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Who will launch the next Citizenship by Investment?

Who will launch the next CBI?

There has been a recent surge of new Citizenship-by-Investment programs in the last few years.  The trend started with St Lucia, Vanuatu, Turkey, Jordan, and new ones are expected to hit the shelves in Montenegro and Moldova. The recent price war in the Caribbean has made new passports more accessible, and demand is expected to rise significantly in the next few years. The price war has also made it less attractive for new players to come in, as prices might continue to drop in step with the increased supply. This is why the formation of a cartel in the Caribbean is expected in the near future (link to past article on the subject).

The 2018 STC Passport index has been enhanced this year to facilitate the classification of passports. When it comes to CBIs, the main asset is visa-free travel to the US or to Europe. Therefore, we have created 3 standards:

  1. A GOLD passport enables visa-free travel to the US & EU as a main feature.
  2. A SILVER passport enables visa-free travel to the EU as a main feature.
  3. A BRONZE passport enables visa-free travel to the UK as a main feature.

Other passports are labelled BLACK, and generally considered low in value as a second passport. This obviously didn’t stop Turkey, Comoros, Jordan and Cambodia from offering Citizenship-by-Investment programs. These programs falls into 2nd nationality schemes, whose main purpose is to facilitate the naturalisation of investors who are generally already in the country or stateless.

We won’t speculate on which country will create a Citizenship-by-Investment program that falls into the ‘’2nd nationality schemes’’ as it’s of limited interest to the Residence & Citizenship industry. Instead, we will focus on potential 2nd passport schemes that could see the light of day in the next few years. We are already aware of Montenegro and Moldova, whose programs will come into the market soon. So we will speculate on which countries are most likely to contemplate a Citizenship-by-Investment program and that also possess a good passport.


The Caribbean

Country Passport Standard DEBT to GDP Population
St. Vincent & Grenadines Silver 87% 110,000
Trinidad & Tobago Silver 44.4% 1,365,000


The Caribbean is a hotbed of Citizenship-by-Investment programs, with 5 currently active CBIs. With the price war that has been ranging since the entry of St Lucia into the market and the damage caused by Hurricane Irma, the Caribbean is unlikely to welcome another CBI with open arms. Fortunately for the current players, few other nations in the region will consider a CBI, either because their passport is not highly rated (Jamaica, Dominica, et al.) or because they are dependent on a European nation (Bermuda, Cayman Islands, et al). This leaves us with only 2 countries: St Vincent & the Grenadines, and Trinidad & Tobago. St Vincent & the Grenadines’ opposition party has declared its interest in creating such a program, and in light of the nation’s mounting debt, a Citizenship-by-Investment program is logically an option. But we might need to wait for the 2020 election for a real chance of seeing a CBI take off. Trinidad & Tobago is the other possibility, but a CBI program there is unlikely to be on the books in the foreseeable future.



Country Passport Standard DEBT to GDP Population
Belize Bronze 69% 367,000
Costa Rica Silver 65% 4,857,000
El Salvador Silver 65% 6,345,000
Guatemala Silver 25% 16,580,000
Honduras Silver 38% 9,113,000
Nicaragua Silver 47% 6,150,000
Venezuela Silver 23% 31,570,000


Today, no Central American country offers a Citizenship-by-Investment program, but they have existed in the past. The infamous Belize program was suspended in 2002, and Peru had one in the ’90s. But currently, CBI is unlikely to remerge anywhere in the Americas. Belize might be in a situation where they could be tempted, as its debt remains high. The same can be said about Venezuela, a country in the midst of an extreme financial crisis. However, it’s unlikely that the highly unpopular current regime would instigate such an unpopular action. Furthermore, a CBI would not help save the economy of a country of 32 million people.



Country Passport Standard DEBT to GDP Population
Greece Gold 179% 10,750,000
Albania Silver 70% 2,876,000
Bosnia & Herzegovina Silver 30% 3,517,000
Macedonia Silver 39% 2,081,000
Serbia Silver 61% 7,057,000


Eastern Europe seems to be the next battleground for the citizenship industry, with Montenegro and Moldova having engaged in creating a CBI, with both set to launch their programs soon. Albania is the most likely to offer a CBI in the near future. Success and tolerance by the EU of Citizenship-by-Investment programs will most likely open the gate for other Balkan countries to follow suit. Their possible ascension to the EU in the future makes CBI in the region highly attractive. Serbia is witnessing large Chinese investments, and depending on the success of these ventures, they could pave the way for more open-minded attitudes towards foreign investors from the East who seek naturalisation. Greece is a wild card here, as national pride is unlikely to allow it. However, making CBI common in Europe might make Citizenship-by-Investment easier to sell to the Greek people so they can finally reduce their ballooning debt.


The Pacific

Country Passport Standard DEBT to GDP Population
Kiribati Silver 9% 115,000
Samoa Silver 55% 195,000
Timor-Leste Silver 10% 1,269,000
Tonga Silver 45% 107,000
Tuvalu Silver 41% 11,100


Today, Vanuatu is the only Pacific island with a CBI, but Tuvalu and Tonga ran controversial CBIs that were shut down. Back in the ’90s, rumors abounded that other Pacific nations were in the practice of granting passports for cash, but in a less formal way. Two years ago, Vanuatu rebranded its failed CBI of the previous year, and had much more success with it. China has been lending large amounts of money – billions of dollars – to the Pacific nations. As Vanuatu is a large recipient, questions could be raised in the future about the integrity of the program if China starts asking about their nationals in possession of Vanuatu passport. Nevertheless, a success story with the Vanuatu program could see others in the area follow suit, and for some, a return to the habit of offering 2nd citizenship. Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu are the most likely candidates here. Tuvalu’s citizens could probably live like sheiks if they were to implement a CBI. However, it would require financial planning to make sure inflation doesn’t ravage the tiny economy. Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands possess a Gold Passport, but their close relationship with the US makes it practically impossible for them to contemplate a CBI.


The Rest

Country Passport Standard DEBT to GDP Population
Georgia Silver 44% 3,720,000
Mauritius Silver 65% 1,263,000
Seychelles Silver 62% 94,700


Georgia and Armenia are two of the countries rumored to be contemplating a Citizenship-by-Investment program. The law already enables citizenship by exceptional contribution, and adjusting the law to host a CBI would be relatively easy. Mauritius and Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean, are also two strong candidates; they are already very foreign-investor friendly, and Mauritius already has special clauses in its citizenship law to accelerate the naturalisation of investors.


So where is the next CBI likely to be?

Other than Montenegro and Moldova, the most fertile ground for a future CBI are Albania, Georgia, Mauritius, Belize, Samoa, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Serbia and Macedonia. Tuvalu is the smallest nation on the list, and running a CBI for a single year could wipe out their national debt. The smaller the country, the greater the benefits a CBI can bring to the economic health of a nation. This is where a country like Venezuela and Greece fall short. As much as they would welcome the investment, it won’t have the same significant economic impact. Nevertheless, a CBI in Greece could potentially generate a half-billion US dollars a year in donations. The SILVER passport CBI is expected to bring in roughly 50-100M a year in donations. For EU hopefuls, this can rise to 150-200M a year.

The citizenship industry depends heavily on the EU and how tolerant it is towards Citizenship-by-Investment programs, and in a smaller measure, how the US perceives the programs as a security threat. High levels of due diligence goes in a long way to appeasing fears – and those contemplating a program should make it widely known that naturalisation via a CBI has a much higher level of due diligence than a normal naturalisation proceeding.

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