Caribbean islands are now selling citizenship at a discount - R2.5 million per family
- Secondary passports are in high demand as the coronavirus pandemic causes travel restrictions around the world.
- In the Caribbean, some nations are offering steep discounts to bring in extra revenue amid a cash crunch.
- Passport buying has shifted from simple vacations to riding out the virus, experts say.
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Caribbean island countries have long offered passports to wealthy foreigners in exchange for a - sometimes steep - monetary investment, but facing a cash crunch and a surge in interest, there are deals to be had.
Through December 1, the island nation Saint Kitts and Nevis is selling a four-person family package for $150,000 (R2.5 million) - down from $190,000 (R3.2 million), in exchange for a minimum real-estate purchase of $200,000 (R3.36 million) that must be held for at least seven years.
READ | As SA's passport power remains stable, US and Brazilian travel freedom curbed due to Covid-19
The Caribbean country's passport ranks roughly in line with Mexico's, according to the world Passport Index. And, perhaps more intriguing for South Africans, the passport's good for visa-less travel to the European Union and the UK, among others.
"In these days of Covid, when tourism is not happening, we have to find ways to create revenue to sustain our economy," Les Khan, CEO of Saint Kitts and Nevis Citizenship Investment Unit, told Bloomberg News.
Other island nations in the region - including Saint Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda, Grenada, and Dominica - all offer similar programs, some at a new discount, as they hope to cash in on the increased interest ,too. According to Henley & Partners, a London-based passport broker and "identity management" firm, there's been a 42% uptick in citizenship applications.
Malta, whose passport power ranks just under Italy, Canada, and Norway in terms of travel, will sell you citizenship that includes EU and US travel - though there are more strings attached. The Mediterranean island nation has long been a hotspot for the world's ultra wealthy.
Still, the more expensive option may be a better choice as people shift passport strategies from vacationing to riding out a global pandemic that some countries have been far more successful in mitigating than others.
"'Investment migration' has shifted from being about living the life you want in terms of holidays and business travel to a more holistic vision that includes healthcare and safety," Dr. Christian Kalin,an executive at Henley & Partners, told Robb Report.
This year's discounts might not last forever.
"In the past there has been a tendency toward lowering prices, but the current cuts seem to be temporary and Covid-19 related," Beatrice Gatti, a legal manager at CS Partners, which helps ultra-wealthy clients find second-citizenship, told Bloomberg.
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