Visa Crunch

Bahamas government considers controversial citizenship by investment, while opposition fumes.

Bahama’s Minister of Immigration, Elsworth Johnson has revealed that the current government is considering the introduction of a citizenship by naturalization path for investors in the country, and it is actively doing a cost-benefit analysis of it by analysing the experiences of other countries.

“Some countries, when we do our comparative analysis, have had a bad experience from it,” Johnson said. “It is something that we are looking at. No decisions have been made, and so right now I’m not able to speak directly to it.

The motivation to introduce such a programme has come from the local business community, the minister suggested.

“I’ll tell you there are any number of conglomerates or companies in The Bahamas who have been making the approaches to the ministry saying, ‘listen, can we have a discussion on this?’”

He also added, “I think one of the things we must appreciate as Bahamians is our locality, stable judiciary, stable country, friendly people. In terms of persons wanting to move away from big countries and go into the Family Islands, we present that and they [foreign investors] want that. And we have to get the best bang for the buck and create a symbiotic relationship where we are benefiting just as much as the people who are coming here to The Bahamas.”

However, while the immigration minister is optimistic about this new introduction, opposition MPs have not taken the suggestion very well. One opposition MP said, “I heard the minister of immigration say on a local news station that the Cabinet has under consideration ‘citizenship by investment’ aka selling Bahamian citizenship. Facilitating the purchase of Bahamian passports. This (government) has to be stopped.”

Referring to the government, she added, they are “ruining our nation and, if left to their devices, will drag us to a place of no return. I will fight them to the death on this. Citizenship is precious. It is who we are. It is ‘untouchable’. They must be voted out of office.”

One of the prime reasons why Bahamian citizenship may be attractive to people from other countries is the fact that the Bahamian passport ranks very highly in terms of the number of countries to which it provides visa-free access. It is ranked 27th on the Henley Passport Index, granting visa-free entry into 154 destinations, including the Schengen-area (European) countries.

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