The Caribbean island of Dominica has been getting unwelcome publicity lately thanks to its citizenship by investment (CIB) program.
An investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and 15 international news agencies has cast a spotlight Dominica’s passport-selling activities. The picture isn’t a pretty one.
“Passport selling” is an accurate description of the government’s approach… and something the international community really doesn’t like.
The country has long permitted potential “citizens” to go through the application process without ever visiting the island—including having the resulting passport couriered to them abroad.
Thousands of people travel on Dominican passports without ever having been there.
This is of especial concern to the European Union and the United Kingdom.
After the EU introduced visa-free travel for Dominican citizens in 2015, immigration consultancies sprouted up across the Middle and Far East touting this as the main reason to get citizenship there. Passport sales went from a few dozen every year to thousands. As many as 19,000 individuals may have obtained citizenship between 2016 and 2022.
The Dominican passport scheme asks a potential citizen either to pay $100,000 as a non-refundable donation to the government or to invest $200,000 in a local business or property development.
Passport sales account for more than half of the government’s revenues—suggesting that most new “Dominicans” have chosen the simpler and cheaper donation route.
In principle, there is nothing wrong with a country deciding to make citizenship available to people willing to invest in it. Indeed, there is a well-developed global industry helping people get second citizenships that way.
But there is a world of difference between creating citizenship opportunities for people with a genuine desire for a second home and selling passports to people who have no interest in the country itself. The outcome is predictable.
Indeed, according to the research project, dozens of unsavory characters have bought Dominican passports over the years. Very few of these new citizens actually go to live on the island.
European concern is understandable. Someone who might have been denied entry to the EU or the U.K. on their home country’s travel document could easily get into the region with a Dominican passport. U.K. home secretary Suella Braverman cited this as the reason for her government’s withdrawal of visa privileges for Dominican citizens.
The reporting project is also having domestic political ramifications. According to official budget documents, government income from naturalization certificate fees implies that twice as many people acquired citizenship as are reported in the government digest, as required by law.
Investigators have confirmed that Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, whose annual salary is around $200,000, has acquired millions of dollars’ worth of property and business interests on the island over the last few years, raising suspicions that he was benefiting directly from passport sales. He has also been accused of entering into business partnerships with passport agencies based in the Middle East.
The lesson here is stark and straightforward: by all means, consider obtaining citizenship through investment. But make sure you do it with a reputable country through reputable consultants.
Helping people avoid these sorts of pitfalls is precisely why I created my Global Citizen service—to use my network of global intelligence and contacts to steer you in the right direction as you begin your global journey.