For Indian national MN, born and raised in the UAE, travel had never been a top priority until he married a European citizen. Getting a visa every time he wanted to travel to meet his wife started to take a toll on him.
This summer, when MN realised he wouldn't be able to travel due to lengthy appointment queues at the visa office, he decided to get a second passport from the Commonwealth of Dominica for $100,000 using their citizenship by investment (CBI) programme. The Caribbean country's passport would give him visa-free travel to over 145 countries, including the EU, UK, Russia and Hong Kong.
"More people are opting for second passports using citizenship by investment schemes post the Covid pandemic," said Prashob Kalarikkal, Group Director, HucksterMENA, who markets the citizenship by investment schemes by CS Global Partners. "For most, the ease of travel makes this such an attractive option. For others, it is the pull of free education or better healthcare facilities."
The world's earliest CBI programme was launched in 1984 by the Caribbean island St Kitts and Nevis. Since then, several countries all over the world have launched such programs as they bring in revenue that doubles up as valuable investments into tourism facilities or infrastructure.
According to the independent research website CBI index that rates all CBI programs across a diverse range of indicators, the Covid-19 pandemic has given the industry a new lease of life. Wealthy investors are now beginning to appreciate mobility more than ever, which was abruptly withdrawn due to Covid.
Five Caribbean countries- St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Commonwealth of Dominica and Grenada- offer CBI programs, giving the holders of these passports visa-free travel to over 150 countries worldwide. With processing times of less than six months, the citizenship program does not require the person to reside in the country. Other popular CBI destinations include Austria, Turkey, and Cambodia.
“The reason why people opt for a second passport is because the countries they come from are struggling with issues relating to either safety, healthcare, visa-free travel, political unrest or currency fluctuations,” said Jeffrey Henseler, CEO of Passport Legacy. “A second citizenship lowers the risk of them falling into trouble by about 50%. With everything that is happening in the world, people have to look for a Plan B.”
CBI is not the only way people have been ensuring travel mobility. “A lot of people opt for the residency by investment (RBI) model,” says Louay, who has been considering getting a second passport for several years.
“Especially people from countries that don’t allow dual citizenship opt to invest in countries like Portugal or Greece. Once they invest a certain amount, they get a residency visa.
"This allows them visa-free travel throughout Europe. I am considering an RBI model, so I don’t have to give us my passport. For me, my passport is my identity, and since my country doesn’t allow dual citizenship, I think RBI is the best way forward for me.”
However, everything is not rosy in the industry. Once popular destinations like Malta and Cyprus were forced to withdraw some aspects of their CBI programs after several controversies.
Moreover, some have reported being approached by scammers. Industry experts are calling on prospective clients looking into the CBI programs to do their complete research before deciding to pay for the service.
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