we should be concerned about is not the number of rejections, but whether or not the independent overseas providers are in fact doing the due diligence to the best of their abilities,” said Simon.
While Astaphan added: “You’d wish to have all applicants pass the test.”
But Major argued that there was bound to be unwanted candidates applying.
“We, at Henley and Partners, understand this industry and business better than anyone. We know there is a lot of meritorious applicants and families out there who require the privileges that these programmes provide … but there is also less meritorious applicants who could be knocking on Antigua and other countries’ doors.”
The CEO is of the view that Antigua & Barbuda needed to keep pace with the dynamic industry and use multiple tools and resources for due diligence, including on the ground verification.
Meanwhile, Major said Antigua & Barbuda is well placed to meet its target of increasing applications under the real estate option of the CIP.