Jad, the Lebanese executive who works in Dubai, lost hope that he could return to his country due to the economic collapse and he was tired of waiting for a long time to get visas for his business trips, so he paid $ 135,000 to buy a foreign passport.
A month later he received a package containing his and his wife’s passports issued by Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean.
Gaddy and his wife can now travel to more than 150 countries, including Europe, without having to obtain entry visas.
The new document is a qualitative step in Gad’s life, as the “Henley” Passport Index ranked the Lebanese passport among the worst in the world in terms of visa facilitation and today it has become almost impossible to renew a passport due to of stock. shortages and lack of funding, in one country Has witnessed a stifling economic crisis since the fall of 2019.
“Three years ago, I would not have imagined that it would be possible to buy a passport, but now, because of the situation in Lebanon and because we can afford it, we have finally done it,” he said. Jad, who asked not to use his last name to maintain his privacy.
The island of Saint Kitts and Nevis, with a population of just 55,000, launched its passport sales program just one year after gaining independence in 1983. His passport ranks 25th in the world, according to the Henley Index. which ranks passports according to the accessibility it offers to their holders.
Nationality acquisition programs attract wealthy people from countries experiencing economic crises or sanctions, such as Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and finally Lebanon.
Today, many wealthy Lebanese, most of whom work or invest in Gulf or African countries, are rushing to buy passports or obtain residences abroad, having lost hope that Lebanon would emerge at any time close to stormy collapse. economic.
The collapse triggered a massive wave of emigration, and for several months the queues that began to form at dawn in front of the General Security Centers, which announced last month that they would stop issuing passports, did not calm down because the stock was about to run out. expire.
And the demands for buying passports are on the rise, especially in the Caribbean, because those who wish can get them within a few months for a lot of money, without having to visit their new country.
Gad recounts that when he traveled to Paris for the first time with his new document, “the staff at the airport saw my passport and told me I was coming from a beautiful place.” “But I’ve never really been there,” he adds.
This section contains related items, located in the Related Nodes field.
Not only Jad, but also his friends are shopping for “island passports”, and some of them are seeing the opportunity to invest in European countries like Greece and Portugal in exchange for permanent residence. “What is happening is not just a general trend, but it is the solution,” says Gad.
As long as Lebanese in the Gulf countries in particular number approximately 350,000, including 100,000 in the Emirates, they are caught between diplomatic and political tensions that add to their fear of losing a way of life to which they are accustomed.
The crown was resolved
“It all made me think there was a problem and I did not want to risk my job in the Gulf,” said Marielle Bou Harb, a 35-year-old Lebanese businessman in Dubai.
And last year Marielli bought four passports from Saint Kitts for him, his wife and their two children, after being tempted by an offer to deduct $ 50,000 from the cost due to the spread of the “Covid-19” epidemic on the island, which depends mainly on tourist services.
A passport usually costs $ 150,000, which is paid as a donation to the Sustainable Growth Fund in a country that installed the first traffic lights in its capital in 2018.
Other Caribbean islands also sell their passports, such as Grenada, Antigua, Barbuda and Dominica.
Growing demand in Lebanon
As for Lebanon, where more than 80 percent of the population is below the poverty line, only a few can buy foreign passports.
Over the past two years, the work of companies specializing in passport advice has flourished and their advertising has increased, whether through billboards or inside the airport, or by text message.
And in 2020, Ziad Karkaji turned his real estate company into a Global Pass company for passport consulting. “Our business has grown by at least 40 percent between 2020 and 2021,” he says.
As a result of the economic collapse and the subsequent explosion of the Port of Beirut in 2020, the number of Lebanese clients of the Swiss consulting company Legacy, in which Jose Sharro works, has increased fivefold, and Lebanese now make up a quarter of the company’s clients. that Sharro runs its Beirut branch.
If the client wants a solution that will allow him to easily obtain an investor visa in the United States, according to Sharow, it is better to obtain the citizenship of the island of Grenada.
As for those who want to retire or settle abroad, Charo advises investing about a quarter of a million dollars in exchange for permanent residence in Greece or Portugal.
“This sector will continue to flourish, unfortunately for the country, but for our fate,” he said, adding that Lebanese “are buying their freedom.”