This is Week Seven of the 26 week series #MyEconomicCitizenship. Each week I give you a glimpse into my life as I share the ups and downs experienced in pursuit of a second passport through economic citizenship. Each feature includes my weekly journal walking you through the process of obtaining economic citizenship, followed by an in-depth look at some of the most important topics people considering economic citizenship should understand. The series is presented by Nomad Capitalist in partnership with Peter Macfarlane & Associates, whom I worked with to obtain my passport. To read the entire series, just click here.
Dateline: Kotor, Montenegro
As unsexy as it might be, any time we discuss topics such as residency and citizenship applications — including economic citizenship — we have to discuss the necessary evil of paperwork. I’ve had to deal with it, you’ve had to deal with it, and anyone who’s committed to getting a second residency or passport will have to deal with it at one point or another.
Paperwork is just part of the deal.
Now, the main economic citizenship programs most people look at, particularly in the Caribbean, require a good deal of paperwork. Yes, there are programs like Cyprus and Malta in Europe that require less documentation, but they also come with a much bigger price tag. Is it worth doing a little more paperwork to save $800,000? Probably.
If an economic citizenship isn’t worth 1 million+ to you, then you’re likely looking at an economic citizenship in the Caribbean. That’s fine. Just recognize that anything in the Caribbean tends to take longer, whether it’s economic citizenship or opening a bank account. However, though they will request more documents, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will take longer to get your passport.
More important than anything else: You’ve got to be on the ball!
One of the reasons I no longer recommend Central American residency programs (residency, not economic citizenship) is that they require so much paperwork that a lot of people just give up. Sure, it’s easy to qualify, but sticking with it until all the paperwork is taken care of is no easy task. Not only are countries like Panama very bureaucratic and inefficient, but they just ask for so many documents.
It’s much easier for the average person to get residency in Europe, where such a residency can give them many more benefits. In Panama, on the other hand, you have to order FBI reports and various different documents just to get residency. And it’s the same thing for economic citizenship. But the motives for getting residency versus citizenship can often be very different, which may just mean that all that paperwork will be worth it if you get a relatively affordable economic citizenship out of the deal.
Do the calculation and figure out what your return on investment will be for your second passport. If it’s worth it to you to pay more for a stronger passport that requires less documentation, go for Malta or Cyprus. If not, here’s what you will need for most economic citizenship programs in the Caribbean:
1. A Police Report
No matter where you’re from, you are going to need a police report. If you’re a US citizen, that means getting an FBI background check. This can be a time-consuming process. Plan accordingly.
In fact, one of the biggest challenges to the whole paperwork process is timing. Most of the required documents need to be 90 days or less old when submitted. Often times — especially if you’re a US citizen and you’re trying to order an FBI report — you will get behind. You’ll get one document, but then 90 days will go by and the first document will expire just as you’re getting your FBI report.
You need to be aware of this challenge. Create a strategy that will help you get your paperwork in order as it is needed. For example, work on the documents that will take the most time first (like your FBI report) so that you won’t be redoing other, shorter steps that have expired once the more time-consuming documents are finally ready.
2. Bank Reference Letters
You’re going to need to contact your bank. This is why it’s important to have an offshore bank account because, again, if you’re a US citizen, most US banks won’t provide the kind of reference letter these countries are looking for.
Some private banks might give you a reference letter, but you have to have the right US bank account. If you just have a normal Chase checking account, they’re not going to give you anything. They might give you a letter stating the day and year you opened an account with them, but that won’t cut it.
Having an offshore bank is important because many offshore banks — especially Asian banks — are much more familiar with issuing reference letters. When I went through the process myself I got a bank reference letter from my bank in Singapore (which, unfortunately, no longer opens accounts for foreigners). But it was pretty easy. They asked me what the letter needed to say, they were very helpful, I paid $20 and the letter was at my door very quickly.
So, if you only have a US bank account, one thing to do before pursuing an economic citizenship may be to step back and get an offshore bank account first.
3. Personal and Professional Reference Letters
You will also need personal and professional reference letters from people who are your friends and colleagues. If you are applying with a spouse you will usually need two personal reference letters per person from two different people.
The person who writes the letter must have known you for at least five years. The letter should contain information about the person writing it, as well as the information concerning your character. You will also need one professional reference letter.
4. Family Documents
If you’re married, you’re going to need to provide proof of your marriage. This, of course, means producing your marriage license or certificate and, depending on the country, having it officially translated into the country’s official language.
If you have children who are participating in the process you will need to show their connection to you as well. Usually, a birth certificate will suffice. (You will likely need to provide your birth certificate too.)
Many of the documents mentioned will need to be apostilled. An apostille is a certificate issued by a designated authority that essentially makes the document valid internationally. With an apostille, your marriage license, birth certificate, and other documents become foreign public documents.
Usually, you should obtain an apostille from the government entity that issued it — whether on the state or federal level. For instance, if you were born in Texas, but currently live in New York, you will need to send your birth certificate to Texas so that the proper authorities can apostille the document.
Pushing through the citizenship paperwork
I don’t spend time in the United States anymore. However, it is where I was born and so when I went through the process of applying for economic citizenship I had to return to put everything in order.
In fact, even if you have already renounced your US citizenship, if you were born in the United States you will most likely need to return. Most of these countries with economic citizenship programs are going to want paperwork from the United States. And that doesn’t just apply to US-born citizens, these countries will want documentation from wherever you were born.
For example, I had a client who was born in Bulgaria. When she moved to the US she renounced her Bulgarian citizenship because, at the time, Bulgaria did not allow dual citizenship. However, she’s now looking to go somewhere else and the country she has chosen told her they needed some documents from Bulgaria. So, even though she is no longer a Bulgarian citizen, she had to go back to Bulgaria and track them down.
Be prepared to stay put
If you want the process to be easy, be prepared to stay in one place. Hopefully, that place is your home country. For most people, our home country is the country that we’re a citizen of, and in many cases, it’s the country that we’re living in. If that is the case, stay put until you have all the documentation in line.
A lot of people who are looking into economic citizenship look at it as their get-out-of-jail-free card from where they’re living. And it can be… you’ll just need to stick around for a while to make it all possible. For example, I’m working with an entrepreneur who’s based in Ohio and who wanted to jump right to renouncing US citizenship. He didn’t want to go offshore and do the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion or any of the other legal tax-reducing strategies. He just wanted to jump right to renouncing with Dominican citizenship in hand.
That’s fine. He just needs to plan to stay in Ohio for a few more months to finish the process. You can make the jump, just don’t do it too soon or you’ll have nowhere to land. If you’re trying to get US documents apostilled, it’s a lot easier to do so while in the US. If you’re trying to get an FBI report, it’s a lot easier to use one of the chandlers from a US location. They can come and take your fingerprints and expedite the entire process. It’s much harder when you’re overseas to get some of those documents — it’s slower and often requires more steps.
If you haven’t left the US yet, stay. If you have, plan on going back. If nothing else, stay in one place. If you’re worried about disqualifying yourself from the FEIE, consider staying in Canada and only crossing the border when necessary. If you’re a nomad from the Northeast, stay in Vancouver and cross the border. If you’re from Cleveland like I am, stay in Toronto and just come over when you need to. Just prepare to be stationary for a while.
I went through the process and decided to approach it by staying in New York for one month. I was in one place and it was still frustrating because they had to send different documents to different places and everything was just more delayed. I can’t imagine how much more difficult it would have been trying to do all of that from outside the country.
The moral of the story: Be prepared to hunker down a little bit until the paperwork is done. It will be easier for you and you’ll thank yourself in the end.
Get your own economic citizenship and second passport
My goal in doing this series is to help as many people as possible become global citizens by obtaining second citizenship. I live this stuff, in part, so that I can better help individuals like you reduce taxes, obtain a second passport and experience more freedom.
If you’d like to work with me directly to create a wholistic global citizenship strategy, then click here. We’ll go through an entire deep dive process to determine exactly what you need — from passports to residency to where you’re going to live — all so we can get you to your end goals.
If you’re just interested in getting a passport and already know which passport is the right choice for you, then you can go directly to Peter MacFarlane & Associates’ website and contact them by clicking here.
If you’re still determining which approach you should take, feel free to keep reading this series to garner all the knowledge you need to form a vision and actionable plan for the future.