‘Demand for second citizenship has increased since onset of COVID-19’
MOHAMMED ASARIA is the founder, managing director and member of the Board of Range Developments, the largest and most successful hospitality developer in Eastern Caribbean engaged in the Citizenship by Investment sphere. In this interview with Businessday
For the benefit of readers not familiar with citizenship by investment, how do the programmes work?
Citizenship by Investment is increasingly popular with discerning investors from West Africa. The concept is very simple: in return for a real estate investment or a contribution to the government, an investor is afforded the opportunity to apply for citizenship of a country. If successful, they become eligible for many of the benefits that follow, including visa free travel to many worldwide destinations, access to a tax efficient jurisdiction, and much more.
Once an investor has obtained their Grenada citizenship, if they wish they may apply for an E2 visa for the US. This allows citizens of Grenada to live in the US. Grenada is the only citizenship by investment jurisdiction in the Caribbean that extends this benefit to its economic citizens.
What have been the recent trends for demand for second citizenship, especially from developing countries? Has the pandemic played any role in this?
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the demand for second citizenship programmes has increased. While the outlook remains uncertain, High Net Worth individuals, many of whom are nervous about capital controls, higher taxation and even social unrest, are embracing the options that a second citizenship gives them.
Citizenship seekers are no longer just looking for mobility, but also as a hedge against some of these challenges. This explains why Grenada has become so topical, as it provides an avenue to relocate to the United States quickly – in just six weeks with an E2 visa – by establishing a business in the US.
Can you take us through Range Developments track-record and successes you have had in helping immigrant investors secure second citizenship and US residency?
Range Developments is the leading developer of luxury hotels under citizenship by investment projects in the Caribbean. Our track record speaks for itself; we work with world renowned brands such as Park Hyatt St. Kitts (opened in 2017), the Cabrits Resort & Spa Kempinski Dominica (open in 2019) and, in Grenada, Six Senses La Sagesse. The completion of Six Senses La Sagesse, Grenada is due in Q4 2022. Our hotels have featured widely and won awards in the leading media – including CNN, Bloomberg, New York Times, Caribbean Journal, and Vogue.
Our clients come from many different regions, including India, China, Russia, the Middle East, South Africa, and Nigeria among others. We have assisted more than 1,600 investors so far with more than 4,000 passports issued to their families. In conjunction with leading US law firms, we have helped scores of investors to reside in the United States.
It is not just the investors who benefit: Range Developments has created more than 2,300 jobs across various islands of the Caribbean, supporting
Why Grenada? How does citizenship of the Caribbean country guarantee US residency?
Citizenship of Grenada provides the opportunity to migrate to the United States. Grenadian citizenship also provides investors with the widest visa-free travel benefits among the comparable options, with more than 130 countries including the UK, Germany, France, China and Russia.
Moreover, it is also the only Caribbean country whose citizens are eligible for the United States E2 visa.
To obtain an E2 visa, an investor is required to make a substantial Investment in the United States by creating their own business. This term is not defined in the relevant regulations but generally an investment in the range of $100,000 to $300,000 is required. This is an investment in the applicant’s own business, and a business plan will need to be submitted as part of the US E2 visa application.
The investor must retain the ability to direct and develop the business. Again, this is not a defined term, which means more than a mere board role, however does not require a day-to-day involvement. It does ensure the investor is in control of his own destiny and the profit of the venture is under the control of the investor – this is where an “E2 investment” differs greatly to the EB5 passive investment structure.
What are the benefits of the E2 Visa?
Free education in US public schools and more affordable, in-state tuition costs at US universities. Spouses can work anywhere in the US. The Grenada E2 visa can be renewed indefinitely, if the E2 business maintains operations.
E2 visa holders can spend up to 120 days in the US without being subject to worldwide income taxation.
E2 visa holders can sponsor specialized employees from their nation (non-family members) to work in their E2 business.
Your third citizenship by investment project Six Senses La Sagesse is underway. Can you share what the project is about and how it is relevant to Nigerians seeking second citizenship and US residency?
The Six Senses will be Range Development’s third development in the Caribbean. It will comprise 100 rooms spread over 28 acres. Six Senses has been named as the number one hotel brand globally for the past three years by Travel & Leisure magazine. Its construction is funded in part through Citizenship by investment. Demand for the Grenada offering has been buoyed by the recent changes in US immigration law, especially the exponential price increases to the EB5 Programme.
Moreover, due to the recent suspension of L1, H1B visas for all foreigners and a temporary ban of EB5 visas to Nigerians by the US government, one of the only ways to move to the US is through applying for an E2 visa. This is where Grenada is unique.
Aside from the main applicant, an E2 applicant’s spouse and children below the age of 21 may also be granted E2 dependent visas. The spouse can obtain authorisation to work anywhere in the US under the E2 dependent visa, however, the main applicant can only work in the E2 approved business.
It is possible for two related families to co-own an E2 Business jointly. For example, two brothers could co-own one E2 business. This would be a very cost-effective immigration solution especially given Grenada’s generous definition of dependents. To be eligible for an E2 visa, the applicant should be a citizen of the country that has an E2 treaty with the USA. Nigeria doesn’t have an E2 treaty with the US, which is why Grenada is such a useful stepping stone in this regard.
What are the cost implications of second citizenship in Grenada and what are the eligibility criteria?
To secure Grenadian citizenship, investors must first invest $220,000 (plus government fees based on the composition of the family) in a government-approved real-estate project, such as Six Senses La Sagesse, Grenada and apply for citizenship of Grenada. The level of government fees depends on the number of family members the main applicant is planning to include into a citizenship application. So, for a family of four, there will be an additional $80,000 of government fees.
The investor must hold the investment for five years. Thereafter they can resell the investment to another investor who can also apply for citizenship of Grenada. The original investor keeps their citizenship in perpetuity.
In addition, an investor will also receive a profit from the operations of the hotel. The projected yield is from 2% to 4% once the hotel opens.
Is citizenship transferable to applicants’ offspring and to what extent are spouses and extended family members covered?
The main applicant can include an unlimited number of dependents – applicants’ spouse, parents and children below the age of 30 and unmarried siblings over 18 years old. Citizenship is passed down through generations.
What is the minimum holding period for foreign buyers of Grenada properties to enjoy citizenship?
There is a five-year holding period. After this period, an investor can resell his investment to any subsequent investor interested in second citizenship. The original investor keeps his passport.
Can you give a sense of the minimum required investment in the US by Grenada passport holders in exchange for residency?
The recommended capital for an E2 investment is between $100,000 and $300,000. Investors can establish their own business or acquire an existing business, even a franchise. To be and remain eligible for an E2, an investor should own 50% or more of their business, and be able to develop and direct it.
Does Range Development apply for the E2 US Visa on behalf of interested clients or is that part of the journey left for immigrant investors to take care of themselves?
Range Developments recommends US immigration lawyers who can assist with the E2 application process.
Overall, how long does the process from application for second citizenship to residency in US typically take?
The application for Grenada citizenship takes up to four months. The subsequent E2 application takes from two to three months.
What are the most important non-financial considerations you advise prospective clients to make when seeking second citizenship and US residency?
Benefits of Grenada citizenship include: Security for the investor and his/her family in times of social unrest in emerging market economies. A safety net.
Visa free travel to more than 140 counties, including the UK, Schengen countries, China, Russian, to name a few. Capital mobility and preservation, as well as, a tax efficient jurisdiction.
The benefits of the E2 Visa: Ability to invest and reside in the United State through an investment in one’s own business. Free education in US public schools below the age of 18 and more affordable, in-state tuition costs at US universities. Spouses can work anywhere in the US.
The Grenada E2 visa can be renewed indefinitely, if the E2 business maintains operations. E2 visa holders can spend up to 120 days in the US without being subject to worldwide income taxation.
E2 visa holders can sponsor specialized employees from their nation (non-family members) to work in their E2 business.
In line with the previous question, what are the commonest mistakes applicants make and how can that be avoided?
The focus of any investor should be to pick a credible enterprise that has been designed for completion rather than merely to attract citizenship capital. Range Developments is the only developer of citizenship by investment programs in the Caribbean that has kept its promises and completed two luxury 5-star hotels, with a third underway. This is unique in the region.
An investor should recognise the differences between citizenship by investment programmes. Ideally, they should consult a credible advisor to conduct a thorough due diligence on their behalf. For instance, Grenada is the only Caribbean CBI country with an E2 treaty with the USA. The Us/grenada Treaty of Trade and Commerce provides for a five-year maximum length, multiple entries with an unlimited number of renewals. This is the most advantageous of any country. By comparison, Montenegro, which also has a CBI programme, only provides its nationals with the opportunity to obtain an E2 visa for one year, which must be renewed every year.
Some CBI countries have a different approach to addition of children. In St. Lucia, for example, one is not permitted to add children after five years.
How can interested Nigerian applicants reach you?
Potential investors can either email email@example.com or phone +971 55 887 4216.
What are your thoughts on obtaining second citizenship as an investment decision?
Citizenship by investment in Grenada provides an amazing opportunity for investors and their families to secure their future and to migrate and reside in the USA on an E2 visa. The benefits include security, mobility, and the ability to structure wealth and assets due to a favourable tax regime. Applicants are not required to visit or reside in Grenada to obtain citizenship by investment.