The Real Deal New York

Have $200K lying around? Wanna become a citizen of St. Kitts?

Island nation selling citizenship to spur investment in real estate

December 27, 2015 02:00PM

The Park Hyatt in St. Kitts. (FEBC International)

The Park Hyatt in St. Kitts. (FEBC International)

If you’re sick and tired of paying the taxman, you may want to consider booking a flight to St. Kitts and Nevis. You’ll probably stay a while. In exchange for investing big money into real estate projects, the island nation is offering the gift of citizenship.

St. Kitts and Nevis isn’t the only Caribbean nation exchanging citizenship for investment. Islands like Dominica and Grenada have also been courting wealthy Chinese, Russians, Middle Easterners and even Americans to invest $200,000 or more into real estate developments for a new passport.

That type of investment has helped pay off resort projects from Hilton, Hyatt and the Four Seasons, among others, the Wall Street Journal reports. As many as 2,000 investors signed up across the Caribbean this year, estimates Canadian wealth firm Apex Capital Partners.

And business is booming in St. Kitts and Nevis. Officials wouldn’t disclose the sum but said revenue in 2015 exceeded expectations by 42 percent.

Buddy Darby, the developer behind Christophe Harbour, a master planned community with a Park Hyatt hotel and a marina, said he raised $42 million of the $350 million by tapping wealthy investors who became St. Kitts citizens.

The dollars-for-visa program resembles the controversial EB-5 visa program in the U.S. which offers residency to foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in job-producing ventures.

Much as that program is criticized, the U.S. government has said the Caribbean citizenship programs enable investors to cover financial crimes. Meanwhile, a record-number of Americans are giving up their citizenship as the U.S. government clamps down on tax dodgers abroad. [WSJ]James Kleimann