By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iran grants additional visas to Iraqis to boost its economy

In light of the US sanctions and the exit of foreign companies from Iran, Tehran is seeking to boost its income and hard currency by hosting the largest possible number of Iraqi tourists it can.

Iran’s economic charge d’affaires in Najaf, Arif Abbasi, said June 22, “The number of Iranian visas issued from Najaf will increase to 5,000 visas daily.

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By Padraig O’Hannelly.

A major petroleum conference in London has been told that more than 200 British companies now operating in Iraq, and those numbers are increasing.

Addressing more than 300 delegates at CWC‘s Iraq Petroleum conference, British Ambassador Jonathan Wilks CMG said:

“The UK and Iraq are becoming increasingly strong business partners and education partners, and London is becoming as it once was, the second home for many Iraqis. The number of Iraqis visiting the UK is increasing, so if you hear of difficulties getting, visas this is exaggerated.”

Looking to the current climate in Iraq, Ambassador Wilks added:

I am more than glass-half-full; the positives in Iraq right now, the dynamics, the sustainability of security improvements and economic improvements are really the best we have seen for many many years.

“We now have the best [Iraqi] government that we’ve had since 2003 … This is an extremely good time to be working in Iraq.

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By Veronica Cotdemiey, CEO of Citizenship Invest.

6 questions you must ask when obtaining a second citizenship

Citizenship programs offer people a chance to obtain a second powerful nationality that allows them freedom of movement and security for their families, as well as a better way to safekeep their businesses and wealth.

However, many people decide to apply for these programs without carefully understanding the fine print. There are important aspects to each particular Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program understanding them can mean the difference between a citizenship approval or a rejection.

Below are some of the key points to be taken into account when choosing a citizenship program.

Have you ever been rejected visas before?

This may be the most important question to ask before embarking on a citizenship application process. If your citizenship consultant does not bring up this question, consider changing consultancy firms as soon as possible. Any past visa rejections are a primary concern for governments with CBI programs and the application will result in a rejection.   The governments will deny the citizenship if the due diligence reveals that the applicant had been rejected entry to any country which shares visa waver agreements with that particular CBI country, especially when it comes to UK and Schengen states.

What family members can you include under your application?

Including dependents is common, however, it is imperative that applicants know who they can include under the same application. Your citizenship consultant needs to be well versed when it comes to including family dependents. Lack of knowledge in this area can have consequences and will ultimately result in delays and extra money which can be avoided with proper advice.

Dependents are children, spouse and parents of the main applicant or of the spouse who are financially dependent on the main applicant. Children must be enrolled in full time studies and proof financial dependency on the parents. Currently, only one CBI program accepts siblings of the main applicant or the spouse, these are unmarried brothers or sisters regardless of their age.  These unmarried siblings cannot be previously divorced and cannot have children in order to qualify under the same application.

Each CBI program sets its own regulations for adding dependents. The citizenship consultant should be requesting information on the ages of the children and parents, as each program has different requirements. The date of birth of the applicant is important as, at the moment of applying, they should not surpass the minimum age by law. Also, they should find out whether the main applicant is planning to have kids in the future, because some programs such as St. Lucia do not contemplate including newborns after the citizenship has been issued.

Is your nationality banned from applying for the selected program? 

There are specific nationalities that are barred from applying for some citizenship via investment programs. For instance, St. Kitts and Nevis does not allow nationals of North Korea, Iran and Afghanistan to apply for its program. Therefore, applicants need to understand what the options are for them. Other programs do not restrict any nationalities in particular and take applications in a case by case basis, the results will purely depend on the main applicant’s source of funds and a clean track record.

What are your future travel plans?

Each country has a unique visa-free list which can help applicants narrow down the different programs of choice. Consequently, when looking for the correct CBI program, one should know which country they will be visiting frequently. For example, Grenada is the only country with a CBI program that allows visa-free access to China. So, if an individual has business in China, they might want to apply for the Grenadian citizenship. Furthermore, a Grenadian passport allows visa-on-arrival to the UAE, which is a great option for individuals who have business in the UAE.

If to live in Europe is a priority, then Cyprus is the best option that any investor can look for. Upon obtaining a Cypriot nationality, applicants will be able to live in any country part of the EU. They will also have access to world-class education and healthcare. Cyprus also grants visa-free access to over 170 countries including Canada, Australia, UK and the UAE.

Most CBI programs allow visa-free access to the Schengen states except for the Turkish citizenship.

What are the main documents required?

Mainly each submitted file requires applicants to present basic documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, proof of address and medical examination. These documents can be quite easy to obtain but difficulties start when obtaining Police Clearance from their country of origin, their country of residence and any country they have resided in for 6 months in the last 10 years.

Understandably, many applicants cannot obtain police reports as their home countries are troubled with political distress, so they must provide an affidavit, which is a legal document that clearly justifies the reason for not being able to obtain the police report. However, not all CBI countries accept affidavits, which in this case an applicant is required to present a local lawyer’s reference letter that explains the reasons for not being able to obtain the police report from a particular country.

What financial information is required?

Primarily, the source of funds is the most crucial aspect of the application. The applicant can have clean criminal records but if the source of funds is dubious their citizenship will not be approved. One of the Government’s main concern when conducting the due diligence process is knowing how the applicant has generated his or her money and support documents must be presented justifying the same.

Once the due diligence report is concluded, the applicant needs to make the final payment to the Government. It is imperative that the applicant makes the payment from his own bank account or his company’s bank account not from a third party.

Bank transfers can be a complicated process nowadays, especially if the intermediary banks are in the United States. The citizenship consultancy company would need to liaise with the beneficiary bank in order to present the required documents for the funds to be cleared.

When applying for citizenship it is important to do exhaustive research on the citizenship processing companies, before you chose, and carefully investigate their track record. There are a lot of options on the internet, even some of them are listed on Governments websites, however very few of these have thorough experience in overcoming the challenges that a citizenship application can present.

Iraq on Monday began issuing entry visa for Iranians free of charge in a reciprocal move under a deal reached three weeks ago.

As of Monday, Iranians travelling to Iraq could obtain visa free of charge.

The Iraqi cabinet of ministers said the decision that took effect on April 1 has been made as a reciprocal move which had been agreed upon during Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s recent visit to Iraq.

After the conclusion of five agreements between Tehran and Baghdad on March 12, President Rouhani said the two Muslim neighbors have agreed to lift visa requirements for the citizens of both nations, including pilgrims and tourists.

“The Iraqi side currently prefers the visa regime, but there is no payment for a visa, which is a step forward in the process of facilitating the relations between the two nations,” the Iranian president has said in a landmark visit to Iraq.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

The chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission hailed an agreement to ease visa restrictions between the Islamic Republic and Iraq as a major achievement of President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to the Arab country.

“The president’s visit to Iraq after the withdrawal of Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) from the country and the elimination of the terrorist group is important because it can develop investments and strategic relations between Tehran and Baghdad,” Heshmatollah Falahat Pishe told Tasnim.

He further emphasized that the visit is also important because Iraq can play a major role in countering the sanctions imposed by the US against Iran.

The senior lawmaker also referred to the easing of visa restrictions between Iran and Iraq as one of the most important achievements of Rouhani’s visit to Iraq, the senior lawmaker added.

Heading a high-ranking delegation, Rouhani arrived in Baghdad on Monday at the official invitation of the Iraqi government. It is Rouhani’s first official visit to Iraq during his tenure.

Iran and Iraq enjoy cordial political, security and cultural ties but due to some internal and regional problems including Daesh terrorism in Iraq, they have not been able to increase their trade volume.

Iran’s main exports to the neighboring country include agro products, foodstuff and fruits such as watermelon, tomato and cucumber, which account for 37% of the total exports.

Other Iranian exports to Iraq include canned food, tomato paste, chicken, egg, meat, construction materials (mainly rebar, tiles and ceramics), steel and evaporative cooler.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

Iran and Iraq signed five deals to promote cooperation in various fields on the first day of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s trip to Baghdad.

In a meeting co-chaired by Rouhani and Prime Minister of Iraq Adil Abdul-Mahdi in Baghdad on Monday evening, top officials from the two countries signed five memoranda of understanding.

The documents entail cooperation between Iran and Iraq concerning the Basra-Shalamcheh railroad project, visa facilitation for investors, cooperation in the health sector, and agreements between the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Trade of Iran and Ministry of Trade of Iraq, and another one in the field of oil between the petroleum ministries of the two countries.

Heading a high-ranking delegation, Rouhani arrived in Baghdad on Monday at the official invitation of the Iraqi government. It is Rouhani’s first official visit to Iraq during his tenure.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

Iran and Iraq signed five deals to promote cooperation in various fields on the first day of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s trip to Baghdad.

In a meeting co-chaired by Rouhani and Prime Minister of Iraq Adil Abdul-Mahdi in Baghdad on Monday evening, top officials from the two countries signed five memoranda of understanding.

The documents entail cooperation between Iran and Iraq concerning the Basra-Shalamcheh railroad project, visa facilitation for investors, cooperation in the health sector, and agreements between the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Trade of Iran and Ministry of Trade of Iraq, and another one in the field of oil between the petroleum ministries of the two countries.

Heading a high-ranking delegation, Rouhani arrived in Baghdad on Monday at the official invitation of the Iraqi government. It is Rouhani’s first official visit to Iraq during his tenure.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

Head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) Ali Asghar Mounesan said removing visa restrictions on travels between Iran and Iraq could serve the interests of both nations.

Speaking at a meeting with Iraq’s Culture and Tourism Minister Abdul Amir al-Hamdani, Mounesan, also a vice-president, praised bilateral relations between Tehran and Baghdad as “brotherly and very cordial” and said the two countries enjoy good ties in all economic, social, and political areas.

“Each year, millions of Iranian and Iraqi tourists visit the two countries and there is a readiness to promote relations in the field of tourism,” he noted.

Referring to the abolition of the visa requirements for Iranians visiting Turkey and Oman, the official urged a similar move by Iraq and said an increase in the number of tourists from the two countries would be in the interests of both nations.

“We should make efforts to speed up this process by lifting visa requirements,” said the vice president.

Annually, millions of Muslim pilgrims, mainly from Iran, travel long routes to Iraq’s Karbala, where the holy shrine of Imam Hussein (AS), the third Shiite Imam, is located.

Iran and Iraq enjoy cordial political, security and cultural ties but due to some internal and regional problems including Daesh (also known as ISIS or ISIL) terrorism in Iraq, they have not been able to increase their trade volume in the past years.

Iran’s main exports to the neighboring country include agro products, foodstuff and fruits such as watermelon, tomato and cucumber, which account for 37% of the total exports.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

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By Veronica Cotdemiey, CEO of Citizenship Invest.

Moldova: the most cost-effective passport from Europe

Citizenship by Investment has become one of the most reliable ways to obtain a legal citizenship and passport for many nationalities around the world. Allowing the ability to travel easily and secure a better future for individuals. However, when we talk about obtaining a fast-track second passport or citizenship and without immigration requirements, many come at a hefty price.

The Republic of Cyprus has one of the world’s most famous citizenship by investment programs and it is the only country that can offer a European nationality without ever needing to immigrate or prove residence in the country to obtain it. However, the property investment required to obtain the Cypriot citizenship stands at 2 million EURO which it is not affordable to large number of potential applicants. Many consider Caribbean countries like Dominica, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda and Grenada through which they can achieve a second citizenship with a considerably lower investment amount.

For many investors in the region, some Caribbean countries can pose some difficulties to obtain their citizenship. In some cases, certain nationalities are banned from applying and they could encounter issues to transfer funds to the Government’s accounts due to intermediary banks based in the United States.

Moldova recently launched its citizenship program, the country is located in Europe and investors can obtain its passport without any residency requirements. The program is cost effective and has a quick processing time where applicants can obtain their citizenship in approximately 3 months. Moldovan citizens have visa-free travel to major countries around the world, most notably, Schengen countries, Russia and Turkey. The Moldovan citizenship program requires an applicant to transfer an amount of EUR 100,000 to Moldova’s Public Investment Fund. The amount goes up to EUR 155,000 for an applicant with more than 4 dependents. Another positive feature in Moldova’s CBI program is the ability to transfer citizenship to future generations without restrictions.

Moldova is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe with a 4 million population. The country is famous for its world-class wine industry and picturesque landscapes. The service sector has grown to dominate Moldova’s economy and currently composes over 60% of the nation’s GDP. In 2017, total bilateral trade between the EU and Moldova increased by 18% to €4 billion. The European Union’s imports from Moldova increased by 23% in 2017, to the value of €1.6 billion.

Although Moldova is not yet part of the European Union, the EU is Moldova’s first trading partner and the first investor in the country, accounting for over 55% of total trade. The value of agricultural, machinery and transport EU imported products from Moldova also grew confirming the positive trend of growth in Moldovan exports to the EU.

Moldova is actively pursuing joining the European Union member states through the EU Eastern Partnership policy. As part of its effort, Moldova is working on integrating various sectors such as transport, Energy, Technology, Media and Telecom with the EU for the possibility to deepen its corporation with the EU and increase the chances of becoming a member state.