ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Antigua & Barbuda can expect an uptick in Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) applications in the coming weeks as the market is said to be reacting positively to recent changes to the programme.

Managing Partner of Henley & Partners Caribbean Chris Willis said in anticipation of more favourable investment terms, many of its clients were holding off on applying for the programme. But since the changes were officially gazetted last week, he expects to see a lot more applications.

“It’s too soon to say how many files will be submitted this week, or next week, but we know that in the pipeline a lot of people were waiting, and now that the changes were announced, we are expecting to see a mini-surge, if you like,” Willis said.

Henley & Partners, consultants on global citizenship programmes, provided guidance when the Baldwin Spencer-administration set up the CIP initially. In partnership with a local agent, they also market the CIP to potential investors.

Parliament approved amendments to the Citizenship by Investment Act in August 2015.

One change is the reduction in the residency requirement – the amount of time economic citizens have to spend in Antigua & Barbuda – from 35 days to five days in the first five years after becoming a citizen.

“I think it’s important that they maintained the residency requirement, didn’t just wipe it out, I think it’s very important that they kept something there,” Willis said.

However, the businessman said the 35-day requirement was prohibitive.

“…Especially in places like China where it’s a long way to go to get to Antigua and culturally it’s not part of their normal travel pattern,” he said.

“For Russians and the Middle East they can usually connect through London and get to Antigua. In China, it’s a little bit more of an effort.”

Government is also offering a limited time reduction in the National Development Fund (NDF) from US $250,000 to US$200,000.

The NDF is a special fund established to finance government-sponsored projects. So far, revenue from the fund has been used in government’s 500 homes in 500 days initiative.

Government also reduced processing fees. An amendment, which was controversial locally, was the removal of the requirement that the names of economic citizens be brought to Parliament every six months.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne, however, told parliament his government had decided not to publish the names of approved CIP investors on the recommendation of the operators.