Dateline: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
If you tell someone that you have Caribbean citizenship by investment, they might scoff at you.
Many people call passports from places like Dominica or Antigua fake or illegitimate because you can get them rather quickly by making a simple investment in the country.
However, as someone who actually holds a passport that I “bought” from St. Lucia, I can tell you that they’re perfectly legitimate and that all Nomad Capitalists should consider them as a part of their diversification strategy.
Despite what you may have heard, Caribbean citizenship by investment programs are 100% legit, and the passports they give you are no joke, either.
In fact, my St. Lucia passport gives me visa-free access to 130 countries, including the UK and the EU Schengen Area.
But when I discussing getting a second passport through citizenship by investment with the people I work with, they often get a bit concerned.
The idea that this tiny little island will give you a real, good-quality passport in exchange for a sum of money sounds preposterous to them – even though these islands are sovereign countries that simply offer ways to acquire citizenship outside of naturalization.
In this article, we’ll discuss the truth about Caribbean citizenship by investment and clear up some of the misinformation about it floating around the internet.
Common Myths About Caribbean Citizenship by Investment
At Nomad Capitalist, we’re all about bringing transparency to the offshore world and fighting misinformation that’s often perpetuated by people who want your money and attention – but really have no idea what they’re doing.
As someone who’s actually gotten Caribbean citizenship by investment in St. Lucia and helped others do the same in places like Grenada, I can help clear up some of these common misconceptions about Caribbean citizenship by investment.
In the following section, we’ll take a look at a few of these myths, and I’ll give you the real scoop on getting Caribbean citizenship by investment.
Caribbean Passports are “Fake” Passports
One of the myths about Caribbean passports is that they’re “fake” passports that won’t really get you anywhere.
Most of the people who I work with who want to get a second passport are US citizens who are used to having one of the best-known passports in the world.
When you show up to an international border, it’s easy to be like, “hey, I’m from this huge country where there’s a lot going on.” Everyone knows the US, and most immigration officials respect a US passport.
A US passport is also one of the toughest passports in the world to get. If you weren’t born there, the naturalization process requires a lot of time, money, paperwork, and patience.
So, with many people, I can see why they’re hesitant to go from being a citizen of the US to being a citizen of a much smaller country. They see their US passport as more of a long-term relationship and a passport from a country like St. Kitts and Nevis as a fling.
However, that’s the wrong way of going about it.
These Caribbean countries are real countries with real passports that can serve you just as well as any other citizenship can.
It’s understandable why someone from a major country might have a few concerns about the size of these Caribbean countries, but the reality is that a country is a country – and size doesn’t make a passport any less legitimate.
To Get Caribbean Citizenship by Investment, you Need to Live There
Another common concern that people have when looking into Caribbean citizenship by investment is this idea that you always have to live in a country to be a citizen there.
This myth comes from the most common way that you can get citizenship in a country – naturalization.
To become a naturalized citizen of of a country, you generally need to establish residency and live there for a set amount of time before you are eligible to apply for citizenship.
Citizenship by investment, however, doesn’t work that way.
In fact, in many Caribbean countries that offer citizenship by investment, you don’t even need to set foot in the country to get a passport.
Granted, if you’re going to get Caribbean citizenship by investment, it’s probably a good idea to at least go there and see what’s going on – and many of these countries are beautiful and fun to visit.
However, you don’t need to pack your bags and move to St. Vincent and the Grenadines if you want to get a passport there.
In fact, I generally don’t recommend it.
Planting flags in various countries is an important part of going where you’re treated best, and in many cases, it’s actually beneficial to have a passport from a country that you don’t plan to live in.
A passport through Caribbean citizenship by investment can be a great way to help you begin planning your global citizen strategy. For example, you could use this passport to secure an easy residency in a country where you can apply for citizenship in a matter of a few years.
As with most second residencies and citizenships, it’s all a part of creating a strategy that works for you – not necessarily finding a new home.
You’ll be Judged for Using a Caribbean Passport While Traveling
Another concern that people have with Caribbean passports is that they’ll be judged for using them at international borders.
They’re used to presenting a US or similarly well-known passport, so they wonder what will happen if they present a passport from a small island nation at customs.
Most countries, however, really don’t care whether you’re St. Lucian, American, or German – they care that your passport is valid and that you have the proper credentials to enter the country.
That being said, you might go to a country where few people with your passport travel to – but that can happen with any passport.
When I traveled to Malaysia with a friend of mine from Montenegro, for example, the Malaysian immigration officer had to double-check whether Montenegrins had visa-free access. Once the officer confirmed that was the case, they stamped him, and he was on his way.
That’s really the worst case scenario here. You might have to spend an extra five minutes waiting for an immigration officer to do some due diligence, but they’re not judging you – they’re just taking care of business as usual.
Passports from Certain Countries are Intrinsically Better than Others
What most of these myths come down to is this idea that US or other major countries are better than others.
As much as we complain about high taxes and other problems in countries like the US, Australia, or Canada, we still have this idea that there’s something better about them that translates to how we’re treated abroad.
As always, however, reality is much more complicated.
Some countries are fairly open and don’t care what passport you present, and others are going to hassle you no matter where you’re from.
I’ve actually been treated better in certain countries with my St. Lucia passport than I was with my US passport.
This idea that you need to have a top-tier passport to travel easily is ultimately a myth.
At the end of the day, what matters most is whether you can get to the places that you need to go easily – not how recognizable your passport is or how many countries you have visa-free travel to.
What’s the Truth About Caribbean Citizenship by Investment?
Now that we’ve cleared up some of the common misconceptions about Caribbean citizenship by investment, here’s the truth about it:
Caribbean citizenship by investment is real, legitimate, and a great option for the right person.
Here are some of the reasons why I think Caribbean citizenship by investment is a solid bet.
Rapidly Improving Visa-Free Travel
As far as passports go, Caribbean ones are on the rise.
An increasing number of countries are opening up to travelers using Caribbean passports. China – one of the most closed-off countries in the world as far as visas go – has even given visa-free access to Grenadian citizens, and it may follow suit with other Caribbean countries.
Many Caribbean passports also have visa-free access to Russia – another country notorious for its strict visa policies.
Europe and South America also offer most Caribbean passports visa-free access.
Caribbean passports are already solid passports, and an increasing number of countries are seeing that if someone has the money to get a Caribbean citizenship by investment, then they probably aren’t trying to come and overstay their visas.
That being said, you’re probably never going to have visa-free access to places like the US, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand – but most countries (including major European nations) don’t have visa-free travel there anyway.
As I’ve said for the past few years, the Tier B passports that you get from Caribbean citizenship by investment are the wave of the future.
If you think that a Dominican or Antiguan passport is a decent one now – just wait a few years and see how many more countries you’ll have visa-free access to.
Your Citizenship Won’t Hold you Back
In the future, the US, the EU, and other Western countries are going to keep imposing new rules, taxes, and restrictions on their citizens.
You can see it already with laws like FATCA. By forcing all foreign banks to become unpaid tattletales to the IRS, this law severely limits US citizens’ options while banking abroad.
Caribbean countries, on the other hand, tend not to bother you much, which makes them a safe bet in the future.
Caribbean Citizenship by Investment is Worth the Cost…for the Right Person
In the expat community, you’ll often hear that Caribbean citizenship by investment isn’t worth it.
They say, “why spend $100,000 on a passport when you can just put a little bit of money into a bank in Paraguay?”
First, you’ll need to wait at least three years to get your passport with that approach. With citizenship by investment, you can often get your passport within a year.
You’re also not even guaranteed to get citizenship in those kinds of countries even if you follow all of the rules.
Caribbean citizenship by investment programs tend to get a lot of flack for their cost. Yes, it is expensive, but it’s expensive for a reason – you get a passport in a short amount of time without needing to jump through hoops or even move to the country.
If you’re trying to get a second passport for as little money as possible, then citizenship by investment simply isn’t for you.
If you’re a six- or seven-figure entrepreneur or investor, then you really shouldn’t be taking advice from strangers on internet forums who don’t pay nearly as much in tax as you do and don’t have the same level of need for diversification.
Take advice from people who’ve been there and are on your level. The Bentley dealership doesn’t care what Kia buyers have to say.
In the grand scheme of things, getting Caribbean citizenship by investment will pay for itself by increasing your freedom and possibly becoming an important part of your tax strategy.
You also have the option to get a citizenship by investment that’s profitable.
With the right investment in the right country, you can make up your initial investment and more.
At the end of the day, it’s about deciding what’s best for you.
You might be a US citizen who’s trying to renounce as quickly as possible, and in that case, a quick citizenship by investment program may be the right call.
In other cases, you may want to invest in real estate to get a second residency that eventually turns into citizenship, or you may want to get citizenship the old fashioned way through naturalization.
It all depends on your goals and circumstances.
That’s why I use a diagnostic process with everyone who I work with – the right choice for one person might not work for others.
Just the other day, I had a British guy come to me saying that he wanted to get a second citizenship and become a tax non-resident in the UK, and we actually decided against him getting Caribbean citizenship by investment.
However, for many people – especially Americans – it’s just easier to suck it up, write a check, and get a passport in a matter of months. While it may cost them six figures out of pocket, they’ll save more than double that amount in taxes over the years – especially if they’re investing in cryptocurrency.
If you have the capital, it’s often worth it to just pay the money and not have to deal with anything else.
Why You Should Consider Caribbean Citizenship by Investment
Although plenty of talking heads will tell you otherwise, Caribbean citizenship by investment programs are the real deal.
You’ll get a good-quality passport that’s becoming increasingly stronger, and you’ll have citizenship in a country that isn’t actively trying to monitor your every move abroad.
It’s also one of the easiest ways to get a second passport. You put in the money, fill out some paperwork, and get your passport in a matter of months.
However, it’s not always the right choice for everyone. Even if you have the money to invest, you shouldn’t just collect things like passports for the sake of having them.
If you’re not sure if Caribbean citizenship by investment is the right call for you, I may be able to help.