The Many Benefits of a Second PassportJun 11 • Categorized as Citizenship & Residency
The rise of nation-states, nationalism, and especially World Wars I and II made it essential for international travelers to present passports when they entered a country.
Today, governments increasingly use passports as instruments of coercion. For instance, U.S. citizens can be denied a passport simply for owing money to the IRS or in child support payments. Even U.S. citizens living abroad must pay tax on their worldwide income. If they fail to do so, the government can decline to renew their passport.
Since governments use passports to enforce coercive laws and regulations, it only makes sense for those with the means to do so to acquire a passport from another country.
Having a second passport has numerous additional benefits.
- It can expand your travel possibilities. Even a citizen whose passport usually allows easy international access can find a visa denied due to travel restrictions, trade sanctions, or political disturbances. For instance, the United States forbids U.S. citizens from visiting Cuba without obtaining a “license” from the Treasury Department. No other passport carries such a restriction.
- It can reduce your profile to terrorists. For instance, travel in many parts of the world using a U.S. passport can make you an instant target for criminal or terrorist groups. If you travel with a passport issued by a politically neutral country, you’ll present a much lower profile to anyone with an axe to grind against your country.
- It gives you greater travel privacy. A U.S. passport is now equipped with biometric identifiers and a radio-frequency identity chip. It can potentially track you everywhere you travel. If you use your U.S. passport to visit a country not favored by U.S. authorities, you may face questioning—or worse—when you re-enter the United States. But, if you use your second passport to enter that country instead, no record exists of your visit in your U.S. passport.
- It allows you to travel internationally if your primary passport is lost, stolen, or withdrawn. The first measure many governments take if you come under investigation, or become an “enemy of the state,” is to confiscate your passport. A second passport renders that sanction much less effective.
- It gives you the right to reside in other countries. A passport from a member of the European Union, for instance, gives you the right to live or work in any of 27 EU countries. Another example: a passport from a member of the Caribbean Community (e.g., the Commonwealth of Dominica), gives you the right to live or work in most other CARICOM countries.
- It can aid in international tax planning. For Americans, a second passport has another benefit: it is an essential prerequisite to expatriation; i.e., giving up U.S. citizenship in order to permanently disconnect from U.S. taxing authority.
A second passport, in other words, can be your key to a new world of free movement, greater flexibility, and legal tax reduction. In most cases, if you qualify for a second passport, your spouse and minor children will also qualify.
Now that you understand the benefits of a second passport, how can you acquire one?
Almost every country has a program offering citizenship or passports to individuals with a family history in that nation. In Ireland, persons with at least one Irish-born grandparent qualify for Irish citizenship and passport.
Many countries allow spouses of citizens to apply for citizenship and passport, usually after a specified period of residence. In Austria, the ordinary 10-year period of residence necessary to qualify for a passport and citizenship is reduced to six years if you’re married to an Austrian citizen.
Your religion may also be a viable route to alternative citizenship. For instance, Jews who immigrate to Israel under the “Law of Return” are entitled to Israeli citizenship and passport.
If you don’t qualify based on these factors, in most countries, you can acquire citizenship following a period of prolonged residence. Among other countries, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States exchange residence rights for domestic investment. Eligibility also depends on your age, education, life skills, health, and other criteria. Your spouse and minor children can often accompany you, although in some cases they may be subject to a separate qualification process.
A handful of countries offer “instant” citizenship in return for an economic contribution. The Commonwealth of Dominica and the Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis are the only countries with an official, legally mandated, economic citizenship program.
The least expensive option is to obtain economic citizenship from Dominica. Under this country’s program, you may acquire citizenship and passport in return for a cash contribution. Total costs including all fees for a single applicant come to about $105,000. Add $25,000 if you need a passport for your spouse and up to two children under 18. Dominican passport holders can travel without a visa, or obtain a visa upon entry, to nearly 100 countries and territories. You can also live or work in most members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), including Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad & Tobago.
In the Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis, there are two ways to obtain economic citizenship. The most practical strategy is to make a direct contribution. Total costs including all fees for a single applicant under this option come to about $225,000 or $275,000 for an applicant with up to three dependents. Alternatively, you may purchase qualifying property worth a minimum of $350,000. However, fees and taxes under this option are much higher than if you make a direct contribution. St. Kitts & Nevis passport holders can travel without a visa, or obtain a visa upon entry, to more than 130 countries, including nearly all of the 27 member countries of the European Union. You can also live or work in most CARICOM countries.
Many countries have in their citizenship laws provisions allowing the government to offer citizenship and passport to individuals who provide a significant benefit to that country. These countries do not offer “economic citizenship” as such. Rather, individuals with a genuine interest in that country and who are prepared to provide an outstanding service to it (including an investment) may be rewarded with citizenship and passport without requiring a period of prolonged residence or proof of fluency in the official language. Two countries in the European Union offer such an opportunity on an ongoing basis, with total costs starting at a minimum of $600,000. Holders of an EU passport can live and work in any of the 27 members of the European Union. In all cases, applicants must pass a strict vetting process that includes a comprehensive criminal background check.
An Internet search will reveal many companies offering to sell passports from countries that don’t legally sanctioned economic citizenship programs. In recent years, passports from Costa Rica, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Ireland, Lithuania, and other countries have been offered. All these offers are either scams or involve illegally purchased or stolen documents. Securing a passport on this basis, through fraudulent misrepresentation, either directly or through an agent is clearly illegal.
Your passport could be revoked at any time and you could be subject to arrest and/or deportation.
The Nestmann Group, Ltd. can assist individuals seeking a second passport through an economic contribution or investment in Dominica, St. Kitts, & Nevis, and in selected EU countries.
By Mark Nestmann
Copyright © 2011 by Mark Nestmann
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