International Property Investment: St Kitts and Nevis

Geographically considered to be a part of the Leeward Islands, the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis, or as it is more commonly known, the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis, is a federal two-island country in the West Indies. 

In both size and population, St Kitts and Nevis is the smallest sovereign state in the Americas, approximately 2 000km southeast from Miami in the northern section of the Eastern Caribbean Sea. The islands were among the first of the Caribbean islands to be settled by Europeans, with St Kitts the first home to both English and French colonies in the Caribbean. This gave rise to the island receiving the title of being The Mother Colony of the West Indies.

“While the islands gained their independence from Britain in 1983 to form the twin-island federation, they are still extremely welcoming to foreigners. In fact, the islands established the first Citizenship by Investment Programme a year after their independence to encourage foreign investment into the country. Their citizenship programme is the oldest prevailing economic citizenship programme of its kind today,” says James Bowling, CEO of Monarch & Co, a company that specialises in facilitating Citizenship and Residency Programmes throughout the world.

Bowling notes that as with many island countries, the St Kitts and Nevis economy is reliant on tourism, agriculture and light manufacturing industries, with the islands primary export being sugar. The ideal location and beauty of the islands have seen the tourism industry expand since 1978. Visitors to the islands grew from around 379 473 arrivals in 2007 to around 587 479 in 2009. The growth in tourism has resulted in a demand for accommodation on the islands, which in turn has resulted in the development of more property.

In an attempt to boost the economy and diversify the reliance on the tourism and agriculture sectors, the government initiated the Citizenship by Investment Programme. This gives investors the opportunity to gain citizenship through either a property purchase in an approved real estate development to the value of US$400 000 or a monetary contribution to the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) at a prescribed contribution level.  Through the programme, St Kitts and Nevis is firmly on its way to becoming one of the Caribbean’s most luxurious and popular destinations.

“The Citizenship by Investment Programme offers several benefits such as full citizenship for the investor and their family, which can be passed onto future generations by descent,” says Bowling. “Apart from the opportunity to reside in most of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) member countries at any time or for any length of stay, St Kitts and Nevis citizenship also allows the investor and their family to travel visa-free to more than 100 countries, including all of the European Union territories.”

Bowling explains that the process of the application is relatively fast, taking between four and eight months with the inclusion of dependent children below the age of 25 years old.  He notes that aside from the financial investment, to qualify, applicants must have no criminal record, be in excellent health and have a high personal net wealth.

According to Bowling, when compared to other Caribbean islands, St Kitts and Nevis real estate prices have remained fairly low, which means that the potential for capital appreciation in the value of the property over the mandatory five-year ownership period is substantial. “Statistics have shown that from 2009 to 2012 certain residential developments appreciated in value between 5% and 9% per annum, while others show growth of between 7% and 12% per annum for the same period. This proves that the real estate investments on the islands are viable vehicles to grow investment value,” says Bowling. “Citizenship by Investment Programmes offer South African investors the opportunity to become a citizen of a country that offers both sound investment options and all the lifestyle benefits that living on a Caribbean island provides,” he concludes.

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