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22 April 2024

St. Kitts & Nevis citizens lose visa-free travel to Canada

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By Majorie van Leijen

It was one of the most successful selling points for citizenship of St Kitts & Nevis: passport holders get to travel visa-free to over 80 countries, including Canada.

This made the passport a popular asset for those who did not enjoy the liberties given to their Caribbean peers, and in return attracted many wealthy investors to the island.

For now, these mutual benefits have ceased to exist, starting from November 22, 2014.

On that day, the Canadian Government informed St Kitts & Nevis that its citizens would no longer be able to cross their border unimpeded, and would now be required to apply for a visa through its High Commission in Trinidad.

The genuine traveller to the North American country would still be able to attain the visa through one of its multiple programmes, such as the multiple-entry visa, but the Canadian Government would like to select those welcome, it pointed out.

With those announcements, the name Canada must be scrapped from the list of visa-free travel destinations for the St Kitts & Nevis passport holder, a list which counted more than 80 countries, including the Schengen region.

St Kitts & Nevis has since 1984 been running a citizenship-by-investment programme, where wealthy foreigners are invited to invest in certain local projects in return for citizenship on the island.

Today, citizenship for life can be attained in a period as fast as three months for a minimum investment of $250,000 in the national sugar industry, or a minimum investment of $400,000 in the real estate market.

St Kitts & Nevis is generally perceived as the most popular option among its Caribbean counterparts, due to the relatively low investment amount, years of experience and almost non-existing obligation from the applicant.

Significantly, it was one of the few countries to include Canada on its list of visa-free travel destinations, with only Antigua & Barbuda offering the same since 2013.

The government of the Caribbean country responded sympathetically to the decision, which was made due to security concerns, according to Canadian officials.

“Canada has important security concerns, the government recognises this and the government of St Kitts & Nevis will do all in its power to respect and accommodate the concerns of such an important ally,” Foreign Affairs Minister Patrice Nisbett was quoted as saying.

However, opposition Leader Mark Brantley was quoted expressing regret over the decision, which in his opinion stressed that Canada lacked the trust in the security system in place in St Kitts & Nevis.

Last year, an Iranian national with a St Kitts & Nevis passport entered Canada with the claim that he was on a diplomatic mission on behalf of the St Kitts & Nevis government, with the purpose of meeting the Canadian Prime Minister, a claim which turned out to be false.

"This occurrence in Canada led to immediate concerns there as to the safety and security of that country's borders,” Brantley was quoted as saying. As a consequence, the media reports confirmed that the Canadian authorities made urgent representations to the Government of St Kitts & Nevis raising serious concerns about not just this but other incidents involving St Kitts & Nevis passport holders entering or seeking to enter Canada using the visa-free status currently granted by that country to nationals of St Kitts & Nevis.