Battered by shuttered airports, grounded airlines and a dramatic drop off in tourist arrivals, authorities in Bermuda are trying to claw their way out of the economic doldrums by offering affluent people around the globe long term residency in exchange for investment in local businesses.

In doing so, the mid Atlantic British dependency off the Carolinas is joining a long list of Caribbean nations offering so-called cash down payments in exchange for residency as a way to raise cash, stir investment and keep the wheels of industry grinding. In the case of Bermuda, officials say they are forced to go this route because of the misery the COVID-19 pandemic has heaped on the tourism and retirement paradise.

Those interested are invited to invest $2.5 million into the country in cash or in real estate or contribute to the island’s debt reduction fund, earning long term residency in the process.

Its Caribbean neighbors like St. Kitts, Antigua, Dominica go even further by offering full citizenship to people investing much smaller sums under a program that they categorize as cash for economic citizenship. They say they need the money as well because tax revenues have reduced starkly owing to the operation of the free trade system in the 15-nation grouping and as various crises like hurricanes and other problems have contributed to unstable times.

“Affluent individuals from around the world want to live in places meeting criteria such as safety, rule of law, a place where they feel comfortable with their children,” labor Minister Jason Hayward who unveiled the scheme at the weekend. It goes into effect from the beginning of March.

“These individuals and their families have the means to make significant financial investments, develop businesses, and create job opportunities, which can benefit Bermudians. Bermuda must take advantage of these opportunities,” The Gazette newspaper quoted him as saying.

Hayward contends if certificates are issued to 100 investors, for example, this could pump $250 million into the economy in the coming months and spur economic activities “for years to come. I look forward to all of Bermuda welcoming those persons who will be granted an Economic Investment Certificate and a Residential Certificate in the coming months.”

As more and more countries like St. Lucia and Dominica sign on to the program, competition to attract economic citizens has so intensified that prices have dropped to an all-time low with Dominica and St. Lucia for example, requiring an initial investment of only $100,000, while others like Antigua and Grenada at $150,000. For some, this is more than a 50% reduction from earlier periods.

Regional governments usually let potential investors know that acquiring citizenship and a local passport will give them additional advantages like visa travel to more than 100 countries around the world and tax free trade in the Caribbean trade bloc.

In Bermuda’s case where qualification for residency and citizenship is tougher than most places, authorities there note that an applicant’s investment will earn long-term stay and additional benefits after five years. Previous campaigns had targeted retirees who had no interest in competing with the local workforce. The current situation is, however different, allowing them to work in businesses they have invested in. Family members also qualify this time around.