Wealthy Americans are opting for a Plan B

There are an unprecedented host of concerns bothering people living in the US these days. Worries about a high COVID-19 infection rate and the implications of the election outcome and social unrest, as well as other issues, have made many wealthy Americans want to go on a long trip away from it all. And who could blame them? Why not leave the stress behind and work remotely on a sunny Caribbean beach?

In the last six months, there has been booming activity around the Citizenship by Investment programs of Grenada, Dominica, Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis. Despite slow numbers elsewhere, government agencies, advisers and real estate developers have seen an increase in activity in the region.

Barbados began to promote their 12 month “Welcome Stamp” back in July 2020. Since then, there has been a major surge of people looking to take advantage of the program. The number of applications that are being filed is being considered one of the largest amounts in recent history. With projects like Barbados’ Welcome Stamp, more and more people are attempting to spend time away from crowded urban centers and their associated problems.

St. Kitts and Nevis have also begun to offer a similar program to that of Barbados. There has been more than 1,100 people at the time of writing who have applied for the programs and creating a surge like none before.

These events all seem to be happening while somewhat concerning data about people who have dual citizenships is emerging. It seems many of these CBI investors are giving up their American citizenship and have no intentions of coming back. In recent months, the bigger cities in the United States have been seeing a massive exodus. This has much to do with the effects of the pandemic. In order for businesses to continue, there has been a number of them to readjust their workforce to a homebased model. The people who are fleeing the city are moving to more rural areas. Oregon and Vermont have seen a record amount of influx from the big cities from New York and New Jersey. However, for those who can afford it, they have packed their bags for a long trip. A record quantity of people are taking the first plane available to sandy beach in the Caribbean.

With record numbers of Americans having to resettle into a work from home model, and possible tax hikes after the elections, are contributing to many wanting to leave. It’s not just the motivation to leave their home, but in fact there seems to be a driver to exit the US for a while.

Mohammed Asaria, from Range Developments are currently working on a luxury Six Senses resort in Grenada. He states that one of the reasons that Americans are getting away is to ‘hide it out’ until the results of the election are final. With working remotely and COVID-19 still looming over everyone’s head, it is enough pressure for anyone to endure. Instead, Asaria has shared that more and more Americans are buying up second and even third homes in case there is a second and third wave of COVID.

Mr. Gregor Nassief, the proprietor of Luxury Villas Secret Bay in Dominica, argues that the United States has never experienced something of this magnitude before. He states that it is not only COVID that is causing the stress, but so many things that have gone wrong in the past year. Nassief has also stated that the number of inquiries for Secret Bay have increased nearly 66 percent over the past few months due to the American exodus. In July, Barbados started a project that was designed for remote workers. The program granted 12-month temporary visas to work and stay in Barbados. The cost of the individual visa is $2,000 and $3,000 for families. The visa holder is also exempt from Barbados Income Tax. Over 42 percent of the 1,100 applications that have been filed in the last few months have come from people living in the US.

Business on the Caribbean Islands are growing for Long-Term Stays

Because of the growing interest of long-term stays, major hotels chains such as Hilton and Marriot are beginning to offer long-term bookings to meet the needs of the growing market. The Marriott Residences St Kitts is currently running promotions for stays over 12 months or more with studios. The beginning cost for a number of their studios is around $1,575 per week.

Of the influx of new interests in the Caribbean, there are growing numbers of people who are considering a more permanent approach. If one has decided that he or she does want to make the change with or without dependents then the obvious approach is to seek permanent residency and citizenship. Gaining roots through citizenship can be achieve via one of the many “Citizenship By Investment” programs (also known as CIB schemes) are found on a number of the Caribbean islands. For example, St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada and Dominica each have their own programs.

The Citizenship by Investment program from St. Kitts and Nevis has been around since 1984. Traditionally, the program has often attracted wealth Chinese and Middle Eastern investors who wanted a second passport, but do not wish to live on the islands. Chief Executive of the Kitts and Nevis program Mr. Les Khan, spoke with Forbes concerning the events of 2020 and the huge increase of Americans moving to the island. He states that the number of applications is growing quickly. He goes on to say, “More and more Americans are wishing to obtain a second passport”. He argues that the people who are applying for the St. Kitts passports are wanting to change their lives and live on the island.

For those who are interested in the Citizenship By Investment program, there are many ways to qualify for a program. For example, one way is to invest $200,000 into a real estate project. Another way is to contribute to a sovereign fund. In St. Kitts, real estate projects must first be approved by the government. However, due to the surge, a number of the approved projects are being grabbed up quickly. Due to the growing demand with no end in sight, the government is now looking into expanding their program to cover private homes to meet the demand of foreign investors.

However, there is a potential problem that is waiting on the horizon. With growing demand and increased prices, the cost of real estate in the area could surge considerably if it is not regulated. While the increased influx of foreign investments may be great for the economy, housing cost could skyrocket and be a major burden for residents.