The most recent data report from Saint Lucia’s Citizenship by Investment Unit (the Caribbean’s most transparent CIU) – which covers the fiscal year that ended on March 31st, 2021 – shows that the country’s CIP broke a number of records last year.
The CIU received 408 applications, up 111% from the preceding year and an 18% improvement on the previous all-time high of 345 (FY2017-18). During the same period, the CIU approved 313 applications, another record, representing an increase of 119% on the preceding period and a 49% expansion compared to the previous record of 210, set in FY2018-19.
The 313 application approvals were accompanied by the issuance of 568 new citizenships, another record. The CIU denied only 14 applications during the period.
Some two-thirds of applications (261) came in under the program's US$100,000 National Economic Fund (NEF) contribution option, while the US$300,000 real estate investment and US$250,000 COVID-relief bond options accounted for, respectively, 20% and 16%.
While the NEF contribution was the most popular qualifying route, the real estate investment was the program's top FDI-earner, raising capital amounting to EC$66.3 million during the period, or about 54% of the total. Interest in the real estate option is remarkably high considering that the program has only two approved real estate projects, neither of which have begun construction more than two years after receiving their CBI designations.
The COVID-relief bonds, which were introduced in 2020 at half the minimum investment amount of ordinary government bonds, drove renewed interest in a qualifying option that had gone practically unused since FY2016-17.
Once more, Chinese nationals accounted for the plurality of applications; 129 main applicants in FY2020-21, up from 53 in FY 2019-20. At 48 approved applications, Nigerians are now the second-largest applicant nationality, a sharp increase from the 12 Nigerian applications recorded in FY2019-20. US-based applications saw an even more pronounced expansion, growing by an order of magnitude from 3 in 2019-20 to 30 last year. 17 Russian and 9 Indian applications rounded out the Top 5.
One consequence of Saint Lucia's record-breaking year was a new all-time high in revenues for the CIU, which more than doubled year-on-year to reach EC$33.4 million. The vast bulk of CIU income originated from three sources; due diligence fees, administrative fees, and the 20% share of NEF contributions that accrue to the Unit.
While, at some EC$18 million, expenditure at the CIU was largely on par with that of previous years, the composition of the Unit's expenses saw some notable changes:
Commissions to marketing agents, which during the preceding fiscal year was the Unit's single biggest expense item, was reduced to practically nothing in the most recent fiscal year, though a corresponding increase was observed in commissions payments to authorized agents. Nor did the CIU spend much on overseas business travel during the period, which almost precisely coincides with the first year of the pandemic. It also appears to have discontinued its public education campaign. One expense post of note is the EC$675,000 listed as "Henley & Partners," without further context. This expense does not appear in previous years' reports.
The combination of sharply increased revenues without a corresponding rise in expenses resulted in a significant improvement in CIU finances; a positive net result of EC$15.46m (about US$5.74m).
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Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine - online or offline - for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 16 years in the United States, China, Spain, and Portugal.