Wi-Fi Refugees Flocking From Europe And America To Caribbean.

Photo: AirBnb. A room in the house might be the cheapest accommodation option in St. Kitts for a digital nomad. Wifi is included.
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Rich Europeans and Americans are flocking to the Caribbean, but not for the usual winter sun. More and more wealthy individuals are moving for longer periods than usual, reports Forbes magazine.

Government agencies and real estate developers say they have seen a rapid increase in business over the past few months. Even luxury hotels say they are booking in guests for long-term stays.

U.S. inquiries for residential villas at Secret Bay in Dominica have jumped 66%. “It’s the first time the U.S. has gone through a period like this and it’s not just the Covid-19 situation,” says Gregor Nassief, its proprietor. “It is the fear of what an extreme outcome on the left or right may look like after the presidential election.”

In July Barbados launched a new 12 month “Welcome Stamp” designed to attract remote workers to the country. Since its launch there have been around 1,100 applications, 42% of which are from the U.S. British and Canadians are the next largest nationalities to apply.

Bermuda also has a similar program offering a 1-year residential visa to digital nomads.

But some wealthy clients want something more than a hotel room. Many want actual citizenship of the islands where they are staying. Barbados does not offer this but Grenada, Dominica and other Caribbean nations do.

“Citizenship By Investment,” or CBI as it is known, first started in St Kitts and Nevis in 1984. Traditionally it attracts Chinese and Middle Easterners who want a passport with more travel freedoms.

But in the past few months it too has seen an increase in U.S. inquiries. “We have seen an uptick in applications from the U.S. for people who want an alternative passport,” said Les Khan, chief executive of the St Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment Unit.

Normally the two-island nation hands out passports to investors who never visit their country. This year is different: Its new citizens actually want to come to the islands. Some want to stay.

This is putting a strain on the supply of government approved real estate projects that qualify for citizenship. A minimum of $200,000 must be spent on real estate to access citizenship, but currently only approved developments count and most of these are linked to hotels.

Major hotel chains including Hilton and Marriott have also started offering long-term booking deals to tap into this budding market.

The Marriott Residences St Kitts advertises a long-term rental of 12 months or longer with studios starting from US$1,575. The cheapest room available on AirBnb appears to be available for just over $600 for one month, and includes wifi and a view of the mountains and ocean in Basseterre.

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