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19 Oct 2018

EU warned on visa-free regime with Caribbean countries offering passports for sale

EU warned on visa-free regime with Caribbean countries offering passports for saleA recent report published lately by two anti-corruption organizations has urged the European Union to review visa-free agreements with some of the Caribbean countries.

Transparency International and Global Witness have warned the EU on the Caribbean jurisdictions that offer citizenship and visa-free Schengen travel via Citizenship by Investment Programs, after Canada suspended from the visa waiver program some of them. These countries are:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia

According to the report called “European Getaway: Inside the Murky World of Golden Visas,” these countries grant citizenship via fast-track route, with a significantly low investment requirement within very short periods of time.

“Passports for a family of four can be acquired by an investment as low as US$100, 000 within 90 days. There are no requirements to reside in these countries, with the exception of Antigua and Barbuda, which has a five-day residence requirement. In fact, applicants do not even need to pick up their passports in person,” the report reads, pointing out how easy it is to get a passport from any of these countries.

Moreover, the report brings up a case when Saint Kitts and Nevis cancelled citizenship to some successful applicants after they allegedly committed acts that could hurt the country’s reputation. Shortly after, Canada removed the country from the list of countries under the visa waiver program. Whereas back in 2014, the US issued an advisory claiming that the Saint Kitts and Nevis citizenship-by-investment program was being used to facilitate financial crime.

The absence of transparency on the persons that obtain citizenship-by-investments in these countries, by their government, is another issue the report highlights.

Transparency International and Global Witness urge the European Union to review its visa-free agreements with these Caribbean jurisdictions, in the light of the risks coming from admitting the corrupt and the criminal into Europe.

“Ultimately, if the EU is not confident in the ability of these schemes to identify and reject high-risk applicants, it should consider following Canada’s lead by suspending the visa waiver to golden visa schemes outside the EU,” the report reads further.

EU to act on Golden Visa schemes after warnings of money laundering risks

The report also pushes the EU to act on money laundering risks coming through Golden Visa schemes of EU and Schengen member states. Among others, it highlights the risks arising from insufficient diligence, conflicts of interest, and wide discretionary powers in the citizenship-and residency-by-investment schemes.

Shortly after the publication of the report, the EU has reacted, announcing that it would provide guidance to EU states on how to manage national schemes to sell passports and residency permits to wealthy foreign citizens.

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