14 Jun Interview with Micha-Rose Emmett, Chief Executive Officer, CS Global Partners
Chief Executive Officer, CS Global Partners, Ms. Micha-Rose Emmett, belives that for diverse reasons we have entered the age of the global citizen, a change she is happy to help shepherd.
The Citizen by Investment program was originated in St Kitts & Nevis back in 1984. What would you consider the main milestones in the evolution of the program up to these days?
St Kitts & Nevis is the pioneer of Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programs and it’s the program that everyone else has followed; it’s the blueprint that everyone else, in a way, has copied. And they have gone from strength to strength, ensuring that they’ve maintained their place as a trendsetter and a platinum standard bearer of their offering. And this is also partly due to making mistakes along the way. But over the past ten years they’ve really instituted some excellent due diligence mechanisms because they want to ensure that the eligibility of the people who come and take citizenship is on an international level of solid applicants.
St Kitts & Nevis is not only seen as sort of the oldest, most trusted programs but also the most innovative. They were the first to introduce online application processing, they’ve introduced an accelerated application process where you can expedite the process; they really do push the boundaries of what’s possible. So everyone else seems to sort of follow on and see how they do it. But they’ve done a really good job and they’ve made sure that their unit is well run, and they’ve got to a solid group of people in the unit that works with the applications to make sure that everything is spot on.
How has CS Global Partners gotten involved with the program and how has this involvement evolved throughout the years?
I’ve been in the industry of the citizenship program of St Kitts and Nevis since 2008. And having worked in the industry, one thing that struck me was that there wasn’t a lot of attention on how the governments were benefiting from this whole Citizenship by Investment program. So when I set up CS Global Partners in 2012 it was very important for me that we had a win-win solution, so we could provide win-win solutions for both the governments and for the high net worth individuals who were taking on the second citizenship. And I think this sort of echoed through everything that we’ve done over the last ten years as a company that looks at the transformation of people’s lives that we are influencing, whether it is the direct client that is taking a second citizenship or whether it’s the peoples’ lives that are affected on the islands, so St Kitts & Nevis or Dominica.
We’ve seen how important these Citizenship by Investment funds have been for the development of these countries. That’s largely part of our own personal philosophy.
But then in terms of the countries it’s actually quite wonderful to see how they’ve developed. If you’ve been to the island 10 years ago and you go to the island now, you’ll see the development that’s taken place: the number of five-star hotels that have been built on these islands that, obviously, then, has had a knock-on effect of the tourism industry. It is a little bit of a circular economy when it comes to injecting those CBI funds into the country.
How would you measure the economic impact of this program as a whole for the countries involved, especially in the Caribbean?
The best way to look at it is to look at the funds that come in from CBI and what percentage it affects the government budget. For example, in 2021-22 CBI funds and resources made up 58% of the capital budget of Dominica. That’s a huge amount. It really does make someone sit up and go: these programs are so beneficial for the countries. For example, in St Kitts & Nevis, a number of families have been helped during this pandemic where they couldn’t work. These countries rely mostly on tourism, so it’s been a complete lockdown and yet these countries have thrived. They’re struggling, they need the tourists to come in, but at the same time, because of the CBI funding, these governments have managed to support the local citizens and keep the economy moving. You can see how the dynamic of CBI funds coming into the country, over a number of years, is quite critical. Another example is Hurricane Maria for Dominica, which wiped out 90% of the homes and devastated the economy. Again, CBI funding was critical in helping the government pay for things, pay for their employees, and get the country back on its feet.
The fact that most of the countries with CBI programs, if not all, do not require a residency in the country has no doubt given some space for growth to these programs. How does this particularity of the programs benefit both sides of the equation?
In terms of the applicant, a lot of these people are quite time poor, and they’re looking for a solution that doesn’t require them to uproot their families and ship them across to another country. So the benefit for someone who is looking for the safety and security of a second citizenship is that they don’t need to take their time out and they don’t need to disrupt their families, because there is no residency requirement.
The upside for the Caribbean islands is that they have been able to provide a product to these individuals. It doesn’t require these individuals to come and visit the islands. However, I will say that all the prime ministers, the governments and the local citizens love to welcome the new economic citizens to the island, because obviously there’s a benefit of that economic and cultural exchange. At the end of the day, it’s really about being time poor and these programs allowing the busy person a more streamlined process to get their second citizenship.
The programs have experienced some questioning when it comes to the vetting process. Would you please clarify this process to our readers? How it is pursued and implemented?
Due diligence is critical in the Citizenship by Investment programs. Because there isn’t a long period of residence required, the countries realize that they need to fully understand who they are making a citizen. Therefore, in the Caribbean, they’ve been very careful in the way that they’ve implemented their due diligence structures. In fact, there’s an index called the CBI index; they’ve just launched the 2021 version. Year after year, that index rates the Caribbean in terms of due diligence programs, and St Kitts & Nevis always does particularly well in that area.
The reason that they’ve developed this very in-depth due diligence processing is because they need to know who the client is that will obtain citizenship. Over the years they’ve perfected it. We like to call it a six-step process. The first level is your agent: you have to submit the application through an agent and that agent will do a simple due diligence on you and check usually something called World-Check. That’s the first step. The next step: when you submit the application to the Citizenship by Investment units, the government then contracts with top international due diligence agencies to conduct a full due diligence check on the money resources of the applicant as well as all the other historical information around the applicant. They use a number of different agencies. The agent will go on ground to see if the information provided by the applicant is correct and true. That report is compiled, sent across to the unit. In the meantime, in the background, particularly in the Caribbean, there is an organization called JRCC, and they conduct a check on the Caribbean applicants as well, just to give a yay or nay. Remember that the CARICOM is a union of countries, so they want to make sure that they’re sort of giving their blessing. The government also interacts with various other governments, getting information from them when necessary. And then, of course, once all of this information is collected and compiled, it goes through the unit, and the unit, with qualified persons, will look at the applications, make sure that everything is corroborated against the report information that’s come through, and then they’ll make a decision on the applicant. And the final vetting is really the banks. The banks that receive the investment income from the applicant also do their checks. So it’s quite a thorough layer of checks because these governments need to make sure that they are taking a citizen who the citizen says they’ll be.
CS Global partners also advise on residency possibility in countries like Portugal, Singapore and Greece, what have been known as Golden Visas. Remote working has led to substantial increase of professionals looking for places to live for long periods of the year, and it seems that, even with the fading of the pandemic, remote work is here to stay. How is the impact of this new migration?
The impact of this new migration is huge. With the pandemic, people have really realized that they do have a choice to live a different lifestyle. We spoke about the need to have a plan B, but also I think it focused our minds on the fact that we also need to consider our lifestyles. A lot of these jurisdictions that offer Golden Visas or second citizenship options are idyllic islands or really a great place to live, with fresh air, beaches and sunshine. We both lived in London before and yet we both sort of shifted off to a sunny destination, because we know it’s good for our health and mental well being. So there’s that lifestyle element.
Then also you look at the cost of living, and a lot of people are choosing jurisdictions where the cost of living isn’t that high. And then lastly is the plan B as I’ve mentioned earlier: governments have made some bad decisions during this pandemic, and I think what it has done is that it has really focused individuals’ minds on their future and the future of their children, and it just gives people another option in case something happens. We’ve seen a lot of really difficult situations arise during the pandemic, and not because of the pandemic, but because of decisions that the American government has made, the British government has made, whichever government it is, so people are really looking at their options and diversifying the opportunity. What better to be a global citizen!
How do you foresee the future of both CBI and residency programs?
This industry will continue growing exponentially. We continue to see a number of citizenship and residency programs come online, because governments realize that there’s an opportunity for them. Ten to fifteen years ago, people thought that having a second citizenship or second residency was nice, it was an option. I think it has become a priority and, as we see world debates escalating, wherever you live in the world—whether you live in the US or Pakistan or Afghanistan or in London—the importance of having a second citizenship or residency is no longer an option, it’s a necessity.
To end this interview, would you like to send a final message to the readers of the Miami Herald?
We at CS Global Partners have worked with a number of individuals, helping them sort of develop and find the right solutions for themselves, because we have a win-win approach to finding you the best citizenship or residency option. We’ll really take care in helping you devise that decision. But even if it’s just for a friendly chat, pick up the phone, ask us the questions and find a way to best understand how, in particular, Caribbean Citizenship by Investment could be your second home.