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Islands trade quick citizenship for investment

February 27, 2013

According to The Detroit News:  Kingston, Jamaica — Hadi Mezawi has never set foot on the Caribbean island of Dominica, has never seen its rainforests or black-sand beaches. But he’s one of its newest citizens.

Without leaving his home in the United Arab Emirates, the Palestinian man recently received a brand-new Dominican passport after sending a roughly $100,000 contribution to the tropical nation half a world away.

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Turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa has led to a surge of interest in programs that let investors buy citizenship or residence in countries around the world in return for a healthy contribution or investment. Most are seeking a second passport for hassle-free travel or a ready escape hatch in case things get worse at home.

Nowhere is it easier or faster than in the minuscule Eastern Caribbean nations of Dominica and St. Kitts & Nevis.

It’s such a booming business that a Dubai-based company is building a 4-square-mile community in St. Kitts where investors can buy property and citizenship at the same time.

In its first phase, some 375 shareholders will get citizenship by investing $400,000 each in the project, which is expected to include a 200-room hotel and a mega-yacht marina. Others will get passports for buying one of 50 condominium units.

“The more they fight over there, the more political problems there are, the more applications we get here,” said Victor Doche, managing director of another company that offers four condominium projects where approved buyers are granted citizenship in St. Kitts, which is less than twice the size of Washington, D.C.

It’s impossible to say how many people have used the cash for citizenship programs. Officials in both countries declined to respond when asked by The Associated Press.

But Bernard Wiltshire, a former Dominica attorney general, said there were already around 3,000 economic citizens when he left government about a decade ago. The country now has roughly 73,000 inhabitants in all.

“Investor visa” or citizenship programs are offered by many nations, including the United States, Canada, Britain and Austria. But the Caribbean countries offer a fast path to citizenship at a very low cost. The process, including background checks, can take as little as 90 days in St. Kitts. And there’s no need to ever live on the islands, or even visit.

A foreigner can qualify for citizenship in St. Kitts with a $250,000 donation to a fund for retired sugar workers or with a minimum real estate investment of $400,000.

The minimum contribution in Dominica is $100,000.

See the full article in The Detroit News.

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