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St. Kitts and Nevis sell citizenship for $250,000

The island nation is attempting to boost its economy with a new export: passports.
Stkittsnevis passports 170212Enlarge
Want to be a citizen of St. Kitts and Nevis islands? For $250,000, you can be. (Scott Gries/AFP/Getty Images)

St. Kitts and Nevis in the West Indies welcome immigrants with open arms...for a price.

The two-island nation sells its full rights as a citizen to foreigners in exchange for a $250,000 donation or a purchase of $400,000 worth of approved real estate, Reuters reported.

The transaction can take as few as three months to complete, and applicants do not have to visit the islands to apply, according to Reuters. 

There are a great deal of perks that come with a St. Kitts and Nevis passport, including the ability to travel without a visa to more than a hundred countries, including Canada and all of Europe, and no taxes on personal income.

More from GlobalPost: French citizenship requirements tighten

Demand for a second passport is "way up," David Lesperance, a Canadian immigration lawyer, told Reuters. His recent clients include an Egyptian pro-democracy activist who worries about instability in his country, and a Chicago businessman who is convinced that the Occupy movements will lead to riots, Reuters reported.

St. Kitts and Nevis is not the only country to offer up citizenship as a commodity: the nearby island of Dominica also offers passports at a starting rate of $75,000.

However, the issue of "buying" your way into citizenship is hotly debated in Dominica, according to SmartPlanet.

“I am not a fan of the economic citizenship program," Crispin Gregoire, Dominica’s former ambassador to the UN, told SmartPlanet. "As it stands, it encourages people with something to hide. I understand that it must be a big source of income for the state, but they’re not doing a good job of regulating it.” 

Austria also offers citizenship in exchange for investment, according to Reuters. A provision in the Austrian Citizenship Act states that a passport can be granted to an applicant if he or she has performed, or would later perform, "extraordinary services" to benefit the Austrian state.

However, Alice Irvin, a spokeswoman for the Austrian embassy in Washington, D.C., rejects the insinuation that the provision means that the country's citizenship is for sale.

"We are aware that these claims have been around for a while, but they are baseless," she wrote in an email to Reuters.

So what's next, selling American citizenship? According to Slate writer Matthew Yglesias, the answer to that question should be yes. 

"There should be no shortage of people eager to pay for the privilege of working in the United States," Yglesias wrote. "We, the native born citizens of the United States, are sitting on a gold mine much more valuable than anything St. Kitts has to offer. We ought to put it to use." 

More from GlobalPost: Australia follows US and UK move to gender-neutral passports

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/weird-wide-web/st-kitts-nevis-sell-citizenship-passports

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