This is Week Two of the 26 week series #MyEconomicCitizenship. Each week I give you a glimpse into my life as I share the ups and downs experienced in pursuit of a second passport through economic citizenship. Each feature includes my weekly journal walking you through the process of obtaining economic citizenship, followed by an in-depth look at some of the most important topics people considering economic citizenship should understand. The series is presented by Nomad Capitalist in partnership with Peter Macfarlane & Associates, whom I worked with to obtain my passport. To read the entire series, just click here.
Dateline: Tbilisi, Georgia
Known as the “Nature Island of the Caribbean”, Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic) is arguably one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean. Located between the French overseas territories of Guadeloupe and Martinique, the island has numerous rivers and waterfalls, green mountains and beautiful ocean views.
With rainforests full of rare plants, animals and birds and opportunities to snorkel and dive to shipwrecks and underwater hot springs, it’s no wonder that Dominica is a growing ecotourism destination.
The UK granted independence to Dominica in 1978 and the country now has a parliamentary democracy with a President and Prime Minister and a judiciary system based on English common law.
There are approximately 70,000 people on the island, most of African descent — although there’s also a small indigenous population (the last in the Caribbean) and a growing number of white and Chinese inhabitants. English is the official language, but the French dialect, Creole, is also widely spoken.
To top it all off, Dominica is considered one of the happiest places in the world to live, with a great island lifestyle in a safe, friendly and beautiful country.
However, despite all the attractions that might have you thinking you could spend the rest of your life there, you don’t have to live in Dominica to become a citizen of the island country.
Dominica’s Economic Citizenship Program
Dominica has offered economic citizenship to investors willing to donate $100,000 to the country since 1993. Section 101 of the Constitution and Sections 8 and 20 of the Citizenship Act allow the Dominican government to offer citizenship by investment to applicants who meet the government’s policy guidelines.
More importantly, an amendment to the Citizenship Act waived a residency requirement for qualified investors. This made it possible for interested individuals to obtain Dominican citizenship without ever residing in the country.
Unlike other economic citizenship programs in the Caribbean, Dominica does not exclude applicants from any particular country. At one point they did, but they now have a more efficient due diligence process that has allowed them to remove the list of excluded countries.
According to an interview with Dominican officials, they “issue passports to people, not to countries. There are good people in bad countries who want to get away, just as there are bad people in good countries.”
While the application process is confidential, the names of those who receive economic citizenship are published in the country’s official Gazette to prevent any chance of corruption.
All donations go into a special account and are then moved into the government budget and used for private and public development endeavors in the country. Public endeavors include building schools, renovating the hospital, building a national Sports stadium, and promoting the offshore sector. Private sector projects include tourism, information technology and agriculture.
In 2015, roughy USD$1.5 million from the economic citizenship program was used to promote small business development, and over double that amount was used for the National Employment Program. In all, it looks like Dominica is a business-minded, business friendly country ready to welcome those who can contribute to the country’s development.
Help me get my economic citizenship!
The benefits of Dominican citizenship
In fact, Dominica’s business friendliness does not end with it’s citizenship by investment program, or how it uses the funds. Dominica’s business favorable policies include double taxation treaties with the USA and CARICOM, no restrictions on the repatriation of profits or imported capital, corporate tax incentives, and full exemption from import duties, tax relief benefits and export allowance. They also have generous tax holidays and other import duty and tax waivers.
While there is a 35% income tax, you will only be taxed on your worldwide income if you choose to reside in Dominica. Plus, there is no wealth, gift, inheritance, or capital gains tax in the country.
Other benefits that come with Dominican citizenship include dual citizenship, the ability to vote and purchase property, as well as the possibility to live and work in Dominica. The Dominica passport grants you visa free travel to 119 countries, including the UK, Hong Kong, South Korea, China, Singapore, the Schengen area, Ireland, and most British Commonwealth countries.
As a citizen of a British commonwealth, there are some preferential regimes for students that allows them to study in the UK. While it is not an automatic right, the preferential treatment will likely improve with Brexit. As a Dominican citizen you also have the right to work in all CARICOM countries. A Dominica passport is good for ten years and can be renewed without traveling to Dominica or one of its consulates.
Finally, while you are technically granted non-revocable citizenship for life in exchange for your donation, Dominica law does give the government power to revoke passports. So far, there was one case in the early 2000s in which citizenship was revoked. Dominica is also upgrading to biometric passports, which means that they could easily cancel a passport from a distance in the future.
Still, as long as you maintain your citizenship, you can then pass on your second nationality to future generations by descent.
One-time donation to the Dominica government
Until recently, Dominica’s economic citizenship program was the cheapest investment citizenship available. In general, it is still a very affordable second citizenship. But exactly how much does it cost?
While the $100,000 donation is the most well-known route, there are actually two avenues for obtaining economic citizenship in Dominica: donation and real estate. The donation option also has a number of variations for those who are applying with a spouse and potentially with children. They are as follows:
- Single Applicant: USD $100,000 non-refundable contribution
- Main Applicant and Spouse: USD $175,000 non-refundable contribution
- Applicant with up to three dependents (Applicant plus spouse and two children below the age of 18): USD $200,000 non-refundable contribution
- Applicant with up to four dependents or more (Applicant plus spouse and more than two children below the age of 18): USD $200,000 non-refundable contribution and USD$50,000 for each additional dependent.
The investment price was supposed to go up to $175,000 for a single person on August 1st of this year, but on July 15th the Dominican government said “Forget it, we’re not going to do it.”
The change was one of the reasons I was rushing to get this particular citizenship application in. However, I was stressing myself out so much that I eventually just decided not to to kill myself to get the citizenship. Why pay money to be miserable?
The only reason I was rushing so much was because $75,000 is a lot of extra money to be paying just by missing a deadline. At that price, a Dominica citizenship wouldn’t have been worth it for me.
Still, some people may choose to pay even more than $175,000 for Dominican citizenship by taking the real estate investment route.
Help me get my economic citizenship!
Citizenship by real estate investment
Similar to other citizenship by investment programs in the Caribbean, Dominica offers economic citizenship to those willing to purchase authorized real estate in the country. The minimum in Dominica is much lower than in places like St. Kitts and Nevis, with the low entry point of USD $200,000.
Two or more applicants can apply together with a single purchase, as long as each applicant contributes the minimum $200,000 toward the investment.
There is an additional government fee of USD $50,000 for the main applicant. When applying as a family, additional government fees apply as well: USD $25,000 for the spouse, USD $20,000 for each dependent under 18, and USD $50,000 for each dependent aged 18-25.
Real estate must be held for at least three years to maintain qualification for economic citizenship. However, investments may be eligible for re-sale after five years from the original purchase date.
Other fees & requirements
All citizenship investments — whether by donation or real estate — come with government fees payable by each family member. They include:
- Processing fees (per application): USD $3,000
- Due diligence fees – Main Applicant: USD $7,500
- Due diligence – Spouse: $USD $7,500
- Due diligence – dependent (aged 16+): USD $4,000
- Certificate of Naturalization fee: USD $750 per person
- Expedited passport issue fee: USD $1,200 per person
There are other requirements that each applicant should keep in mind when applying for citizenship by investment in Dominica. First, all investors must be over 18 years old and have no criminal record.
Beyond filling out all the prescribed forms and providing other documentation (which can be found here) you will also need to enlist the help of a licensed local promoting agent. As such, you should factor agent processing fees into your expenses as well.
Dominica patterned this particular part of their program on the UK, US and Canada, whose programs also go through private agents. According to Dominican officials, private agents know their customers and do their own due diligence, creating an extra filter so that an agent’s bad clients won’t get through and apply to the government program.
Step-by-step process and timeline
So how exactly does the application process work and how long does it take? The process is extremely streamlined and usually takes somewhere between 3-5 months. Dominican law stipulates a process time of at least two months, but the time varies from case to case depending on vetting procedures and the individual under consideration.
After selecting an authorized agent, the application process goes as follows:
STEP 1 – Gather Documentation: You will need to work with your chosen agent to prepare all documents (in English) that will be submitted to Dominica’s Citizenship by Investment Unit (CBIU). This includes all forms, supporting documents, a medical examination and — if you are purchasing property — a sales and purchase agreement to reserve your selected real estate. At this point the authorized agent will most likely conduct background checks and take other due diligence measures.
STEP 2 – Submit Application (and potential interview): Once your agent has determined that everything is in line, your application will be submitted for review. Though an interview is currently not mandatory, it is requested in some cases. The interview is normally conducted in Dominica, but it can be conducted outside the country for an extra fee. The interview is conducted in English, although government-approved translators are available.
STEP 3 – Wait: During this time, the government will conduct their own due diligence to vet all the information you have provided in your application. At the end of this period you will be notified whether your application has been accepted, delayed for further processing, or rejected.
STEP 4 – Make Investment: Once you have been notified by letter from the CBIU that your application was accepted, you can make your investment in the government fund or complete the payment on your selected real estate property. The government will not transfer or use the funds you deposit in the citizenship account until naturalization certificates have been issued to you and your family.
STEP 5 – Obtain your Passport: Once the CBIU receives proof of payment on your investment, they will issue your certificate of registration (or naturalization), which you can then use to apply for your Dominica passport.
Get your own economic citizenship and second passport
My goal in doing this series is to help as many people as possible become global citizens by obtaining second citizenship. I live this stuff, in part, so that I can better help individuals like you reduce taxes, obtain a second passport and experience more freedom.
If you’d like to work with me directly to create a wholistic global citizenship strategy, then click here. We’ll go through an entire deep dive process to determine exactly what you need — from passports to residency to where you’re going to live — all so we can get you to your end goals.
If you’re just interested in getting a passport and already know which passport is the right choice for you, then you can go directly to Peter MacFarlane & Associates’ website and contact them by clicking here.
If you’re still determining which approach you should take, feel free to keep reading this series to garner all the knowledge you need to form a vision and actionable plan for the future.