Educated in the United Kingdom, Thomas Anthony has been a banker for over 26 years. He has worked in Antigua, St. Lucia, and Miami as an Investment Professional. In 2013, he joined the Citizenship by Investment Unit as a Project Development Officer with responsibility for Real Estate and Investment in Business; he now currently holds the title of Acting Chief Executive Officer.
Maintaining one of the most famous citizenship programme in the Caribbean must be hard, however, Mr. Anthony has improved many things since he’s been in power. He now shares with us a bit of what goes on through the application process, along with some tips for upcoming applicants.
TECJ: What is the primary purpose of this program for the country?
Thomas Anthony, CIU: The main focus of this program is to revive the country’s economy. Tourism, the main driver of our economy, suffered a setback after the global economic crisis in 2008 caused a decrease in visitor arrivals. Citizens in our source markets were obviously experiencing a reduction in their disposable income and were traveling less frequently. The government, therefore, had to consider different options to jumpstart the economy. The CIP was seen as the most effective way to generate renewed interest in the Real Estate market and spur investment in the general economy.
TECJ: What has the CIP done for the economy of Antigua and Barbuda?
TA: Over 800 applications have been processed to date, resulting in more than 1,000 citizenships being granted and more than US$100 million flowing into the economy. We have, in a little over two years, seen a resurgence in the island’s real-estate sector. This economic boost has, for example, allowed for environmentally responsible projects such as solar energy and reverse osmosis to be developed. The local populace has also been benefiting from direct investments being made to the Social Security scheme and community housing projects. These projects, made possible through the CIP, create employment, and it is expected that the economic security of Antiguans and Barbudans will improve.
TECJ: Which parts of the world do your investors mainly come from?
TA: About 40% of our applicants are from China and 20% from the Middle-East. The other 40% is divided among other countries in the world.
TECJ: What makes the Antigua & Barbuda CIP stand out from other Caribbean islands programmes?
TA: At least two big industry partners have rated Antigua as the premier programme in the region. This is primarily because of the robust due diligence process, efficiency, and professionalism of the Unit and government policy. Additionally, Antigua and Barbuda is the only country in the region with a program with visa-free access to Canada.
TECJ : How does CIU see the potential of re-sales of real estate in 5 years?
TA: The Unit’s position is that a one-time resale should be allowed under the programme to new CIP buyers. However, this has not been inscribed in law. We are continuing to work with the government to have either an amendment to the legislation or written policy guidelines created.
TECJ: Can you take us through the process (the timeline of applications), from start to finish:
TA: The average processing time from start to finish is 60 days for non-problematic files.
Once a file is presented to our office, the documents are reviewed for accuracy and verification of expiration dates. A receipt is then issued and processing begins. We receive reports from our local and regional law enforcement agencies, international partners, and due diligence providers within 30 to 45 days, and are able to make an informed decision within seven business days thereafter. In the case of a problematic file, the process is delayed until we receive all pertinent information. For approved files, the investor has 30 days to complete the transaction, after which citizenship is granted.
TECJ: Why is the Due Diligence process so important?
TA: Given the increasing global security concerns, money laundering, terrorism, and global conflicts, we need to ensure the safety of our borders and those of the international community, particularly our visa-free partners. We have a legal and moral obligation to ensure that only fit and proper persons become holders of an Antigua and Barbuda passport.
TECJ: Will your government be ready to make difficult decisions like revoking someone’s citizenship?
TA: Yes, for serious founded reasons such as treason, sedition, acts of terrorism, or association with terrorist organizations. To date, we have discovered one person out of approximately 800 applicants who excluded materially important information. That person’s citizenship was subsequently revoked.
TECJ: What are the reasons for refusing an applicant?
TA: An applicant will be refused for the following reasons:
- Providing false information on his or her application form
- Not having received a free pardon, has at any time previously been convicted in any country of an offense for which the maximum custodial penalty is in excess of six months imprisonment
- Is the subject of a criminal investigation
- Is a potential national security risk to Antigua and Barbuda or any other country
- Is involved in any activity likely to cause disrepute to Antigua and Barbuda
- Has been denied a visa to a country with which Antigua and Barbuda have visa-free travel and who has not subsequently obtained a visa to the country issued the denial
TECJ: How would you describe a perfect candidate for this program?
TA: A perfect candidate is an investor who has a clean criminal and civil record, is accepting of multicultural societies, is willing to visit and integrate into our country, has an entrepreneurial spirit, and has the necessary funds to invest in Antigua & Barbuda’s economy.
TECJ: What would be your message to new applicants to the CIP?
TA: It is important that applicants declare all pertinent information and provide all required documentation from the onset. This will accelerate the process and lead to the granting of citizenship in a shorter time period.