The 3 Ways Caribbean Citizenship Programs Could Respond to Saint Kitts & Nevis’ Price Hike

James Nuveen

In July 2023, St. Kitts & Nevis caved to EU pressure (or perhaps tried to forestall it) by revising their citizenship-by-investment (CBI) program. This meant doubling their prices and adding an in-person interview to the application process, among other changes.

The news sent shockwaves across the Caribbean and the global CBI market.

Now, investment migration professionals look to other Caribbean CBI programs for similar, contrasting, or nonexistent changes. Earlier this month, IMI questioned the heads of the remaining four Caribbean CIPs to learn how and whether they were planning to respond and received mixed responses.

The context of Saint Kitts’ price doubling

Over the decades, the program has undergone multiple changes, adapting its positioning in response to the shifting competitive balance in the wider market. Saint Kitts & Nevis’ CIP has tweaked pricing, qualifying terms, and investment options periodically, each time aiming to strike a balance between the demands of investors, diplomatic allies, and their own economic targets.

What’s different this time is that the program has drastically revised its asking price seemingly in the absence of any external impetus. Saint Kitts acted unilaterally, its price hike taking even its Caribbean peers by surprise.

Ostensibly, the immediate motive for the changes was the EU’s (alleged) issuance of six demands for CBI countries:

  • Mandatory interviews of all applicants
  • Enhanced due diligence on all applicants
  • Doubled minimum investment thresholds
  • In-person collecting of citizenship documents
  • No third-party involvement in transfer of funds
  • No use of visa-free Schengen for marketing purposes

The recent price doubling is perhaps a strategic move, reflecting the nation’s dependence on its geopolitical allies in the West and a desire not to run afoul of their preferences.

The question now is how the region’s other programs will react.

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Essentially, they could respond in one of three ways:

1. They Could Do Nothing

Regional peers (and competitors) may decide that the best course of action is to do nothing at all.

By maintaining their current pricing (US$100-150,000), they’d present themselves as more affordable alternatives to Saint Kitts & Nevis, while offering essentially the same benefits.

What are the implications of other Caribbean CIPs doing nothing in reaction?

  • Attractiveness — The remaining four programs would see a relative increase of investors seeking a more budget-friendly path to Caribbean citizenship.
  • Growing backlogs among the other programs — Other programs absorbing demand that would previously have targeted Saint Kitts could drive administrative bottlenecks and extended application times if not managed well. Grenada’s CIP offers an example of what happens to wait times when demand rises suddenly and in a sustained manner.
  • Perceived value — While their relative affordability might attract more applicants, it may also serve to drive a perceived lower value of their citizenships. For Saint Kitts’ part, should their application volume drop by anything less than 50%, their revenue would be greater than it was before the price increase.

2. They Could Raise Their Prices in Line with Saint Kitts & Nevis

Raising prices across the board would level the playing field. Then, the CBI countries would compete again on factors like processing speed, passport power, tax policy, and global reputation, rather than price.

However, this tactic has pitfalls:

  • Global competition — A higher price tag brings these countries into direct competition with EU golden visas, Vanuatu CBI, Turkey CBI, and countless programs worldwide. The Caribbean CBI market doesn’t exist in a vacuum but is part of a broader, global market for alternative solutions, and a Caribbean citizenship is far from the only way to improve global mobility.
  • Potential drop in applications — The affordability of Caribbean CIPs has always been a plus. By raising prices by even minor amounts, let alone doubling them, they’ll deter many prospective customers.

3. They Could Diversify Their Offerings

Instead of a price-based play, each nation could take a different route and diversify its CBI offering.

They could introduce tiered programs, offer additional benefits like extended family inclusions, or even combine residency with real estate or entrepreneurial investments. The possibilities are limited only by each administration’s imagination. This way, each country would provide an option tailored to different investor profiles.

  • Flexibility — Packages would cater to different audiences and maximize appeal. But each specific CBI program would likely carve out a more narrow applicant profile.
  • Brand value — Diversification across the Caribbean would enhance each country’s brand with its target market. This is their opportunity to carve out a niche for their program, positioning it as innovative and responsive to investor needs, rather than keep getting placed in the same booth, as is the case today.

History has shown these programs, while competitive, also follow a domino effect: One nation’s policy change often influences a shift in others. Examples of this include the 2017 Caribbean CBI Price War, which drove many stakeholders to call for closer coordination between the region’s programs, and even to suggest it may be time to form a cartel, for example through an Organization of Passport Exporting Countries (OPEC).

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James quit his corporate job in 2021 to find freedom and grow a remote business from Latin America, while teaching others to do the same.