Service providers ID top issues with Citizenship by Investment program

Lawrence was speaking at the first National Consultation on the Citizenship by Investment Program, held under the theme, ‘The Way Forward Through Collaboration’. He indicated that over the past two weeks service providers and developers provided feedback on issues and concerns relating to the CBI program, including IPSA recommendations for improving the program.

From these responses, Lawrence said the top issue for providers related to the 90-day timeline, when competitors are targeting 60 days. He said, “We need to be competitive and stick to 90 days if that is what we are selling… Ninety days has to be a measuring stick for evaluating the performance of the Citizenship by Investment Unit. We must treat it as an objective and try to achieve it.”

Another key issue is that of obtaining the Certificate of Registration (COR). Lawrence explained that obtaining a COR could be as short as one week or could take well over five weeks. Lawrence informed, “Having been approved is not the end product you want. The end product is really the passport, and that COR is what gets you to the passport. To be approved and then have to wait four or eight weeks to get the COR, many persons have indicated that it is a real problem and would like to see that changed, and some are asking for a standard to be set in issuing a COR.” He said that the common timeline suggested is two weeks.

In his presentation, he pointed out that the feedback also highlighted concerns related to the efficiency within the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) itself, referencing the early cut-off time for the submission of documents and difficulties in meeting with the head of the Unit for the resolution of problems. He said, “If we are serious about doing business with international clients, we should be looking to extend the hours rather than reducing them.”

Other issues raised included internal communications of the Unit, the need for the CIU to meet with service providers and developers regularly, as a means of improving the industry. “The industry is not static. It is ever changing. The feeling is we must work together, interact with each other and see how our combined resources can make the program better,” he said.

Referring to the 20 recommendations of IPSA. Lawrence said that for the most part persons were agreeable to them, but there were some specific areas of concern where service providers wanted specific actions taken.

Among these was the establishment of escrow accounts. He said it was felt that the establishment and operation of escrow accounts should follow international reporting standards.

Another recommendation he raised pointed to having a minimum of three Due Diligence Providers. It is being suggested that such providers should have experience in specific areas or regions that will facilitate effective processes.

In regards to the recommended annual review of service providers by the Financial Services Regulatory Commission and the Head of CID, it was further recommended by service providers that established guidelines and minimum standards be set for the issuance and renewal of licenses which must be enforced.

Lawrence said a recommendation for the review of the CIU fee schedule should not result in an increase, as expressed by service providers. Lawrence explains, “It is felt that the program needs to be re-established as an efficiently run and regulated program before it can consider raising prices.”

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