Passport For Sale

According to the United Nations, there are 19.5 million refugees around the world. Most of them are poor and in need of support. What most people don’t hear about are the ultra-rich who can easily buy their way into a new life abroad. In the US, for example, foreigners who invest $500,000 in a US business can get a permanent residency visa.

The country of St. Kitts and Nevis has taken it one step further. This island country has beautiful oceans, jungles, and mountains, but it doesn’t have much else. In the late 90’s, the economy of St. Kitts and Nevis was in trouble. Wendell Lawrence found a solution.

Lawrence worked for the finance ministry at a time when the government was in massive debt. The sugar industry, which employed a quarter of the country’s citizens, had collapsed. To make matters worse, a massive hurricane hit the islands in 1998, and in 1999 two more hit. Major rebuilding was necessary, but they had no money.

Lawrence found a foreign company that wanted to partner with St. Kitts and Nevis to sell passports. The plan was simple. For a $250,000 donation or a $400,000 investment in real estate, anyone could get a passport and citizenship.

Not everyone was on board. For many people citizenship is sacred. Some people said that foreigners might take over the country. Lawrence told them not to worry. They would be citizens, but they wouldn’t have the right to vote.

The plan was given the green light. While some customers were looking for a place to hide their money from their home countries, others were looking for the visa-free travel that a St. Kitts and Nevis passport would give. Being a member of the British Commonwealth, citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis have access to over 100 countries without a visa.

The product was a big hit. At its height, they were selling 2,000 passports a year. The plan eventually came to a head when international criminals started using St. Kitts and Nevis passports. Suddenly, countries started to scrutinize this once respected passport. Canada even said that non-native St Kitts and Nevis passport holders would not be allowed in without a visa. The market for these passports like the previous market for sugar collapsed.

Lawrence says he has no regrets. The plan raised a lot of money and improved the economy of the country. Other people disagree. One local woman said, “It’s wrong. There are ways to get money. Do it some other way. Don’t sell us out.”

St. Kitts and Nevis may have been one of the first, but they are not the last. Malta now sells citizenship, but EU passports don’t come cheap. The current price is 1.5 million Euros.

The post Passport For Sale appeared first on Deep English.

from Blog – Deep English http://deepenglish.com/2016/09/passport-for-sale/

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