Exclusive Interview: Michael Martins discusses St Kitts-Nevis citizenship programme

Exclusive Interview: Michael Martins discusses St Kitts-Nevis citizenship programme

Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programmes have been an attractive investment option for wealthy individuals seeking to invest in other countries while simultaneously having second or dual citizenship.

It has therefore been growing in popularity.

Interestingly, St Kitts and Nevis, a thriving Caribbean Island nation, has the longest-standing CBI programme in the world, providing second citizenship while opening opportunities to investors since 1984.

The country’s CBI Programme has been appealing to affluent individuals and their families worldwide, aiming to enhance their international mobility and broaden their investment portfolio.

Nairametrics had an exclusive interview session with Michael Martin, the Head of the Citizenship by Investment Unit for St Kitts and Nevis, where he oversees the regulation of the CBI programme.

He is experienced in the Citizenship by Investment programme, having formerly been an authorized agent of the St Kitts and Nevis CBI Programme for several years.

In this interview session, he sheds light on the CBI Programme’s latest changes, investment opportunities for both the individual and St Kitts and Nevis, and many more.

NAIRAMETRICS: St Kitts and Nevis created waves in the investment migration industry recently. Could you provide an overview of the key changes introduced in the new legislation for St Kitts and Nevis’ Citizenship By Investment (CBI) Programme?

Michael M: Our country has always been at the forefront of innovation in this industry and as a new administration.

The government of St Kitts and Nevis has done some intense introspection on how we evolve and communicate the value of our offering as a country.

This has led us to make several important changes to our Citizenship by Investment Programme, which will not only change the face of our CBI Programme but will also change the shape of the investment migration industry.

We have one of the strongest economies in the Caribbean, with business policies designed to foster growth and an excellent quality of life, all of which make a favourable base to set up a family or business.

So, the changes we made aligned with the facts, It is truly a privilege to hold a St Kitts and Nevis citizenship, and we want to attract investors who understand and value that.

For example, we have transformed our contribution offer, which we now call the Sustainable Island State Contribution, which replaces the previous Sustainable Growth Fund.

By investing US$250,000, a single investor who contributes towards this option will be advancing their new country, their new home that is St Kitts and Nevis, into a Sustainable Island State.

Also, our Real Estate option is back at the initial minimum investment value of US$400,000. We have also tightened the real estate rules for developers so that investors receive true value for their investment.

Also, the projected timeline for application processing is 120 days, this includes background checks and all.

We also have Approved Public Benefit projects that start from US$250,000.

These projects are designed to maximise local employment, transfer technology and build local capacity on the island through sustainable developments.

So you see, there’s a thread running through there, a thread of sustainability.

In all of our options, investors aged 16 years and older are now required to have a mandatory interview, either virtually or in person, at a location specified by my unit and approved by our Board of Governors.

Once an application has been approved, the Certificate of Registration must be collected in person in St Kitts and Nevis or at an embassy or consulate specified by us.

Our Board of Governors regulates all Authorized Agents and International Marketing Agents who must have their businesses registered under the laws of St Kitts and Nevis.

So, we have reconfigured the program looking at increasing the value for the investor and the country, and we have tightened up our security controls, as you can see, to ensure that investors and our international stakeholders remain confident in our Programme.

NAIRAMETRICS: What are the driving factors behind the decision to implement these changes to the CBI programme?

Michael M: The main driving factor is to return the Programme to being one of integrity, accountability, and transparency.

As you might be aware, it’s the oldest programme in the world, having started in 1984 and so, we wanted, as it were, to get back to basics and to attract the kind of investor who wants to be part of the development of the country and the development of the people.

So those were some of the main driving forces behind these changes.

NAIRAMETRICS: Can you elaborate on any specific safeguards or measures that have been incorporated to prevent misuse or abuse of the CBI Programme?

Michael M: Well, one of the things that we have done is to introduce mandatory interviews and applicants must take this mandatory interview as part of the due diligence process before approval.

In principle, we have also tightened the scope of eligibility of certain dependents who can be included in the application and the enactment into law.

We have an official list of nationalities who are ineligible to apply for the Programme and we have also implemented advertising restrictions for the Programme and penalties for agents or promoters who act in breach of these restrictions.

We have also tightened registration and licensing requirements for Authorized Agents and licensed promoters or our International Marketing Agents.

We have extended the processing time to facilitate the additional time required for conducting mandatory interviews as part of the due diligence programme.

In addition to that, there is also a requirement for in-person collection of the Certificates of Naturalization and passports.

NAIRAMETRICS: In what ways do you anticipate these legislative updates will positively impact the economy and development of St Kitts and Nevis?

Michael M: Sustainable development of the country and the people and, of course, that would be down to the benefit of the economy in general and to individuals and investors in particular.

So, these regulations are designed to ensure a legislative environment in which those types of investors can operate and feel confident that they are making a positive contribution to the country.

NAIRAMETRICS: What’s the representation of Nigerian investors since inception?

Michael M: I do not have exact numbers but what I do know is that we have had strong representation in the Programme from Nigeria. We have always had a very good relationship with Nigeria and Nigerians.

We have quite several Nigerians studying here at our universities. So, there is a strong relationship between us and Nigeria. And I foresee that it’s going to go from strength to strength.

NAIRAMETRICS: How has the feedback from stakeholders within St Kitts and Nevis and from the international community influenced the formulation of these new regulations? 

Michael M: As you know, the investor migration industry has been heavily scrutinized in the last few years. As a government, we have been proactive in responding to the enquiries of our international partners.

St Kitts and Nevis was proud to host, in February 2023, the Roundtable discussion between ourselves, the government representatives of the five Caribbean CBI nations, and the United States government.

The United States has acknowledged that CBI revenues are invaluable for funding major infrastructural and development projects and for building resilience in the Caribbean.

So, to be collaborative, we have mutually agreed on six principles, which all Caribbean Citizenship by Investment programs will implement to enhance and safeguard the security and integrity of the CBI programmes.

In addition to that, at the recent European Union Summit in Brussels in July 2023, we participated in deliberations alongside our other Caribbean partners and the European Union to discuss the EU’s concerns, which we consider to be legitimate concerns and recommendations for the sustainability of the CBI programmes at the end of the day.

We believe that a collaborative approach is the best way to ensure that we come out with win-win solutions, it’s not a case of them against us or us against them.

So, these conversations are ongoing, and we are doing everything possible to clamp down on an illicit person who wants to use our investment migration programme for Illegal purposes.

NAIRMETRICS: Can you provide a timeline for the implementation of the new legislation and when applicants can expect to see these changes take effect?

Michael M: The new regulations came into effect on 27 July 2023 with immediate effect. So, new CBI applicants who apply after this date will be subject to the new eligibility, pricing, and interview requirements.

NAIRAMETRICS: How will governments ensure that the benefits of this programme continue to contribute to sustainable development and prosperity for the nation?

Michael M: Well, over the years, the CBI Programme has benefited the country immensely in terms of infrastructure development, developments in education, developments in medical facilities, and other developments that are to the benefit of the people.

The new administration is committed to ensuring that the trend continues and that CBI funds are used sustainably for the development of the country and the people.

NAIRAMETRICS: Are there any ongoing initiatives or plans that aim to further enhance the CBI Programme beyond the current legislative updates?

Michael M: Well, we are always looking at ways to evolve, improve, and enhance the Programme. And so, it’s an ongoing exercise.

While there are no immediate plans for any new initiatives, as an ongoing exercise, we will be looking at our Programme, monitoring it continually, and looking at it for ways to always make improvements and enhancements.

So, that is our approach to the Programme. It’s a continuing exercise, and we aim to ensure that our Programme is maintained as one of which we can be proud of and a Programme that attracts people who would be proud to be called a citizen of St Kitts and Nevis.

NAIRAMETRICS: Lastly, what message would you like to convey to individuals who are considering applying for citizenship through St. Kitts and Nevis’ CBI Programme under the new legislative framework?

Michael M: Well, what I would like to say to prospective applicants is that St Kitts and Nevis is open for business.

We welcome investors who want to be part of the development of the country and of the people, investors who want to engage in a positive, sustainable way and would also have the privilege of obtaining citizenship of St Kitts and Nevis.

The citizenship of St Kitts and Nevis is indeed a privilege. That is why we have made these new regulations to ensure that it continues to be that way, and so, we welcome new discerning applicants who want to be part of St Kitts and Nevis and who want to be called citizens of St Kitts and Nevis.

Here’s the link to the St Kitts & Nevis Citizenship by Investment website: 

https://ciu.gov.kn/

The interview can be watched here 


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