Attacks on Citizenship-by-Investment (CBI) programs happen a few times year. We’ve all seen these attacks come from politicians, the media, and multilateral organizations such as the OECD. I believe these attacks will inevitability become stronger over the coming decade if governments offering CBI programs don’t innovate. So how should CBI countries governments insulate themselves from these attacks?
I’d like to propose one concept that I believe will provide a strategic safe harbour to CBI programs in long-term. The intellectual foundation of my concept is basic: CBI countries have the right to use sovereign immigration tools to attract international talent in a highly competitive 21st century global economy. Simply put: CBI countries have the right to recruit the best and brightest people the world has to offer, by whatever tools may be available.
My concept, therefore, hinges on the idea that CBI countries should discount their CBI programs for applicants who have masters and doctoral degrees.
For example, countries could discount their citizenship donation levels by 25% for applicants with a master’s degree and 50% for those with a doctoral/law/medical degree.
Say a medical doctor (with a recognized medical degree) is interested in pursuing Antiguan citizenship via CBI. The current donation fee for a single individual pursuing CBI in Antigua is $100,000. This doctor would be offered Antigua citizenship for a $50,000 donation.
Another example: Say a female applicant has a PhD from the University of Cambridge and is interested in Grenada citizenship. The current individual CBI fee in Grenada is $150,000. With a 50% discount in recognition of that applicant holding a PhD, the total donation fee she would have to pay to Grenada for her CBI would be a mere $75,000.
A ‘Highly Talented Incentive Program’ (HTIP) under the umbrella of CBI would help blunt attacks and criticism that CBI countries are only interested in selling their ‘passports to the highest bidder’. Instead, CBI countries could honestly state that a strategic pillar of their CBI program is to attract highly educated and talented individuals for long-term economic development purposes.
Investment migration, in many ways, is already a broker in the global redistribution of talent.
In fact, places like Dubai, Hong Kong, and Singapore already have ‘talent visas’ or residency programs contingent on the educational levels of applicants. In Dubai, the government recently stated that a PhD holder from a top 200 university essentially can have automatic permanent residency. Dubai’s strategic approach should be one that CBI countries emulate, albeit in the citizenship context.
Lastly, one of the most important benefits of offering CBI discounts to highly educated applicants is that CBI countries get to actually attract high quality citizens. If a CBI country in the Caribbean, today, established a 50% discount on donation levels to acquire citizenship – that country would likely be flooded with very high quality applicants. This would ultimately contribute to massive gains in human capital quality in CBI countries that choose this path.