Saint Kitts and Nevis continues to strengthen its Citizenship-by-Investment programme
Lalaine C. Delmendo | November 29, 2020
Saint Kitts and Nevis continues to improve its Citizenship-by-Investment scheme to attract the wealthy.
“St Kitts and Nevis is the safest, most beautiful and prosperous country in the Caribbean to offer economic citizenship and we remain so during these difficult times,” said Prime Minister Timothy Harris.
“While COVID-19 has placed the world under enormous strain, St Kitts and Nevis’ record to date of zero hospitalisations and zero fatalities from the disease underlines the character and enduring appeal of our great country.”
In July 2020, the government temporarily reduced from US$150,000 from US$195,000 the contribution that families of four need make to secure citizenship, until December 31, 2020. Likewise, stamp duty for real estate investors was reduced to 2.5% during this period.
The government is now planning to introduce other alternative investment options during 2021.
“For example, we shall reconsider the sale of high end property under prescribed conditions under the CBI,” said PM Harris.
“So, no longer then will the real estate property be part of a generally broad approved project. A single home which meets the necessary thresholds will be considered under the CBI project. We have had deep interest in doing this and we are finalizing our policy response to this particular market need.”
From April 1, 2018, applicants for Citizenship by Investment have been offered two real estate investment options:
- Single applicants must invest at least US$400,000 in any approved real estate development in St. Kitts and Nevis. The buyer can sell the property after five years.
- Two applicants can now invest US$200,000 each in any government-approved luxury resort development. But the property can only be sold after seven years.
Earlier, St. Kitts & Nevis introduced an accelerated application process for its Citizenship-by-Investment (CBI) Program. Foreigners can get citizenship applications processed in just 60 days, down from about 3 to 4 months.
“After the closure of the sugar industry in 2006, we made a strategic decision to shift our visitor demographic towards the higher end of the market,” said former Minister of Tourism Richard Skerritt.
St. Kitts & Nevis opened a new private jet terminal to cater to this elite, and with the profits from what turned out to be a mini-boom, the government has also managed to improve conditions for its own poor.
As a result of these positive changes, the twin-island nation’s CBI Program has improved significantly, particularly in terms of high security standards, residence requirements, convenient travel, and a more efficient citizenship timeline, according to the Financial Times Professional Wealth Management’s 2020 CBI Index.
And it has helped the property market to grow rapidly in recent years. “I would estimate that at least 60% of real estate sales are linked to the Citizenship-by-Investment Program,” says Nevis Style Realty’s proprietor Wayne Tyson.
In St Kitts, the pace of development has increased rapidly in recent years, spurred by the arrival of the Marriott Hotel in Frigate Bay, and by an increased number of air flights into the islands. “Since the Marriott opened, property sales and prices have increased dramatically,” says local real estate agent Brian Kassab.
One of the newest developments in St. Kitts is the five-star Park Hyatt Hotel, which is partly financed by the government’s citizenship-by-investment programme. Property investors who pay XC$1.16 million (US$430,000) upfront acquire a limited partnership share in Park Hyatt hotel and get permanent St. Kitts & Nevis citizenship for himself and his dependents. There is no residency requirement.
“Park Hyatt raises our visibility as a tourist destination throughout the world,” says Skerritt. “The Citizenship by Investment has been in place for years, and generally worked well, but this is taking the concept to a new level.”
In Nevis, construction activity has been increasing. Notable developments either under construction or in planning stage include Wyndham Grand Hotels and Resorts, Aman Resort, Oasis Hotel, and Spring Air Resort.
“The arrival of the Four Seasons Resort in 1991, and the creation of their first branded residences [in 1995], put Nevis on the map,” says Suzanne Gordon, owner of Sugar Mill Real Estate. “That heralded the beginning of the boom in luxury developments.”
“Nevis has always been known as the more exclusive island,” says Aman Resort developer Simon Lowe.
“Nevis is essentially a villa island,” adds Gordon, “attracting artists, celebrities, and people in the know, since the 1970s.”
These developments, coupled with the newly completed second cruise pier at Port Zante, are expected to buoy the property market in the coming years, local real estate experts believe.
From 2015 to 2019, tourist arrivals in St. Kitts and Nevis averaged 1.16 million people annually, up from 655,000 visitors in 2008-14 and 318,000 visitors in 2000-07, according to the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).
Most stay-over visitors come from the US, the UK, Canada, and other Caribbean nations.
The Eastern Caribbean dollar, the official currency of St. Kitts and Nevis, is pegged to the US dollar, at XC$2.7 to US$1. This offers long-term financial security. There is no capital gains tax or tax on personal income.
Recent changes in the Citizenship-by-investment program
Currently, the Economic Citizenship Program has two options: (a) investment in real estate; (b) or contribution to the Sustainable Growth Fund (SGF). So it gives foreigners citizenship, the right to live and work in the Federation, visa-free access to Schengen countries, and a large range of other benefits, through house purchase.
Real estate investments
- The minimum investment requirement in an approved real estate development in St. Kitts and Nevis is US$400,000.
- The buyer can sell the property after five years.
- Payment of government fees amounting to US$35,050 for the head of the household, US$20,050 for the spouse and US$10,050 for any other dependent regardless of age.
- Payment of due diligence and processing fees amounting to US$7,500 for the main applicant, and US$4,000 for each dependent who is over 16 years old.
- Effective April 1, 2018, two applicants could invest US$200,000 each in any government-approved luxury resort development. However the holding period is seven years. Additional fees apply for accompanying family members.
- Saint Kitts and Nevis recently launched the new SGF to replace the temporary HRF. It became effective in April 1, 2018.
- A single applicant is required to donate US$150,000.
- A family of four (main applicant, spouse, and two children) should make a contribution of US$195,000, (which has been temporarily reduced to US$150,000 until December 31, 2020).
- Additional dependents, regardless of age: US$10,000
Citizens of Cuba, Myanmar, Sudan, Afghanistan, North Korea, and Iran cannot apply under the CIB scheme.
In January 1, 2017:
- The age of children who can be considered dependents of the applicant was raised from 25 years to 30 years
- The age of a dependent parent who can be included in the application was lowered from 65 years to 55 years
The Economic Citizenship Program provides:
- Full citizenship, for the applicant and all eligible family members
- Dual citizenship is permitted, without the requirement to notify the applicant’s home country, and without any need to reside in St. Kitts and Nevis
- Passports will be issued, and may be easily renewed
- Visa-free travel to more than 60 countries worldwide, including the Schengen Zone countries
- Full residency status and the right to work in St. Kitts and Nevis
- Tax free status on foreign income, capital gains, gift, wealth and inheritance tax
- As a Commonwealth citizen, the applicant receives preferential treatment in the UK (e.g. applicant´s children may enter the UK to study without the need to apply for student visas. After studying, they may work in the UK for 2 years without needing a work permit.)
The programme has become more transparent under Prime Minister Timothy Sylvester Harris, who took office in February 2015. The new administration has introduced several reforms:
- Adding expert staff to the Citizenship-by-Investment-Unit;
- Creation of a more client-focused team;
- A new citizen case management system to speed processing of applications;
- Commissioning a Technical Committee that institutes a more formal and documented process in case an application is denied.
As a result of these changes over the past four years, the number of government-approved real estate developments has almost tripled.
APPROVED DEVELOPMENTS FOR ECONOMIC CITIZENSHIP
|Beach & Golf Residence Ltd Beacon Heights Beaumont Park Brimstone Village Calypso Bay Caribbean Galaxy Real Estate Corporation Caribbean Scenic Resort Central Park Estates Christophe Harbour Christophe Harbour - Range Development (Park Hyatt) Christophe Harbour - Windswept Residence Club Clay Villa Condominium Development Coast to Coast Development Dove Properties Ltd ERA Development Golden Rock Commercial Park Golf View Half Moon Bay Villas Heritage Plantation Hotel (DBA Scotch Bonnet Condominiums) Hillsboro Sunset Suites Horizon Villa King´s Pavilion Hotels Kittitian Hill Kittovation Ltd Koi Resort and Residences Leeward Cove Majestic Gardens Condominium Developments Manor By The Sea Marriott Hotel Marriott Residences Montebello Residences||Ocean Grove Ocean Terrace Inn Condominiums Ocean´s Edge Oray´s Development Ottleys Plantation Inn Pelican Bay (Embassy Suites by Hilton St. Kitts) Pirate´s Nest (T-Loft) Port Zante Prime Developments Ltd Ramada Hotels Range Developments (La Valle) - Six Senses St. Kitts Rendezvous Hills Limited Royal Golf Estates Royal St.Kitts Beach Resort Limited Royal St. Kitts Hotel´s Vacation for Life Condominium Sea Lofts Seaview Gardens Seaview Heights Resort and Residences Seavista Development Selsoleil Silver Reef St Christopher Club St. Kitts Castle Starboard House Sundance Ridge (Peninsular Associates) Sunrise Hill Villas SV Condos Ltd 2014 The Avenue By Caribbean Dreams Investments Ltd The North Wing (St. Kitts Marriott Resort Beach Casino) University Gardens Condominiums Vista Villas Inc|
|Belmont Gardens Botanical Gardens Busch Hill Gardens Butlers Estate Resort Residences Carino Hamilton Estate Castle Bay Villas Cliff Dwellers Clifton Gardens Fern Hill Villa Development Fisherman’s Cabanas Ltd Fort Ashby Beach Club Four Seasons Resort Estates Golden Rise Villas and Spa Hamilton Villas and Spa Hermitage Hotel HTRIP Candy Resort Jones Estate Villas Kingfisher Club||Live Nevis Live Nevis Life Ltd Montpelier Plantation Inn Mount Nevis Hotel Nelsons Spring Beach Villa and Spa Nevisian Sunset Condominiums Oasis Resorts & Spa Paradise Palms Ltd Pinney´s Hotel Development Ltd Rivere House Cottages Development Royal Gateway Estate Serenity Palms Condominium Development Spring Aire Resort Sunset Heights Condominiums Tamarind Cove Marina Development Ltd Turquoise Waterfront Condominiums Development Victoria Gardens Resort Zenith Nevis Alpha Condominium|
|Source: Government of St. Kitts & Nevis|
Increasing citizenship approvals
The result? The number of passports issued under the programme has reached record high, mainly due to the introduction of the SGF which allows foreign investors to gain citizenship at a sharply reduced investment amount, according to Les Khan, the CEO of the Citizenship by Investment Unit.
At least 17,000 passports were already issued under the St. Kitts and Nevis Citizenship-by-Investment program. As of early 2020, the program had generated over US$700 million in capital from foreign investors, and accounted for more than 26% of the country’s GDP.
Henley and Partners Passport Index 2020, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Financial Times Professional Wealth Management’s CBI Index 2020, as well as Arton Capital World Passport Index 2020, have ranked St. Kitts and Nevis as among the best in the world in terms of passport strength and Citizenship-by-Investment scheme.
“The St. Kitts and Nevis program is the oldest in existence, so it is considered to be the platinum standard,” said Nuri Katz of Apex Capital Partners.
St. Kitts & Nevis reopened to international visitors
The tourism sector weakened in 2020 due to the coronavirus crisis. In Q1, 2020, there were 304,366 visitors in the country, sharply down by almost 40% from a year earlier. Over the same period, stay-over visitors fell by 20.1% while cruise ship passengers plunged 42.1%.
Visitor arrivals fell by 7.7% y-o-y to 1,197,312 people in 2019, according to the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB). However this was the second highest number of arrivals in the nation’s history after the record arrival numbers of 1,297,326 people in 2018.
In March 25, 2020, the government decided to close its borders to all commercial airline flights, after recording its first cases of COVID-19 infections.
St. Kitts & Nevis finally reopened for international tourism last October 31, 2020.
House price variations
Residential properties in the Marriot Residences St Kitts have been on sale from XC$ 1.1 million (US$ 400,000) for studio apartments, to around XC$ 5.6 million (US$ 2.09 million) for four-bedroom penthouses.
In Ocean’s Edge, an exclusive residential development located in Frigate Bay, St. Kitts, properties start at XC$ 1.1 million (US$ 405,500).
- Poolside studio apartments sell for around XC$ 1.13 million (US$ 420,000).
- Hillside apartments are priced from XC$ 1.3 million (US$ 480,000) to XC$ 2.4 million (US$ 875,000), depending on the number of bedrooms.
- Luxury villas sell for about XC$ 5.1 million (US$ 1.9 million) to XC$ 7 million (US$ 2.6 million).
Silver Reef, a ‘green’ resort in St. Kitts, offers one and two bedroom apartments with freehold prices starting from XC$ 1.1 million (US$ 400,000). Prices of residential properties offered in Silver Reef ranged from XC$ 1.13 million (US$ 420,000) for a one bedroom apartment to XC$ 1.4 million (US$ 530,000) for a two-bedroom apartment.
An ambitious development that is fast becoming a destination for property investors, Christophe Harbour, is a 2,500-acre project located in the southeastern coast of St. Kitts. Residential property prices in the Christophe Harbour were almost unchanged for several years now. The starting price for villas was at XC$ 1.2 million (US$ 450,000) and can go up to XC$ 18.2 million (US$ 6.8 million). Christopher Harbour also includes a Tom Fazio golf course, a superyacht marina and a Mandarin Oriental hotel.
In the Four Seasons Resort, located in Pinney’s Beach, Charlestown, 73 villas are being offered for XC$1.89 million (US$700,000) to XC$6.75 million (US$2.5 million). Second-hand villas are among the most expensive on the island, at from XC$2.7 million (US$1 million) to XC$13.5 million (US$5 million) for two- to six-bedroom properties.
In the Sunset Ridge, situated near Mount Nevis, the price of a Columbus model villa is XC$1.9 million (US$715,000), while a Nelson model is priced at XC$2.15 million (USD$795,000).
In Nelson Springs Beach Villas & Spas, located in Charlestown, prices for property units range from XC$ 1.1 million (US$ 400,000) to XC$ 4.6 million (US$ 1.7 million). The beach resort’s condominiums sell for about XC$ 1.4 million (US$ 530,000) to XC$ 1.8 million (US$ 650,000).
Prices of luxury villas and estate homes in Fern Hill Estates range from around XC$ 1.7 million (US$ 615,000) to XC$ 3.1 million (US$ 1.2 million).
In fractional ownership developments in Nevis, such as Seaside at Cliffdwellers, a one-eighth ownership of a four-bedroom home by the sea costs around US$1.08 million (US$400,000). It also comes with a shared 85ft pool.
Moderate rental yields, stable long-term rental market
Gross rental yields in St. Kitts and Nevis range from 4.9% for two-bedroom condos and houses to 5.31% for three-bedroom units, based on the latest research conducted by the Global Property Guide.
Despite the decline in the cost of investment properties located in Frigate Bay, Half Moon Bay and the South East Peninsula, the (small) long-term rental market in the upscale neighborhoods of St. Kitts remains stable due to strong demand from non-resident workers and foreign students. St Kitts is home to two American universities.
Occupancy rates are difficult to determine and vary enormously, due to the influx of short-term vacationers during "season" from December to mid-April. During the high seasons, short-term rent for a three-bedroom house ranges from US$ 2,500 to US$ 3,000 per week, while low season rentals range from US$ 1,200 to US$ 1,500 per week. Long-term rentals, which usually last for three months onwards, have rents starting from US$ 1,000.
At Marriot Residences St. Kitts, the monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment measuring 990 sq. m. currently ranges from US$2,275 for a 12-month lease contract to US$3,475 for one- to two-months lease.
Mortgage market shrinking
From about 25% of GDP in 2017 to 2018, the size of the mortgage market shrank to just over 17% of GDP in 2019, amidst a sharp decline home construction and renovation loans, following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which devastated the Caribbean in September 2017.
During 2019, the total amount of loans for the acquisition of property fell by almost 28% to XC$ 496.14 million (US$183.58 million) from a year earlier, according to the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).
- Home construction and renovation: loans dropped almost 38% y-o-y to XC$326.74 million (US$120.9 million) in 2019
- House and land purchases: loans increased 5.6% y-o-y to XC$169.39 million (US$62.68 million) last year
Foreign buyers mostly pay cash. The maximum loan-to-value ratio is usually 60%, with loan terms of 15 years. Mortgage interest rates are typically tied to the US prime rate or LIBOR, and ranged from 5.5% to 11% in 2019.
Mortgage delinquencies surging
Mortgage delinquencies in St. Kitts and Nevis are spiraling upwards due to the coronavirus outbreak. But even before the pandemic, delinquencies in the twin-island nation have already been rising. At the National Housing Corporation (NHC), the rate of delinquencies surged over 40% this year, the biggest in the history of NHC. More specifically, about 767 of the 1,832 households are now considered delinquent.
A moratorium is recently provided for people who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
“Since our return to almost normal operations, the Corporation through advice and support of the government waived all fees and payments for these clients for a three-month period in the first instance. Fees which value approximately $4,000 per client have been deferred and a moratorium have been offered to our clients who are or were affected by COVID-19,” said NHC General Manager Charles Morton.
Subsidized mortgage loans under the NHC are subject to low interest rates of just 2% to 5%, with a repayment period of 30 years.
Economy estimated to have contracted by a record 18.7% in 2020
St. Kitts and Nevis suffered a prolonged economic recession after the global financial crisism and in 2011 had the second highest gross national debt in the world at around 200% of its GDP, only below Japan.
In July 2011 its government was forced to agree to a SDR 52.3 million (about US$84 million) Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with a comprehensive debt restructuring.
The economy has continuously grown since, with GDP growth rates of 5.4% in 2013, 6.3% in 2014, 1% in 2015, and 2.8% in 2016. In 2017, the economy contracted again by 2%, mainly due to the disruptions caused by two category 5 hurricanes – Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. The economy bounced back the following years, with modest GDP growth rates of 2.9% in 2018 and 2.8% in 2019.
However the economy is projected have contracted by a record 18.7% in 2020, based on IMF projections, as tourism ground to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent health safety measures and travel restrictions imposed worldwide.
Solving housing problems
Till recently, many of the local population weren’t very well-housed. However the government hasn’t been asleep. About 2,500 to 3,000 affordable and middle-income homes have been built and over 5,000 lots have been distributed during the past 14 years via National Housing Corporation (NHC) programmes.
In Nevis, the Nevis Housing and Land Development Corporation (NHLDC) has embarked on a comprehensive home construction program to make affordable housing available. Over the years, the NHLDC has funded housing developments at Hardtimes, Prospect #1, Cherry Gardens, Butlers, New River, Nisbett Settlement, Eden Brown, Colquhoun, Cotton Ground, Stoney Grove, New River, Craddock Road, and the most recent at Maddens.
During the past 7 years government intervention has picked up pace. In 2012 the government introduced tax incentives to encourage private home construction, the Building Materials Investment Programme (BMIP), which removed all duties and customs service charges for the first XC$ 400,000 (US$ 150,000) of building materials during that year.
In 2014, the NHC launched the NHC House Refinancing and Incentive Programme, and the NHC Land Refinancing and Incentive Programme, lowering interest rates for housing loans, waiving interest arrears, and making land and houses much more affordable to first time homebuyers.
Since 2015, more than 300 families have received homes under another programme, the First Time Home Owners Programme.
“Since 2015, 525 applications have been approved and building materials totaling $147 million dollars,” said Prime Minister Timothy Sylvester Harris.
“We are encouraging home ownership. In addition in response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria we have supported well over 2000 families with renovation and repair work and in exceptional cases some new homes were built.”
Moreover, the government has restructured its three-tiered income-based repayment plan on NHC homes. Individuals who have a monthly income below $3,500 will pay 2% interest rate on a 30-year mortgage; 3% for those who have a monthly income of $3,500 to $5,000; and 5% for those who have a monthly income of more than $5,000.
With the help of these various government programs, homeownership in St. Kitts and Nevis have significantly increased in the past four years, according to PM Harris.
- Prime Minister Harris Outlines Strategic Areas For Strengthening St. Kitts And Nevis’ CBI Programme (ZIZ Broadcasting): https://zizonline.com/prime-minister-harris-outlines-strategic-areas-for-strengthening-st-kitts-and-nevis-cbi-programme/
- St Kitts and Nevis Ranks First As The World’s Fastest Citizenship by Investment Programme, 2020 CBI Index Finds (PR Newswire): https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/st-kitts-and-nevis-ranks-first-as-the-worlds-fastest-citizenship-by-investment-programme-2020-cbi-index-finds-301125128.html
- A Guide to Global Citizenship The 2020 CBI Index (Financial Times Professional Wealth Management): https://cbiindex.com/reports/
- St Kitts & Nevis Citizenship By Investment 2020 – The Definitive Guide (Golden Visas): https://www.goldenvisas.co.za/st-kitts-nevis-citizenship/
- St Kitts and Nevis Family Citizenship Reduced Until End of 2020 (PR Newswire): https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/st-kitts-and-nevis-family-citizenship-reduced-until-end-of-2020-301088108.html
- St Kitts And Nevis Possibly An Investor Immigrant’s Best 2nd Passport (Forbes): https://www.forbes.com/sites/andyjsemotiuk/2020/08/17/st-kitts-and-nevis-possibly-an-investor-immigrants-best-2nd-passport/?sh=25c21b973a61
- Selected Monetary and Financial Statistics - Selected Commercial Banks’ Credit by Economic Sector (Eastern Caribbean Central Bank): https://www.eccb-centralbank.org/statistics/commercial-banks-credit-by-economic-sectors/comparative-report
- Real Sector Statistics - Selected Tourism Statistics (Eastern Caribbean Central Bank): https://www.eccb-centralbank.org/statistics/tourisms/comparative-report
- Investment Properties in St. Kitts and Nevis: rental yields range from 4.90% to 5.31% (Global Property Guide): https://www.globalpropertyguide.com/Caribbean/St-Kitts-and-Nevis/Rental-Yields
- World Economic Outlook Database, October 2020 (International Monetary Fund): https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WEO/weo-database/2020/October
- Mortgage delinquencies: What does it mean for NHC? (St. Kitts & Nevis Observer): https://www.thestkittsnevisobserver.com/mortgage-delinquencies-what-does-it-man-for-nhc/
- NHC Affords Homeowners The Opportunity To Better Manage Their Affairs Amidst The COVID-19 Pandemic (ZIZ Broadcasting): https://zizonline.com/nhc-affords-homeowners-the-opportunity-to-better-manage-their-affairs-amidst-the-covid-19-pandemic/
- High-end property buyers rush in to Saint Kitts and Nevis - March 20, 2016
- Citizenship programme buoys Saint Kitts and Nevis property - May 30, 2013