By Carlena Knight
A boost to the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) was the main reason given for the government’s decision to grant visa-free entry to diplomats, investors and tourists form the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Cabinet announced this week the implementation of a policy under which certain categories of UAE passport holders will get visa free entry into Antigua and Barbuda without any further delay or waiting period.
The Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Lionel “Max” Hurst, was the one who revealed the government’s principal intent for this initiative.
“A part of the challenge we faced was to increase the number of people making applications for the CIP. The larger the number of countries that don’t require visas to enter into Antigua and Barbuda, the more attractive the CIP becomes,” he told OBSERVER media yesterday.
“The UAE is a very special place. Most of the people who live in the UAE come from other places and the UAE citizens are very few in number. As a consequence, we believe that by granting the visa-free access to those citizens in the UAE we are making Antigua and Barbuda more of a CIP [destination]; that’s the primary objective.”
The CIP has received some negative publicity in recent times when it came to light that some alleged international criminals are holders of Antiguan passports.
Mehul Choksi – who currently resides in Antigua and Barbuda – is one such questionable character. The Indian-born businessman is accused of committing a multi-billion dollar fraud on the Punjab National Bank in his native land, and is currently fighting an extradition request made by Indian authorities for him to answer to the charges.
Government, however, believes that through this new policy the benefits will begin to manifest almost immediately, according to Hurst.
“I say immediate because you have a lot of countries that are competing for the same high net worth individuals and once they learn that the possession of Antiguan and Barbudan citizenship will allow them to travel with fewer hassles…we will find that immediately we will get some results.
“It’s the world in which we live that information is immediately shared and any decision that is made today, especially information such as this, will reverberate around the world and most definitely in the UAE which is where we are aiming for,” Hurst said.
The policy is by no means new, but is instead based on a Cabinet decision dating back five years to July 2014, when the new government of Prime Minister Gaston Browne, within its first month in office, agreed to provide visa exemptions to diplomats and investors from the UAE.