Dateline: Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
Pull up a chair. It’s story time.
This is the story of how I got a second passport. More importantly, this is the story of why it took me as long as it did and some of the key mistakes I made along the way that you can learn to avoid and improve on to make your process go smoother.
I have been interested in second passports and all things offshore for about ten years now. I started out by researching and quickly started dipping my toe in to get some real-world experience with obtaining a second passport. My eagerness to learn about all things related to passports started in late 2006, early 2007 when I was looking into my heritage from Norway and researching about my ancestors there.
I even took a trip to Norway and couldn’t resist the thought of how “cool” it would be to become a citizen of the Nordic country.
I quickly learned that that particular plan wouldn’t work very well.
However, not too long after that, I met someone in 2008 who was living in Ireland. Over the next year or two, I spent a lot of time bouncing back and forth between Ireland and the United States where I lived at the time.
From a second passport perspective, I looked at my girlfriend and realized that she was only a year or two away from getting her Irish passport. I liked Ireland, I liked the idea of living there, so why couldn’t I settle down in the Emerald Isle for a while and get my own Irish passport, as well? That would be “cool.”
That didn’t work out either.
Eventually, I realized that I needed to go back to flag theory and develop an actual strategy that would get me a passport without having to live somewhere for an extended period of time. Maybe I would ultimately want to live in my new country of citizenship, perhaps I would want to live there part-time, but I wanted to the option of not having to live there at all if that was what I chose.
So how could I do that? How could I live the Nomad lifestyle I wanted and still get a second passport on the side?
I began working on my plan to plant a lot of flags all over the world. Along the way, I did a lot of the things that many people who now come to me for help do: I read around on the internet (there wasn’t nearly as much information available on the subject back then), I called various people around the world, I got referrals, I called lawyers and picked their brains, and so on.
It eventually worked out for me and I was able to get multiple second passports, including one from a place that I actually like and where I enjoy spending time. However, it took me much longer to get that first second passport than it should have.
In my books, the delay boils down to three small mistakes.
Mistake #1 – Know the Basics
The first big mistake that I made was not understanding the idea of planting flags. As is evident in the story above, instead of picking and choosing different locations to serve my various needs, I was trying to decide where I wanted to live and put down roots before even examining my passport options.
In order to go where you’re treated best, you need to assess your options, not pick one spot and hope it meets all your needs – if you even know what they are.
Back when I got started, there wasn’t nearly as much information out there about flag theory as there is now, so it was a beginner’s mistake. But it’s a mistake that a lot of people still make today.
You don’t have to go live somewhere for five years just to get a passport. There are other ways to do it, including ways that don’t cost a lot of money. Before you make any big decisions, learn the basics of flag theory and the options available to you to obtain a second passport.
Mistake #2 – The Personal Trainer Formula
The second mistake is one that I can best illustrate with a story:
I recently hired a personal trainer because I wanted to build a little strength. I went to the gym and told the trainer that I wanted to pay him for three months of training.
We put it on the calendar for every Monday, Wednesday, Friday – three days every week, no excuses. I committed myself to the process and told my trainer that I would be at the gym all three days each week. I had paid in advance, so there was no turning back now.
I wanted the results.
I did exactly what I said I would. I started going to the personal trainer every week. Sometimes, my trainer would tell me to do a set of a set of 15 instead of 10 and I would do it. Other times, he would tell me to increase the 30 kilos I was lifting to 40 kilos, and I would do it. And whenever he thought I was not going fast enough or being tough enough, he’d tell me, “Sleep at home! Don’t sleep here.”
Now, I could have gotten on my trainer’s case and been mad and snarky. I could have questioned his authority and his knowledge and told him that I was going to do things my way. I could have refused to do 15 repetitions instead of 10. But I think we’d all agree that that would be a ridiculous response.
Why would I tell the trainer – the ‘after version’ to my ‘before version’ – what I should be doing to become as strong as he was? He already had it all figured out. I was the one who needed to learn, so why in the world would I be calling the shots?
My trainer’s goal wasn’t to be nice to me. His goal was to get me the results that I told him that I wanted – plain and simple.
And I needed to learn to let go of constantly being in control.
The Need for Control
As bizarre as that sounds, that is exactly what I used to do with various lawyers while working towards my second passport. I would call a guy who had been the expert in residency and citizenship for the last ten or twenty years in X country and then disagree with him, try to negotiate, or just be snarky.
I eventually learned my lesson and the results started piling up. In fact, I forgot I used to do that until people began doing the same exact thing to me. Even today, someone will call me up asking for help or write to me asking for my opinion on something and I’ll see them do some of the same things I used to do.
Even from those short phone calls or messages, it is easy to see that they have that same need to be in control – because that’s what it really was, a need for control.
For me, that was probably the biggest mistake I made that delayed my process toward getting a second citizenship by years: the need to be in control. I needed to be the smartest guy in the room. I had to know what I was doing. My mindset at the time was that I was an intelligent person, therefore, I should know everything.
But you can’t know everything.
If you’ve never gotten Peruvian citizenship before, how are you going to be the expert in Peruvian citizenship? The guy in Peru who’s done it many times and has seen a lot of people get the results probably knows a little more about Peru and its citizenship process than you do – or than I did.
The truly intelligent individual would recognize that and hire the guy right away.
However, a lot of us who are ‘intelligent’ think that not knowing about the Peruvian citizenship program makes us less intelligent.
No! That simply means that we don’t know about Peruvian citizenship, or any [fill in the blank] country.
The challenge with the “be in control” mindset is that, because I thought I had the control by being the smartest person in the room, that allowed me to say, “You know what, since I’m in control, I’m going to get back to you. Don’t worry, I’m going to do it.” And then I’d tell myself that I was committed to doing it… but then I wouldn’t do it because I was in control and I could go back in a month or a year or whenever I wanted.
I was in control.
The Personal Offshore Trainer
That need to be in control not only caused me to totally disrespect the professionals that had tried to help me (many of whom I eventually hired to help me obtain multiple second passports) but it also kept me from treating them like a personal trainer.
I was not willing to recognize that they knew more than I did. Because of that, I was not capable of following their advice. It wasn’t a case of, “You tell me how many pushups and situps to do and I’ll do them.” It wasn’t a case of, “I’ll show up at this time and do exactly what you tell me because I am committed to the process.” And it certainly wasn’t a case of, “I’m going to pay in advance.”
The result: no passport.
If you don’t treat this process of getting help to go offshore like working with a personal trainer, you’ll delay the results.
I’ve learned from experience that I don’t have to be the number one expert in every single thing. Obviously, after years of doing this stuff as the Nomad Capitalist, I know a lot about numerous passport programs because I’ve helped people through them and I’ve done a lot of them myself.
However, even after years of doing this, there are still programs out there that I don’t know about.
There are things in the world that most of us don’t know about.
The intelligent thing is to go to the person who does know and to let them train you to get the results that you want.
For me, choosing a lawyer who lets you control the process and tell him or her what to do is not a very successful formula. When I see people who are struggling with the process of going offshore, more often than not, the cause of their challenge is that they have been going around talking to five other people saying, “You’ll be lucky if you have me.”
That’s a great approach if the person you are talking to really needs your business. I wouldn’t want to work with someone who is desperate for my business, but if you want to hire someone who will let you be in control, go for someone who is desperate for business.
However, before you choose that path, ask yourself: Would you hire a personal trainer who was so desperate for your business that they said, “Okay, fine, only do eight pushups.15 is what you need, but if you insist, don’t go anywhere, just do eight. You’ll be fine.”?
That’s not going to help you. And that’s the issue.
I have found that the personal trainer mindset gets me more results than trying to be in control. This is especially true with getting second passports. The motivation to lower your taxes comes with the tax bill you get in the mail every year. Every time that shows up, you know you have to deal with it.
It is a subtler pain when it comes to getting a second passport. That’s why you really need someone to kick you in the behind every once in a while, so that you will do all the necessary work.
Sure, the formula is a bit philosophical, but I’ve found that the philosophical stuff and the mindset adjustments are the biggest items you need to get in order to get the end result of lower taxes, second passports, and great overseas investments.
If the goal is just to be in control and have everyone see how smart and important you are, that’s cool. If the goal is to actually get the passport in hand and get the tax reduction and whatever else, then you should try the personal trainer formula. You can apply it to passports, taxes, dating, investments, and so many other areas of life.
I’ve seen it work for me. I lost a lot of time trying to be the smartest guy in the room before I figured out that I actually wanted to be the guy with the results.
Mistake #3 – You Get What You Pay For
This past year, more than ever, has been a great lesson in “You get what you pay for.” Some will argue that you get what you focus on, and that is certainly part of the equation, but it is not complete.
I’ve found that you focus on what you pay for.
For example, I spent months diddling saying that I would learn more Russian and Georgian. I did nothing. Then, I hired a pricey (by Georgian standards) tutor and – voila! – I’m more focused than ever. (I still have a long way to go, however, which just means I should pay more.)
The same principle can be applied to so many other aspects of life. When I pay, I focus. It makes it so easy to decide what I want to do: I simply ask “Is this worth truly investing my time and money in it?”
This was the third mistake I made when working on my second passport the first time around. I wanted to get free advice. I got what I paid for and wasted a whole lot of time.
I made the same mistake when I first tried reducing my taxes. I yelled at the guy who wanted $15,000 to help me reduce my tax bill that was much, much more than that. Sure, $15,000 sounded like a big deal back then, but I completely missed the fact that he was going to solve my problem, forever.
That is why I no longer look for folks giving free consultations. I don’t tell people I’ll think about it. I either go in with the mindset that I’m going to do it, or I don’t go for it at all. These days, I get in fights with lawyers when they DON’T want to charge me for a meeting.
All I want is to get what needs to be done, done and then move on. And I know that if I pay for it, things will get done.
This has also helped me better serve those who want my help. If a $700 refundable deposit isn’t worth it for an initial call, or if paying for my help is something to deliberate over, the clarity is that you don’t want or need help.
This makes things so much easier as both a consumer and an entrepreneur. It helps me get to the people who are really, truly ready for my help. And it helps me focus on what I want until I’ve reached my goals, whatever they may be.