Why Considering a Country’s Diplomatic Ties is Crucial When Selecting a CBI Program

By Justin Donovan

Investment migration clients from mainland China continue to be an important part of the revenue mix for many immigration consulting firms. As Covid-19 restrictions abate (hopefully) in 2022, it is likely that business from mainland China will increase substantially.

At the same time, one cannot read the news nowadays without coming across an article about negative geopolitical dynamics concerning China. These dynamics are likely to become more difficult in the coming years.

One could venture to say that most of the investment migration (IM) business from mainland China is driven by Chinese clients seeking a ‘Plan B’. This may be for economic or political reasons, or simply because having ‘another place to go’ is desirable.

When a client is seeking a ‘Plan B’, there is an implicit duty for the investment migration consultant to think very carefully through what strategic path is most suitable for their client.

There is a myriad of citizenships (passports) that IM firms can direct their clients to. Often, the primary considerations of citizenship are focused on benefits like ‘visa-free travel’, cost, or geographic location.

However, one very often overlooked element to a new citizenship that could become very important in the coming years is the diplomatic relations of the newly adopted country.

One does not have to look too far back to see what happened to mainland Chinese citizens in 2019 that had Vanuatu citizenship gained through IM means. At the behest of Beijing, those ‘Vanuatu citizens’ were sent back to China (extradited) and had their citizenships revoked without even a semblance of due process. Clearly, mainland China had sway over the decisions of the Vanuatu government.

Taiwan, the island of 24 million people, has diplomatic relations with just over a dozen countries. The only citizenship-by-investment countries that maintain official diplomatic relations with Taiwan are St. Lucia and St. Kitts & Nevis. In other words, St. Lucia and St. Kitts recognize Taiwan rather than mainland China.

So what may seem a simple issue of diplomatic relations between nations can actually have significant ramifications to the ‘Plan B’ options of clients from mainland China. Simply put: would St. Kitts or St. Lucia give up one of their citizens to mainland China for purely political reasons? Probably not.

Since these two countries only recognize Taiwan, it may be the case that passports (citizenships) from both St. Lucia and St. Kitts are more strategically valuable to clients from mainland China. This value is likely to increase in the coming years.

As IM professionals give advice to their clients from mainland China, it is important that they have a sincere discussion about long-term geopolitics and diplomatic alignment.

The issue of diplomatic relations and recognition between countries can have a significant impact on the thinking of what it means to have a ‘Plan B’ as citizens of mainland China.

It may be the case that securing a citizenship/passport that is aligned with Taiwan will provide an extra buffer of ‘security’ in the coming decades.

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Justin Donovan AuthorSubscriber

Justin is an analyst on global public policy with a focus on international economic development and human capital mobility.