Apr 28, 2020

Truth on the Citizenship by Investment Program of Antigua and Barbuda

When I talk to my clients who can be referred to as HNWI (High Net Worth Individuals), it turns out they have been working long hours, sleeping 4 to 5 hours a day for the first 10 to 15 years of establishing and developing their million-dollar businesses. Sometimes I also work the same hours, but I cannot go on like that for more than a month or two. I have to take a break. A conference on tax planning, trusts, immigration, asset protection comes in very handy. But I still cannot work less than 10 hours a day. I can only imagine what these people might feel like, having worked 16 to 20 hours a day for decades, coming across today’s attitude towards wealthy people. One could say that today’s sentiment of the crowd towards wealthy and successful people might sound as eat the rich. Poor voters are more numerous than wealthy voters. More and more politicians propose new taxes for the rich to redistribute what was fairly earned. It is great that in this strange world there are still safe harbors, such as legitimate opportunities to obtain a second passport and citizenship by investment.

On the other hand, there are enough scammers in the business of providing services in the field of acquiring second passports. They will try to sell you

some legitimate documents that were obtained illegally, at the best (by bribing a government official). These second passports are called gray.

At worst, you will end up getting illegal fake passports issued by criminals. The so-called black passports.

Regular and attentive readers of the Internationalwealth.info portal  know there are 4 major citizenship by investment programs  in the Caribbean (St. Kitts and Nevis, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, and Antigua and Barbuda, which we will talk about in great detail here) and 2 such programs in Europe (Malta and Cyprus). If you are offered a quick second passport and citizenship without naturalization from any other country, then this is a scam. It is also very easy to identify scammers who offer you certain programs without asking you the first and the most important question, i.e. why do you and your family need a second passport? (Your reasons may vary , so, different people will need different programs).

At a time when the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis started feeling lots of attention from the U.S., which resulted in additional tightening of the document examination process, as well as delays (due to this program being popular with the CIS, the Middle East and especially China), many professionals started looking at the almost “copy-pasted” citizenship by investment program of Antigua and Barbuda, and recommend it as a cure-all solution.

Let’s turn to the facts…

Antigua and Barbuda is a country of two islands from the Leeward Islands group, that are located where the Caribbean sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. It is a tourist and tropical paradise that tourists call the Country 365 Beaches. The islands as a nation were very strongly shaped by the United Kingdom. The country used to be part of the British Empire. And now, though Antigua and Barbuda is an independent state, it is still a parliament democracy under the constitutional monarchy of Elizabeth II. But Antigua and Barbuda is not the British Overseas Territory, such as the British Virgin Islands, for example. By the way, Antigua once overtook offshore number 1 in the field of the offshore companies registration. Antigua and Barbuda is still very pro-British. You will meet surfers and cricketers here. And since English is the country’s official language, Antigua is a convenient destination for American and Canadian retirees, not to mention the country as a tourist destination and a place for weddings and honeymoons.

Is the ghost of Sir Allen Stanford walking in Antigua?

Allen Stanford will perhaps remain the most famous citizen by investment in Antigua and Barbuda for all the time, no matter how much this program develops in the decades to come. In 2006, this man was even beknighted by the authorities of this country. In June 2012, Allen Stanford was sentenced to 110 years in prison for creating a pyramid scheme, a Ponzi scheme that cost its participants more than 7 billion dollars.

By the way, those whom passport sellers are trying to convince that with a second passport they will escape from the consequences of their crimes committed in developed countries, can look at the photos of beknighted Sir Allen Stanford BEFORE and AFTER.

The man is now in a completely different company than before, isn’t he?

Please understand and presume that the second passport of a Caribbean country (even together with the knighthood title) will not save you if your business is Ponzi schemes and international financial scams.

Speaking of Antigua, it makes sense to mention Stanford, for now we are talking about Antigua, and his legacy in Antigua is everywhere. For example, as soon as you go out of the airport in Antigua (V. C. Bird International Airport*), to your left you will see a cricket stadium built by Stanford.

Just behind the stadium there is Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank (ECAB), a former Bank of Antigua owned by Stanford. And right across from the airport, there is a huge building for Antigua that just cannot be missed. This building is a former Stanford International Bank that played almost the main role in his Ponzi scheme implementation.

Antigua is a small country with a population of 70,000 people and it is hard to imagine that the Government of Antigua back then did not understand what Stanford was doing. He came to the island in 1990, after the British regulator kicked him out of Montserrat because of a banking scandal. A few years later, Stanford became the largest employer in Antigua, as well as the confidant of the most influential family in the islands, the Bird* family (the airport in Antigua was not named after birds).

Hard times for paradise?

After the fall of Stanford, having lost the influx of virtually stolen money into the country’s economy, Antigua’s economy began to deteriorate. Naturally, the IMF demanded that the government reduce its spending. Employment terminations, budget cuts, business closures followed.

But the U.S. kept coming back at Antigua. In 2009, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused Leroy King, the head of the Commission in charge of the Financial Services in Antigua, of bribery, namely, receiving tens of thousands dollars in bribes from Stanford for ignoring his Ponzi scheme. In 2012, federal prosecutors from Miami opened a criminal investigation into fraud, corruption, extortion and money laundering committed by former Antigua Prime Minister Lester Bird and his associates (mostly due to Stanford). By the way, it did not have much effect on Antigua and actually on June 27, 2014 it was announced that Lester Bird will become the sixth national hero of Antigua and Barbuda and will also receive the knighthood title. Bird took his warm seat with the government elected in June 2014.

Since Stanford’s fall, Antiguan courts have not yet arraigned anyone for their oversight or unprofessional indiscretion regarding Stanford’s actions.

But the statute of limitations has not expired yet… so we need to realize that the U.S. government has its own special leverage over the Antiguan Government.

That is, it would be a mistake to think that the U.S. has got leverage over the Government of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis and none of it regarding the Government of Antigua.

Launch of a new citizenship by investment program

In this situation it is no wonder that the Government of Antigua decided the country needed its own economic citizenship program.

So far, the requirements are as follows:

  1. Purchase approved properties for 200,000 USD and more;
    2. Contribute 250,000 USD to the development fund.
    The opportunity to contribute 200,000 existed until June 4, 2014, but has now obviously expired. From November 2014 to May 2016 there was a special investment offer of contributing 200,000 USD and getting a reduced state duty amount for a family of four, which all together will make 100,000 USD for the investor and his spouse.
    3. Invest 1.5 million USD or more into local business.
    They also charge additional fees for examining the papers and accepting applications for citizenship by investment by the officials of Antigua.
    State duties and fees – Principal Applicant: USD 50,000
    State duties and fees – Spouse of the Principal Applicant: USD 25,000
    State duties and fees – Dependent Child under 18: USD 20,000
    State duties and fees – Dependent Child aged 18-28: USD 25,000
    State duties and fees – Dependent Parent over 55: USD 25,000
    Investor Due Diligence – Principal Applicant: USD 7,500
    Investor Due Diligence – Principal Applicant’s spouse: USD 7,500
    Investor Due Diligence – Dependent Child aged 12-17: USD 2,000
    Investor Due Diligence – Dependent Child aged 18-25: USD 4,000
    Investor Due Diligence – Dependent Parent over 65: USD 4,000

If a citizen of Antigua, who has obtained citizenship by investment, wishes to obtain Antiguan citizenship for their child born after obtaining citizenship, they need to apply for that and pay the state duty before the child turns 5. Then the state citizenship duty will be USD 2,000.
In any case, adding a newborn to your application after obtaining citizenship will cost USD 2,000 of the state duty.

It would be fair to say that the citizenship by investment program of Antigua and Barbuda offers more opportunities than the economic citizenship program of the Federation of St. Keats and Nevis. In terms of the real estate investments and subsidies to the Development Fund, the amounts are roughly the same.

Moreover, the Antigua and Barbuda passport offers the same conditions for visa-free travels as the passport of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. Both passports have long been offer the possibility for visa-free travel to the EU, while Grenada and the Commonwealth of Dominica officially got this possibility in 2015.

By the way, after that, taking into account the final cost of investing in the passport and citizenship of the Commonwealth of Dominica, Antigua became comparatively twice less advantageous, unless the investor is interested in a visa-free Canada (the Antigua and Barbuda program is the only one of the four programs of economic citizenship in the Caribbean offering this opportunity).

Antigua is a very beautiful, tourist-developed and already built-up island, which despite its economic issue even now looks and feels like a much wealthier and prosperous place compared to the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, and even more so compared to Dominica. Transportation to Antigua is better than that of any other competitor country in the Caribbean citizenship by investment programs.

Tax issues and threats are now taken down!

The Internationalwealth.info portal articles pro-actively talk about the need of wealthy individuals and owners of large and medium-sized businesses to have a second passport for themselves and their families. We haven’t started fervently praising the Antiguan citizenship by investment program right when it was launched though there were all the prerequisites for that, such as nothing but the lack of capacity, disorganization and delays in processing applications for economic citizenship in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. And we had certain reasons for that.

The point is that Antigua has followed in the footsteps of the United States (and the small African country of Eritrea) and has adopted legislation to tax the incomes of its citizens worldwide. Taxation based on citizenship, not residency. The rate is up to 25%. Naturally, the Government of Antigua came up with a bill under which economic citizens will be exempt from the income tax at all, which caused outrage of the locals.

The leader of the opposition (and now the Prime Minister of Antigua, Gaston Browne) said that the amendment was discriminatory and could be challenged in court. It violates the rights of indigenous residents of Antigua and Barbuda who live in the islands but earn abroad (via online business or by traveling to work).

Since there was a risk of it being challenged in court, this meant that even if the amendment were adopted, it would have been challenged in courts in the years to come. And this could only mean one thing, that is, huge tax payments of up to 25% made by wealthy individuals in order to renew their passports and even maintain their economic citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda.

Such tax legislation for citizens was yet another ghost from the Allen Stanford times.

In February 2014, Antigua’s tax laws were amended logically for the taxes to be paid only on the amounts earned globally and deposited into Antiguan accounts. You can find them in Section 3, Part 5 of the Antiguan Tax Act. In June 2014 reasonable opposition came to power, the common sense regarding the program prevailed. For example, the income tax for the poorest islanders was reduced and virtually abolished. The argument was that now there are enough subsidies from the economic citizenship program. Pro-active positive attitude towards the program is being shaped with the population. All that the economic citizens of Antigua will need to do is, in full agreement with the theory of six flags, not to open a bank account in Antigua, or not to deposit such amounts on which they are not ready to pay income tax.

Who wants to live in Antigua?

Antigua is a Turkey for Americans. In addition, there are many Italians here, as the Minister of Tourism of Antigua is Italian. At the moment there is a requirement of staying in Antigua and Barbuda for 5 days in the first 5 years, which is a small disadvantage.

Not everyone, especially those from the Middle East, will be happy to bring their family to Antigua.

Firstly, the Internet in Antigua is not as good as in the Federation of St. Keats and Nevis. Here it is exceptionally slow even in the lobbies of five-star hotels.

Secondly, people in the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis are religious and modest Puritans, mostly kind, not spoiled by tourists, and conversable. But in Antigua local men can offer their services (far from massage) to a white girl or young woman right on the 5-star hotel beach. Local people always ask hotel guests to bring them food. However, Antigua is much louder, more popular with the tourists than the islands of St. Keats and Nevis, which still have a very long journey ahead of them to get to the Antiguan level. But the fully completed projects of Kittitian Hill and Cristophe Harbour in the island of St. Kitts can be considered a much more beautiful and sophisticated resort.

One of the biggest benefits of the Antiguan citizenship by investment program is its efficiency. The realistic time for obtaining your citizenship can be from 4 to 6 months after the application.

Yet another big advantage for those who are going to use the program in the early years of its shaping is that the local Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) was run by a Canadian, Don Myatt, from the very beginning. He has a 38-year experience as an immigration and consular officer, including certain countries that are strategically important to the program development, such as India, China, Hong Kong and Thailand. Having such a professional on board guarantees better quality of the CIU operations compared to the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. We also hope that any possible issues with Canada will be avoided. Citizens of Grenada and Dominica have no right to the visa-free entry to Canada due to issuing passports of those countries to some indecent individuals. In the future, however, there is a political intention to hire a local specialist to this position.

Please do not hesitate to contact us and we will introduce you to the most experienced consultants in the matter of obtaining citizenship by investment. Please email us to [email protected] right now.