The British High Commissioner has provided clarity on the review that is currently being done on Citizenship by Investment Programmes (CIP) in Antigua and Barbuda and other countries.
During a recent appearance on Observer AM, Resident British Commissioner to Antigua and Barbuda Lindsy Thompson explained that due to discrepancies with its Residency by Investment programme, the UK government became cautious that such routes “were not secure” and raised several red flags that could eventually undermine the country’s immigration system.
That residency programme was shut down by the UK last year but because of those risks, it has now influenced them to look into the CIP.
Thompson sought to assure listeners that the review is meant to examine risks and that it is not limited to the English-speaking Caribbean.
“We constantly review our immigration system and we were not satisfied that that route to residency was secure enough,” she said.
“There was a potential for misuse. Now, when you have gone through that experience it naturally makes you look at all the other routes that people can enter the UK and of course CIP, those countries like Antigua and Barbuda who have high value passports, citizens can enter the UK visa-free are naturally one thing we look at.
“What we are looking to see is where are the risks, what are they, so that’s what we are doing,” Thompson explained.
Recently, a meeting was held between Thompson, the Chief Executive Officer of the country’s Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) Charmaine Quinland-Donovan, and Prime Minister Gaston Browne regarding this matter.
Thompson revealed her team has so far established a good working relationship with the Prime Minister, the CIU and others that are directly supervising the programme.
As it relates to the risk associated for Antigua and Barbuda, which depends heavily on its CIP as a main revenue earner, Thompson mentioned that there is a possibility visa limitations could be implemented if there are concerns.
This is the case for all the countries under the review, she clarified.
“The UK is looking at these schemes on a whole, on a global basis. I can’t promise that we won’t apply visa regimes to countries where there are concerns. We have, just like any other nation, like Antigua and Barbuda, to protect our borders and where we see there are risks and a sufficient threat then, obviously, we are obliged to our citizens to take those measures. But what I will say is we have great cooperation here in Antigua and Barbuda.
“Where there isn’t a threat, where there isn’t a risk, where there is great cooperation, it’s very hard to see why we would want to apply any kind of measure,” she added.
The government has remained confident that Antigua and Barbuda will not be among the list of countries hit with visa limitations.
Just last week, Cabinet spokesperson Melford Nicholas said the Cabinet spoke to Quinland-Donovan, who assured them that there were no issues.
Nicholas indicated that the government believes its CIP security protocols are stringent.
Antigua and Barbuda is among nearly a dozen countries globally that offer a CIP programme, with access to the EU’s coveted Schengen Area – 27 European countries that have officially abolished all passport and other controls at their mutual borders – being a major attraction.
However, the European Parliament has been adamant that third parties should not have such easy access to its member states, especially from coming through “friendly” countries that currently benefit from visa-free travel.