This is Week Seventeen 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: New Delhi, India
“Where is your Kuwaiti visa?”, the agent at the airport check-in counter asked me.
After a week in India, I’m headed to the tiny sultanate of Kuwait on a brief fact-finding mission of the Gulf state. So here I am, plunged into the chaos of Delhi’s busy airport being asked for proof that I’m legally able to enter the desert country.
The question is not unreasonable. The queue for today’s flight appears to be made up almost entirely of Indian citizens who do need a visa. You could forgive the agent for being unfamiliar with Kuwait’s visa rules for westerners. I hand him a US passport and tell him to check for a visa on arrival status.
“No, sir, you need a visa”, he insists. These discussions with airport personnel rarely end well, so I try a tactic most people prefer to simply be right: blind patriotism.
“There wouldn’t be a Kuwait if it weren’t for the United States”, I tell him. “Please confirm it’s visa on arrival.”
My sudden display of faith in my home country prompts the agent to check, and after a few punches on his keyboard, he confirms that, indeed, US citizens are eligible not only for visa on arrival but for a waiver of the usual fee.
What is a Plan B passport really for?
You might imagine that Kuwait’s friendly visa policy toward US citizens is partly a result of the first Gulf War in which the US military saved Kuwait from Saddam Hussein’s armies, and you might be right. Nevertheless, good relations between the two countries mean that I, unlike any of my counterparts in the queue, can show up in Kuwait City unannounced and without issue.
For most people, including presumably most of the Indians waiting in line alongside me, that freedom to arrive in any number of countries without a visa is one of the most appealing benefits of a second passport.
If your passport only allows travel to a limited number of places, it would be only natural to feel stuck… and to seek better travel options.
However, if you are a western citizen – US citizen or otherwise – looking for a second citizenship as a “Plan B” against chaos – allow me to suggest that such thinking might be ill-informed.
There are two themes that I see in people I help get a second passport. The first is “I want it to be easy, and preferably fast”, indicating a desire for minimal effort. The second, less common theme is, “I want it to be a good passport”.
Thanks to our interpretation of a passport merely as a travel document, some westerners – who already have “good passports” – feel as if getting a “bad passport” would be beneath them. I find myself talking Americans out of the hassles of going to some country in the European Union and incurring a bunch of expenses in order to get what is essentially the same passport they have now… only five years from now.
If you plan to keep your current citizenship, not to renounce it, than having a “good passport” is only a wise Plan B if your current passport is “bad”. That’s because travel freedom isn’t the only way to judge a passport.
The real cost of visa-free travel
You see, US citizens are able to visit Kuwait visa-free because the US government is a giant, global bureaucracy that sends billions of dollars in foreign aid overseas each year, fights wars around the world, and maintains embassies in every country on earth.
All of these things cost a lot of money. Peru, for example, can’t afford to open 195 embassies in every sovereign country, nor to rush to a country like Kuwait’s aid when a belligerent neighbor invades it.
As a result, Peruvians cannot visit Kuwait, nor a number of similar countries, without a visa. On the surface, one might assume that a Peruvian passport is of inferior quality to a US passport.
However, while US citizens are required to file numerous forms to report their foreign bank accounts and declare their worldwide income even while living abroad, Peruvians don’t have to.
Nor did any Peruvian’s tax dollars go to fund an elective war in some faraway corner of the globe.
Nor do Peruvian tax dollars fund embassies that resemble compounds and house cushy diplomats who live in five-star luxury on the government’s dime.
And because Peru isn’t sticking its nose into every corner of the world, it has not set up mechanisms to track its citizens living overseas.
Nor does it surveil their foreign phone calls.
Nor are Peruvians viewed as imperious when they travel the world.
The belief that passports offer excellent visa-free travel merely because the issuing country is rich is only true up until a point. Dozens of countries from Vietnam to Brazil don’t allow US citizens to visit without a visa, despite the fact that US tourism dollars could surely boost the economy.
I imagine that Myanmar, India, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, or Venezuela could benefit from an influx of tourist cash, yet they choose to make it difficult for US citizens – and in some cases all western citizens – to enter their country.
So while a US passport offers good visa-free travel, that freedom came at the price of a government that spends billions of dollars each year to buy influence. That influence buying also turns off other countries that in turn make entry difficult.
“Bad passport”, more freedom
The point is this: the passport full of visa-free travel opportunities can often be a double-edged sword. I have always been an advocate of smaller countries, precisely because smaller countries don’t have expensive, burdensome infrastructures to maintain at your expense. Also, because small countries don’t follow you around the world tracking your every move and every dollar earned.
Obtaining economic citizenship from the Comoros fit nicely in my citizenship plans, not because it allowed me to travel all over the world, but because it did not add to my personal regulatory burden.
It feels nice to be a citizen of a country that leaves you alone.
In fact, I would argue that the average westerner – who likely has little experience in obtaining visas – overestimates the burden of getting visas. Obtaining a second passport that is fast and easy will likely require you to get a few visas for your future travel plans should you want to use it.
After all, the only fast citizenship you can obtain that allows visa-free travel even to the United States is Malta, which requires you to fork over about $1 million.
There is, however, the burden of obtaining visas, and then there is the burden of having to fund and be identified with being a citizen of the world’s (often unwelcome) policeman. You may find one burden to be easier to deal with, but they are both burdens.
The benefit of economic citizenship is the ability to obtain a passport from a country that may not allow you to show up unannounced in Kuwait but certainly won’t subject you to its whims no matter where you go. And that can be very freeing.
Get your economic citizenship & 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.