The European Union (EU) is considering strengthening its visa waiver program to enhance security and prevent illegal migration, and as a result, five Caribbean countries that run Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programs could lose their visa-free access to the EU.
The EU Commission has proposed amendments to the current visa suspension mechanism to prevent visa waiver program abuse and address risks associated with individuals who have obtained citizenship through CBI programs.
The EU visa waiver program enables nationals from 60 countries to visit 27 Schengen zone countries for up to 90 days for tourism and business purposes.
The proposed amendments in the sixth report under the Visa Suspension Mechanism include expanding the suspension grounds to incorporate non-EU countries that do not fully align with the EU’s visa policy and non-EU countries that operate investor citizenship schemes.
The proposed amendments also suggest strengthening the Commission’s monitoring and reporting obligations to any visa-free countries where challenges are identified.
The EU has expressed concerns about the high number of passports sold by five Caribbean nations: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Lucia.
The EU Commission report revealed that 88,000 passports were sold by these countries since their programs began.
The report further indicated that Dominica issued 34,500 passports, while St Kitts and Nevis issued 36,742 passports, which has raised concern from the Commission about the CBI programs.
The programs have a low rejection rate of between three and six percent and a short processing time of at least two months.
They are also some of the cheapest golden passport programs globally, with a minimum investment of US$100,000.
The EU is worried that rules set by the countries on paper aren’t being followed as middlemen are often hired to process the applications.
The EU has also been informed that the primary CBI applicants are from China, Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Nigeria, and Libya.
The Commission appreciated the decision of the countries to suspend applications from Russian and Belarusian nationals, and it will continue to monitor all visa-free countries operating investor citizenship schemes.
The EU will also intensify the dialogue with those countries to develop long-term solutions aimed at preventing circumventions of the EU short-stay visa procedure and the in-depth assessment of individual migratory and security risks it entails.