TOO RICH: Caribbean nationals not swayed by ‘green card’ access for wealthy investors

Author:  Gordon Williams
A controversial path to permanent residence in the United States, geared specifically to the wealthy, is struggling to woo Caribbean nationals.

Fullerton KThe EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, which recently drew massive attention because of possible links to influence peddling and corruption, allows persons investing between $500,000 and $1 million in a U.S. business to become eligible for permanent residence or a “green card” and eventually citizenship.

However, that option has not energized many Caribbean nationals, according to observers. Some believe the price tag may be too high. Others argue that, despite the attraction of the EB-5 option, those who can afford it simply prefer to stay home in the Caribbean, especially since the region is so close to the U.S. and they already have adequate access.

“Obviously (Caribbean people) should be interested (in EB-5); some, not many, have that type of money,” explained Khalfani Omari Fullerton, a Jamaican American attorney based in Texas.

“(However,) once you have that type of money in the Caribbean you wouldn’t be too keen to leave … People who have the money are not too eager to leave.”

INVESTMENT

Under the EB-5 program, to gain U.S. permanent residence the applicant must invest in a U.S. commercial enterprise and “plan to create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers”, according to government guidelines.

A sample of statistics showed that only a sprinkling of permanent residence visas have been considered for issue to persons from the Caribbean via EB-5 in recent years. Those numbers pale when compared to constant stream of Caribbean nationals receiving “green cards” through the normal application process.

The EB-5 program became shrouded in controversy recently when Nicole Kushner Meyer, sister of Jared Kushner, senior advisor and son-in-law of President Donald Trump, was scrutinized in connection with a program that allegedly promoted a potential speedy route to U.S. permanent residence for Chinese investors in her family’s company. Kushner Meyer denied the allegations.

CBI

Meanwhile, some Caribbean nations, including Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica and Grenada, have similar citizen by investment programs, allowing business people from across the globe to gain residence by putting up huge sums of money.

Browne GastonThat program received attention in the U.S. recently via a broadcast segment aired on CBS’s popular news magazine “60 Minutes”.

Leaders of Caribbean nations using the “Citizen By Investment” (CBI) program identified it as a valuable source of income. All were adamant that candidates for CBI were thoroughly vetted to ensure they were not linked to criminal or terrorist organizations, according to the “60 Minutes” report.

In Dominica, for example, it costs $100,000 to get citizenship, even though the successful applicant does not even need to live or visit the Caribbean island to get it – a sort of “mail order citizenship,” according to “60 Minutes”.

“More than 10,000 people have purchased citizenship” in St. Kitts and Nevis, CBS reported.

Not all have clean records, “60 Minutes” added, with foreigners involved in bribery, embezzlement and other financial crimes listed among those who received citizenship in the twin island republic.

The Caribbean nations offering CBI, however, do not appear overly worried about the possible negative fallout. So the recruitment of citizens who can pay big money continues.

“We’re looking for high network individuals,” Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who charges $250,000, told “60 Minutes”. “People who are established business people who are well known.”

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