by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – Since the news of Dominica needing a Visa for entry into the United Kingdom because of their Citizenship by Investment Program began to circulate in the region, concern over what impact that would have on the other territories in the region began to mount.
During an address to the nations on July 20, Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit called the decision by the UK unfortunate and said his government is reevaluating the program to deal with the issues the UK government has with the program.
“The decision of the United Kingdom to suspend visa-free access to the UK for holders of passports from a number of countries, including Dominica, must be understood in that general context. The British government has made it clear that this decision to suspend visa-free access does not represent a deterioration of relations between our two nations. Nor is it indicative of any diplomatic or other fault. They have cited concerns with our CBI program, and I wish to assure the Dominican people that several changes have already been made to the structure and management of our program. And in the weeks and months ahead, we’ll continue to implement additional measures to strengthen the program. We take this matter very seriously and will increase our efforts in showcasing our robust due diligence and risk mitigation efforts on all fronts.”
According to the UK government, concerns surrounding Dominica’s programme include:
- Poor due diligence around applications, including those of dependents.
- The provision for name changes upon receipt of citizenship.
- The lack of a residency requirement for applicants.
- The granting of citizenship to nationals of other countries who ordinarily require visas to enter the UK consequently leading to increased levels of asylum applications.
Dominicans will still be able to transit through the UK to their final destination by applying for transit documents; however, Dominicans would need to acquire a visitor’s visa.
Other countries affected by the new move include Honduras, Namibia, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu.
Prime Minister of St. Kitts, Hon. Dr Terrance, shared his position on the announcement made by the United Kingdom.
“Dominica is a fellow OECS country, a fellow CARICOM country, our neighbour, and we feel what they feel, and we feel what they are going through. Of course, this came because of, you know, what is perceived to be happening with their CBI program… the Prime Minister has spoken, and he’s moving now to make some quick changes – long-lasting changes – in his response… Therefore, I want to congratulate him for dealing with the issue head-on and for moving expeditiously to make the necessary changes that he sees fit in order to progress and to get back Dominica to where it once was.”
How would that affect other countries in the Caribbean that have CBI programs?
Prime Minister Drew reflected on his administration’s move related to the Federation’s CBI program to bolster the program to meet international standards and the negative press those moves received when the program’s performance began to decline.
“I know when the SR&Os were changed; I saw stuff to say that St. Kitts and Nevis approval for projects went down 90 something per cent. I was criticised for that – remember, there was an international article speaking to that, but it’s because I was – and the government and administration – we were making the necessary changes to strengthen the program to demonstrate to the international community that we were serious, that we would not allow anything to happen in the program that was not keeping up with best practices and the standards that people expect. Those good moves were recognised; for example, you can see what happened with Canada… More critical, I think, than people realise, but I think what happened to Dominica would have opened up people’s eyes. We would recognise why I’m so aggressive in making sure that the CBI program is tight and [satisfies] the standards of our international partners. I was accused of destroying the program. I [said] I’m not destroying the program; I’m making the program better.”
On continuing to bolster the program to keep in line with international standards, the Prime Minister said the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the European Union have agreed to set up a committee to discuss and structure the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme after concerns about the program were raised during the recently concluded EU-CELAC (European Union-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) Summit in Brussels, Belgium.
There has been mounting concern since the announcement that Caribbean countries would lose their visa-free access to the United Kingdom, as International reports suggest travel restrictions are on the way for other non-visa entry countries.
Reports stating that countries in the Caribbean will soon be required to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) by the end of 2023 reached our news desk.
According to those reports, by December 2023, citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis seeking to travel to the UK must apply for an ETA before entry is allowed.
St. Lucia’s Investment Minister, Hon. Dr Ernest Hilaire, said that the reports in circulation purporting that visa-free access would be stripped from other Caribbean territories with a CBI program had not been shared by the UK government.
“The British government issued a statement that clearly stated the actions against Dominica and why they chose to do so. They never mentioned St. Lucia; they never mentioned St. Kitts; they never mentioned Antigua; [they] never mentioned Grenada. The official source, the British government, said we are taking action against Dominica, here is why we [are doing it], we’ve raised concern in the past about their [CBI], we’ve told them about the effects of certain practices – how it can affect our security – accordingly, we acted in this way.”
The Investment Minister continued, “Somebody circulates a story from an unknown source that says, “Dominica first, then St. Lucia in August and others in September, October – and everybody focuses not on what the official British said, but focusing on an unknown article that somebody had circulated. What does that tell you? As far as we know, and we are in constant dialogue will all our international partners, there are no issues with our [CBI] that [need] addressing now.”
An ETA does not strip countries of their visa-free access. Still, it is a less stringent measure countries implement to better know who they are letting into the country without going through the more extensive and rigorous visa application route.
An Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) is a requirement for people who do not need a visa to travel to certain countries, gives permission to enter a territory, and is electronically linked to an individual’s passport.
Recently, Canada added citizens and residents of St. Kitts and Nevis to their list of countries that could enter using an ETA after Kittitians and Nevisians were required to obtain a visa for the last eight/nine years.
According to the UK’s official website, the countries recently added to the scheme that would need an ETA include: –
From 15 November 2023:
From 22 February 2024:
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
More nationalities are expected to be added to the scheme later.
Twenty-six countries from the European Union already require an ETA for entry into the UK, including France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Denmark.
According to the current listing, by February 2024, the citizens of 56 countries would require an ETA to enter the UK.
Could there be a global move by countries to make Electronic Travel Authorization a new standard for international travel?