Cinvest Founder Kemal Nicholson recently participated in a panel discussion during IMI Connect Malta, where he discussed the US-Caribbean meeting that took place a while back and resulted in six new principles Caribbean Citizenship by Investment Programs (CBIs) will follow.
Nicholson pointed out that while most of the new principles were almost already practiced, or at least had the foundation in place for swift implementation, one stood out; the mandatory interview of CBI applicants.
Insightful as always, Nicholson was on point, as the new interview process will be the one that the Caribbean Citizenship by Investment Units (CIUs), accredited agents, and certified promoters will all have to navigate together, and it is quite a tonal shift in the process.
What we know so far
Caribbean CIUs are yet to release any information regarding how and when the interview requirement will be implemented, but the overall consensus in the Caribbean is that the governments are committed to meeting the principles set out in the meeting with top-ranking US officials.
We expect an announcement in the near future, as well as an incubation period where all stakeholders can get to grips with the new procedure. Still, nothing is set in stone yet, not until the governments have something concrete ready to announce.
Interviews are a positive step for Caribbean CBIs
While some initially viewed the interviews as a negative outcome of the meeting, citing that it is another step in the process that is susceptible to officer discretion and human error, the reality is the opposite; the interviews are one of the best things that can happen for the Caribbean CBIs.
The logic behind this is complex, but a bit of forethought will highlight why we at Cinvest, among many others, are optimistic about our clients having to conduct interviews, and that optimism comes from a multitude of reasons, such as:
Anyone who has worked in the CBI industry will tell you they’ve met clients who have openly doubted the Caribbean CBI’s authenticity. Unlike Spain or the UK, for example, smaller Caribbean countries do not have a global brand that spreads their name throughout the world. Indeed, many of these countries have obtained a bit of global fame just because they operate CBIs.
So sometimes a client that has never heard of Grenada, for example, will walk into a meeting (or just on a call even) and openly doubt the credibility of the program, assuming it is some sort of intricate scam.
Now, of course, a quick research session will show those clients that these programs are not only legit but are a backbone of Eastern Caribbean economies, but even then, some clients may have some doubts about the firm they have chosen to work with.
But when a CBI firm tells them that there will be an interview with a government official and that they will speak to the CIU directly, those fears swiftly dissipate. By agreeing to an interview with the client, the government accordingly certifies the legitimacy of the CBI firm that set it up, comforting the clients.
Another significant benefit of having interviews is quicker problem resolution. When dealing with documents only, CIU officers only have a still picture of the applicant, and they will need to decide on how to address any gaps (many of which are cultural differences) through email correspondence.
This rigid process may result in officers requesting additional information once or twice, hence delaying the entire process, or it may even culminate in a letter of intent to reject in some extreme cases.
An interview streamlines this process, as CIU officers can directly address any concerns they may have with the clients and their agents directly instead of having to go back and forth through email and get the answers they need on the spot, speeding up the process and ensuring everyone is on the same page.
Those worried about human error in an interview can rest assured that this is actually a solution to those errors that occur more frequently when dealing with documents rather than papers.
Interviews, by their nature, have a give and take, and as they are essentially a focused conversation, they will create a more streamlined line of communication between international CBI agents and the CIU.
During interviews, the CIU officials will make their requests clear, and CBI agents can have an open dialogue along with their clients to better understand the situation.
This ease of contact will open the door for better communication between international agents and the CIU, a matter that could use some touching up.
Enhanced learning curve
Finally, interviews are a great way for both agents and the CIU to learn more about the process on either end of the spectrum.
The CIU officers will get to understand firsthand some of the issues different nationals from various parts of the globe have when it comes to applying to their CBI, and agents will have a timely window to better comprehend the needs and evolving trends of the government processing procedures.
For example, if the government, for some reason or the other, shifts its focus to source of funds or travel history, then CBI agents will notice those focused overtones during the interviews and adapt their SOPs accordingly.
This will optimize the process on both ends, the governmental and the client-facing, and will make clients’ journeys much easier and enjoyable. It is also a great way for new employees to learn by seeing rather than just reading about the matter from a handbook.
A step in the right direction
The interviews may be the most impactful principle out of the six, but in my view, they are one of the most positive. Their significance to the entire process is monumental, and they are the start of a better framework for the Caribbean CBIs.
Agents should prepare themselves to get it right from the start, while clients who choose a strong firm to represent them, such as Cinvest, have nothing to worry about. In fact, they should look forward to a much more transparent and streamlined process.
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