IS THE ST KITTS AND NEVIS CITIZENSHIP PROGRAM STILL ATTRACTIVE?
The Government of St Kitts and Nevis has long prided itself on the prestige of its citizenship by investment program. On the market since 1984, the longest running economic program has been considered to be the best is highly respected and highly lucrative in the region, earning the government 30% of their yearly revenue.
However, since early 2014 the positive reputation of the program has been called into question. Questions were raised concerning the administration of the program and the validity and reputation of St Kitts and Nevis passports issued under the program.
It was reported that newly issued St Kitts and Nevis passports did not contain the important biometric data concerning place of birth of the passport holder which effectively caused a rift between the USA and St Kitts & Nevis with The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The most affected were holders of St Kitts passports applying for US visas who, as a result of the negative stigma attached to their passports, were required to provide additional documentations during their US Visa application process.
Following this passport scandal the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crime Enforcement Network raised concerns over the administration of the program accusing the St Kitts’ Government of running ‘a program with lax controls and procedures and allowing illicit actors to slip through the net’. Effectively labelling St Kitts and Nevis passports a risky commodity. This greatly affected the image of the country and the island saw a decline in citizenship applications.
Soon after these concerns, and with Canada’s announcement on 24th November 2014 to impose visa requirements on St Kitts passport holders, the government immediately recalled all passports issued between January 2012 and July 2014. In response they implemented new changes with the intent to safeguard and strengthen positive relations with Canada, the USA, the UK, global financial institutions, service providers and the CIU. The changes were the following:
(i) Effective from February 2014, any name changes made by a St Kitts and Nevis passport holder must be reflected in the passport.
(ii) Effective from July 2014, all passports issued by the government of St Kitts and Nevis must have the place of birth printed.
iii) New St Kitts and Nevis passports issued will replace any passports in existence that do not indicate the place of birth.
Despite these quick changes the current government was dissolved and elections took place inconveniently right in the middle of the application decision tribunal which, caused a backlog and severe delays.
Further delays were caused by following the generals election and when the new government of St Kitts and Nevis, led by newly elected Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris, announced plans to further improve citizenship security measures in order to restore the credibility of the program and reputation of the country.
True to its word in March 2015 the government signed over 100 certificates for registration after closely monitoring these new due diligence measures. Currently, the Government is working closely with IPSA International, a US based risk management firm, who provided 20 best practice related recommendations to the state to enhance programs’ security, credibility, transparency and efficiency.
Since assuming office, Dr Harris has worked tirelessly to re-establish relations with the USA, Canada, the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) assuring them of the new changes and raising the profile of the island again for future business . It is only a matter of time the PM says before the program meets the highest level of international acceptance and the prestige of the program as the oldest and best in the world is restored again.