In 2017, the Professional Wealth Management magazine of the Financial Times group published their Citizenship by Investment Program Index. Twelve CBI programs were compared and assessed on the basis of several key criteria. With top marks for simplicity of application processing, affordability of the program, due diligence check so well-tuned there is no need for personal interviews, and lack of travelling or residence requirements, Dominica emerged the leader of the pack.
Dominica passport: What’s the catch?
Along with Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis, the Commonwealth of Dominica has carved its own niche among the countries that offer their economic citizenship and has become a second homeland for over 2,000 investors from many parts of the world. The Dominican CBI program is widely popular since it allows passport holders a visa-free entry to the EU and Schengen Area countries, as well as the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, and to enjoy the benefits of the Dominican tax system. Citizens of Dominica are exempt from paying foreign income, wealth, gift, capital gains, and inheritance taxes.
Another great merit of the program is a complete confidentiality of all CBI application-related paperwork, which means no details will be made public, and all information remains private between the investor and the state.
Dominica’s authorities have been actively working to refine the CBI program and therefore make it much more catching for the foreign investors. Approximately $100 million were injected into the local economy between 2015 and 2016 via foreign investment. Foreign funds received via the CBI program go into development of local social projects, and, since recently, into restoring the island after hurricane destructions.
Making up your mind about Dominica CBI
Five main features that make Dominican passport desirable and serve as main arguments in Dominica’s favour:
- Visa-free entry into over 110 world countries: among them the EU and Schengen Area (one is allowed to stay there for up to 90 days per six months), the UK (six months per year), Ireland, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Turkey (visa on arrival).
- Sensible cost. Before hurricane relief funds were introduced by several hurricane-ravaged Caribbean nations as the point of entry into their CBI programs, the cost of the Dominican passport had been the lowest among the competitors. At $100,000, the program still remains competitive – basically, at the price of a decent sports car.
- An easy visa acquisition process to the US and Canada.
- Confidentiality. Dominica does not impose any restrictions on dual citizenship, and no details on the second citizenship acquisition are disclosed to third parties. This is especially important for the investors whose primary country of residence does not allow dual citizenship.
- Optimal business and income taxation.
Ready, set, done: Two ways to obtain Dominica’s passport
A foreign applicant is expected to choose one of the two investment options:
- Donation to the Government Fund, starting from USD100k;
- Purchase of a government-approved real estate project, starting from USD200k.
Various administration, government and other fees apply for both investment options, and depending on the number of applicants, thus slightly increasing the total cost of the passport.
As per Dominica’s CBI program, the passport holder must retain the property for 3 years, and can resell it in five years after being granted citizenship. The investor is allowed to make profit by renting the property.
Who is eligible to apply for Dominica citizenship?
To be eligible, the main applicant must meet the following requirements listed in the CBI program:
- Be of 18 years of age and above;
- Have a clean criminal record – no actual convictions, no charges pending;
- Provide a declaration of the source of funds;
- Have unblemished business reputation;
- Have proof of positive credit history;
- Be allowed to cross the borders of the EU countries, Canada, and/or USA (no previous records of denial of entry);
- Be of excellent health.
In 2017, minor but quite pleasant changes were introduced to the Dominican citizenship by investment program. Applicants no longer have to submit personal references, audited financial reports, bank references, or vaccination records. While not exactly of sensational nature, the changes do make the paperwork even easier. Combined with streamlined program costs, Dominica CBI program has proved itself to be highly competitive.
Which investment option is best in Dominica, Real estate or Donation to state fund?
On the face of it, it is more profitable to purchase a real estate object, especially if the whole family applies. Out of approximately $290,000 for an average family application, it is possible to eventually return $200,000, while the state fund donation is non-refundable. Here is where we urge you to look at the situation at hand: owning real estate objects on the island of Dominica is considered to be detrimental and even unsafe because of uncontrollable forces of nature.
The small island’s geographical position, topography and geological formation make the country especially prone to a wide variety of natural disasters. In 2015, the tropical storm Erika caused US$482.8 million worth of damage in Dominica, and in 2017, Dominica’s economy was put to test again by two hurricanes. Such circumstances make it highly probable that the funds that went into real estate would be lost. Experts say it is safer and more beneficial to make the non-refundable donation to a state fund; not only that, but also, the price range is considerably lower. Statistics prove that investors prefer the state fund donation option: out of 5 citizenship applications, only one is filed for real estate investment.
Primary details that every future investor should know before applying for Dominica’s citizenship
- Spouse, children under 28 years of age, as well as parents aged 55 and above (all financially dependent) may also be included in the application;
- There is no need to renounce the first citizenship as Dominica officially allows dual citizenship and does not disclose any information on the applicants to third parties (it is actually illegal to do so in Dominica);
- Several foreign investors can file for a joint investment in a single real estate object, with a minimum individual contribution of USD200k;
- Applicants are not expected to travel to Dominica before, during or after application processing, or reside there after obtaining the passport, though it is certainly allowed.
- There is no requirement to sit for an interview;
- All application forms must be filled in English, notarially certified translation provided, and an apostille attached.
- Only state-approved authorized agents are to submit the applications, as well as help the applicant to prepare the documentation;
- If the investor chooses to buy real estate, an initial deposit is made as the investor submits the application form, usually 10% of the property price. The remaining amount is paid after the application is approved, as is the entire amount in case of state fund donation.
Let’s digress from the legal talk for a second. Did you know that film director Gore Verbinski became so enamored with Dominica’s primordial beauty that he decided to make parts of smash hit Pirates of the Caribbean there? They chose northern parts of the island for shooting: the Calibishie village, Portsmouth, Indian River, the Soufriere village. The cave where (spoilers!) the characters are hiding from cannibals is called Titou Gorge, a Creole expression meaning “small throat hole”. The process of getting to the narrow and deep crevice – unlike applying for Dominica’s citizenship – isn’t easy: there’s a lengthy serpentine trek ahead and swimming in the freezing freshwater.
Dominica citizenship by investment: Chances of success
Although per program rules, Dominican authorities may refuse to grant citizenship without explanation, the rejection rate is virtually negligible.
The application may also be rejected if the investor provides false information; if the investor or family members included in the application are not free from the kinds of infectious diseases that are capable of putting public health at risk; if the applicants have a criminal past, including ongoing criminal investigations or previous imprisonment exceeding 6 months.
Those on Interpol’s Wanted list, or whose activity may potentially endanger the safety and reputation of Dominica, or who had their visa application rejected by the countries that signed the visa-free agreement with Dominica, may not apply for Dominican citizenship.
Another reminder that all documentation must be handled by licensed agents that have authorities’ permission to support investors during the application procedure. Working with government-approved agents eliminates the risk of fraud and ensures smooth processing. Legal help is also needed at the stage of preparing the set of documents and translating them. Experts will also conduct a preliminary data analysis to deal with potential risks and manage the paperwork to save your time.
Note that certified agents never request for their fee to be paid in advance.
What are the alternatives to Dominica CBI program?
In October 2017, Antigua and Barbuda authorities made a move to increase the visibility of the Antiguan CBI program and therefore attract more foreign investment into the country after hurricanes unleashed their wrath on the island of Barbuda. They cut by half the cost of one of the three investment options. Today, a family with up to 4 members can obtain their Antiguan passports by donating $100,000 to the National Development Fund and covering some additional processing fees, and a family of 5 and more members, by donating $125,000 (instead of the previously established amount of $200,000 and $250,000, respectively). As for the real estate investment option, in Antigua and Barbuda it remains the same at the starting point of $400,000.
The Grenada CBI program, that got its start in 2013, is also a popular choice among those who would like to obtain a second passport of a Caribbean country. Grenadian citizens are allowed visa-free entry into over 120 countries, and have the unique opportunity to get a business visa into the US. Investing in the Grenadian real estate is a lot less risky compared to hurricane and earthquake-prone Dominica. The investor can opt for donating $200k to the National Transformation Fund or investing at least $350k in real estate (and hold the property for 4 years).
The cost of the Saint Kitts and Nevis citizenship by investment program has also been cut by half. The authorities have rolled out a temporary offer of exchanging the St. Kitts & Nevis’ passport for a USD150,000 donation for a family up to 4 to the Hurricane Relief Fund (as opposed to the minimum $250,000 donation to a state fund, and at least $400,000 investment in real estate). Citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis can travel visa-free to over 120 countries, including Ireland, the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, and those in the Schengen Area.
Cost of Dominica CBI program, comparison of various Caribbean programs
To sum up: Dominica citizenship, an advantageous and safe investment
Application processing takes from 3 to 5 months, and ends with each applicant signing the Oath of allegiance to the Commonwealth of Dominica. As a result, the applicants are issued Certificate of Naturalization and, soon afterwards, a passport. The passports are valid for 10 years for adults and 5 years for children under 16 years of age. Passport renewal is an easy formality that does not require any significant money expenses. The investor and family members included in the application retain the citizenship status and pass it on to descendants.
The Dominica citizenship by investment program is the legitimate, fast, easiest, and one of the cheapest ways to obtain a second citizenship – for those forward-looking high net-worth individuals who seek for a safe harbor and a place to escape to in case of unforeseen circumstances, and want to try their hand at new business management tools.
We can help you weigh your options and choose what’s right
We urge our clients to compare conditions of the various CBI programs. This helps them make up their minds and opt for what suits them best. Speaking of Caribbean nations, we can name at least three reasons to strongly consider one of the countries in the region as your second home:
- Antigua and Barbuda passport: visa-free entry to over 136 countries; passports are issued within 3-5 months.
- Saint Kitts and Nevis passport: visa-free entry to 132 countries; no residence requirements; passports are issued within 3-5 months. The program has been active since 1984!
- Dominican passport: visa-free entry to 91 country; passports are issued within 3-6 months; no residence requirements; no personal interview.
Have more questions? Want to know the total cost of obtaining the Antiguan citizenship through investment for the whole family? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us and get a free consultation.