Antigua-Barbuda faces economic citizen passport flaw
In attempting to assert and/ or defend the apparently false premise that one of its clients is a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda, a prominent London law firm may have instead opened a proverbial can of worms for the Caribbean country in relation to its passports.
According to a copy, provided by lawyers CarterRuck, of the diplomatic passport issued to their client Anthony Bailey, one of Antigua and Barbuda’s “special economic envoys”, the document inaccurately states that his nationality is “Antiguan and Barbudan”. Bailey is neither a national nor a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda.
Under Antigua and Barbuda law, nationality is acquired only by birth, by descent or by naturalisation, the last of which requires seven years continuous residence, public advertisement and no public objections.
Citizenship, however, may be granted by a country regardless of nationality and, in the case of Antigua and Barbuda, is frequently granted under its citizenship by investment programme, which requires a specified minimum investment in a qualifying property or business, or a donation to the country’s National Development Fund.
According to government records in Antigua, Bailey has never been granted citizenship, whether by investment or otherwise, something that government chief of staff Lionel Max Hurst also confirmed.
“To become a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda, if you are not birthed here, you must submit an application and that application has to be signed by the prime minister . . . I certainly know it has not been completed (in the case of the economic envoy) because the prime minister has not signed any application on his behalf,” Hurst said.
Other government sources had previously indicated to Caribbean News Now that the reason for Bailey’s nationality being incorrectly described on his passport was a failure to set up the passport printing facility in Antigua with the option of specifying a different nationality and thus the process assumes that anyone issued an Antigua and Barbuda passport is a national of that country.
“Our passport-issuing machinery places ‘Antiguan and Barbudan’ in the citizenship column, in the diplomatic and other passports (official and ordinary),” Hurst confirmed, apparently confusing (in common with Carter-Ruck and others) the different concepts of nationality and citizenship, there being no “citizenship column” in passports but rather a “Nationality” field.
However, as Hurst acknowledged, as a result of how the country’s passport printing process is set up, at least 800 economic citizens (using the last published figure) have their nationality shown in their passports as Antiguan and Barbudan. This is incorrect; they are citizens but not nationals. This may have major international travel repercussions, since all of the passports issued to foreign nationals under the country’s citizenship by investment programme must therefore contain similarly false information, and border security officials in many visa-free destination countries are likely to be unhappy that an arriving traveller’s real nationality is disguised in this manner.
It is not known at this time whether the other regional citizenship by investment programmes in Dominica, Grenada and Saint Lucia may reflect a similar flaw in the issue of their passports.
Government Chief of Staff Lionel Max Hurst.