Citizenship by investment has grown up to be a $3 billion industry. It is believed more than 35,000 passports to have been issued through investment migration programmes. The schemes allow foreign nationals to obtain fast-tracked citizenship and passports or permanent residency permits in exchange for specified amounts of cash investments.
Just a few years earlier Citizenship by Investment Programmes of the Caribbean islands were not an objective for Nigerian citizens. According to the immigration offices, they have received very rare applications from Africans in all the years of their operation.
But this year a steady increases in applications from Nigeria is reported: more than 60 passports have been already issued.
Taylor&Smith also sees significant potential in the market with growth in private wealth. The sharp increase of interest can be explained by the weakness of Nigeria’s international passport, which deprives wealthy business individuals of global mobility. In truth, Nigerian passport holders can visit twice less countries now than they could in 2010 without first obtaining a visa.
The visa application process have always been intensive and tedious for Nigerians but it has gotten even more complicated in the last few years. For one, under the Trump administration US visa application fees for Nigerian applicants have been increased, an interview waiver process for visa renewals has been indefinitely suspended and a ban has also been placed on issuing immigrant visas to Nigerians.
Caribbean citizenship by investment programmes offer wealthy Nigerians and other citizens in search of improved international mobility a legal and established workaround. The schemes hit many points: processing periods, price, access, tax breaks and so on.
For instance, applicants may qualify for St Kitts and Nevis citizenship through a contribution to the Sustainable Growth Fund where a non-refundable contribution of US$150,000 is required for a sole applicant. The minimum real estate investment required by law is US$200,000 (resalable after 7 years) or US$400,000 (resalable after 5 years) for each main applicant.
St. Lucia’s lowest-priced programme of a contribution to the national economic fund costs $100,000 for individuals.
Other Caribbean island including Dominica and Grenada also offer investment migration programmes a lot less expensive than similar European programmes. For comparison: the US immigration routes issue permanent residence permits in exchange for investment ranging from $500,000 to $1 million.
Nigeria is experiencing a progressing interest in Caribbean-based citizenship programmes. Along with South Africa, it currently accounts for 85% of immigration market on the continent. High net-worth individuals who have earned most of their wealth locally are typically looking to boost their mobility options rather than permanently relocate. In addition, Nigeria’s rich list is forecasted to grow by 13% in the next five years.
However, interest in emigration is not restricted to Nigeria’s millionaires alone. Over the past several years, middle-class Nigerians have also increasingly emigrated through professional visa programmes with pathways to residency and citizenship.
As recent history shows, with the Covid-19 pandemic paralyzing global travel and tourism, the global mobility is a true fortune along with good health.