Dateline: Bogota, Colombia
How many passports is enough? What are the pros and cons of having as many citizenships as you can? Do countries allow you to have multiple citizenships? Can you reach a point where you have too many to manage?
These are some of the questions I deal with almost daily from my clients.
Everyone’s situation is unique, but there are key concepts you should know as you get a second residence and then work to develop your passport portfolio.
Let me walk you up the second passport ladder. This is not a formalized process, but things I’ve learned traveling and collecting passports over the last 12 years.
To start off, there is one thing to clarify: Citzenships and passports go together, but they’re also different. Having citizenship does not mean you will have a passport. You will need to work towards both separately, though you might qualify for them at the same time.
For example, when I called up my sister and asked her to hang out in Mexico for Christmas, she hadn’t renewed her passport. She’s a citizen of the United States – she can live and work there – she just doesn’t have the travel privileges without the passport. She has access to one of the best passports in the world, but at the moment, it’s not the best because she doesn’t have it and she can’t go anywhere.
So, know that you may work towards citizenship and get it, but if you want the travel privileges that go with it, you also need to get the passport.
Now that we are all on the same page, let’s move on to the ways you can get citizenship by considering diversification, what kind of profile you want to build, what passports you don’t want to keep, and where you want to live.
After considering these concepts for your personal lifestyle design, you’ll be better equipped to make a good decision about how many and what kind of citizenships you want to seek out. As always, my team and I are ready to help as you develop your holistic plan for going where you’re treated best.
The 3 Main Ways to Get Citizenships
There are three main ways to get a second or multiple citizenships and passports (in another article, I discuss five ways to become a citizen, but for our purposes here, I’ll discuss the three major ones).
One way is through naturalization. You can spend as little as one or two months a year in some places – or three to four months in more cases – and become naturalized in as little as two or up to 30 years.
This is often the cheapest way to get a second passport, though it can take some time. It can also be a simple process where you can work on meeting the requirements just as you travel around.
You can also become a citizen of another country by making an investment in that country. You can invest in bonds or a hotel project or real estate in the city center. This path toward citizenship can often be more expensive, but usually requires less time to get your passport.
A third option for getting a second passport is through your ancestry. Many countries will give someone its citizenship if they can prove their bloodline. The applicant must provide the birth certificates and other documents that prove their connection to the country via ancestry. It’s cheap, easy and reversible if you decide you no longer want to claim it.
But how many passports can you actually get?
If you strategically plan the countries where you will obtain citizenship – many.
Now I like to geek out on these kinds of things. Some people like to collect baseball cards or stamps, classic cars…for me, it’s passports. Just for some fun hypotheticals, hear me out: Using these different methods for gaining citizenships, it’s possible for someone to get up to 14 passports by the age of 30. It may not be likely, but it’s possible.
For example, if you start planning for your child before they’re born, it’s possible for them to get a couple citizenships just by where they’re born. If you move around through their teenage years, it’s possible for them to get up to eight passports by the age of 18 just by living in different countries and getting citizenship by naturalization.
There are some countries, like Peru, where if you attend a university there, you can gain citizenship.
Then, as you’ve raised your child to be successful, at this point they can go get their feet wet by living and working in a few different places and, in the process, gain other citizenships. Once they’ve developed some financial capital, they can also start to get citizenship by investment.
Like I said, this is just a hypothetical and probably not that practical, but fun to think about the possible ways a person can get multiple citizenships.
Now that you know that it’s possible to have double digits of passports, let’s discuss how to manage them.
1. Diversify Your Passport Portfolio
The first step with any holistic offshore strategy is to become diversified. Always have a way out. That is why your first goal is to get a second passport and become a dual citizen.
Take that first step.
My advice for your first second passport is to get whatever you can. If you have Armenian or Vietnamese ancestry, go with that.
As long as that second passport doesn’t cause you problems – i.e., there are no restrictions or military service obligations that you don’t want to get involved in or a pariah country that will give you trouble every time you try to open a bank account somewhere – then I would get any passport as your first one.
We had a client from the US with ancestry from the UK. She got a UK passport. Now that’s not super diversified. The US and UK are good friends, similar in terms of power, similar politically, both offer visa-free travel to most places, etc. But she took what was on the table.
If you’re a US citizen, you’ll probably want to have some financial diversification in your passport portfolio as well. If your first passport is that Vietnamese passport and you were to renounce your US citizenship, you wouldn’t have much in terms of travel privileges. So, you’d probably want to go beyond that.
If you have a US passport as well as a UK, Irish, New Zealand, Estonian, or Hungarian passport, then you might be pretty well covered. You have a good place to live if times get tough in your home country.
Things to ask yourself are: Does the new country make my situation better or worse? Do I have the option to opt-out of the first one? What are my travel opportunities? Am I well protected? Consider all your bases and make sure they’re covered through diversification.
2. What Kind of Profile Do You Want?
The second step is to determine how much diversification you want. Considering your available options, deciding what you want and where you want to travel will help you figure out how many passports you need.
It’s not so much a question of “how many citizenship can you have” but how many do you need.
For the average person, the answer is probably four.
I’ve seen situations where people can claim citizenship just by birth. If they use that and add one or two more through investment or naturalization, that would create a strong profile. Beyond four it does get a little overbearing, but four is a good number to aim for.
From my perspective, I like to be able to go on both sides. You don’t want passports for countries that are at odds with each other, but I like the idea of having a big country passport and a small country passport. A western country and an eastern country.
In terms of countries to look for, if you’re looking for a small country that will leave you alone and not tax your worldwide income or chase you down for money, one of the Caribbean citizenship programs would be great.
There are also simple options where you can just donate money or buy real estate and get a passport quite quickly which will give you visa free travel to places like Europe and Southeast Asia.
We had a gentleman come to us recently who has a big 10-figure company. He gave up his US citizenship and was very cautious of his profile as he wanted to be in good graces with everybody.
If your goal is to be in good graces, you probably don’t want to get every type of Caribbean citizenship out there. Maybe get one, then get a European passport or a citizenship through your marriage or family.
It is wise to be conscious of your profile.
I had a British friend who was marrying an Armenian woman. An Armenian passport was a good passport for him. He can easily travel visa-free to Russia. Armenia is a good example of a small country that doesn’t have much worldwide influence, that probably won’t go making stupid laws to affect it’s citizens the way the US and the EU do and might do more of in the future. It has a different profile with different offerings.
When I was going through my expatriation process, I was in the process of getting another passport that would fill in some of the gaps of places I wanted to travel. If I had only had one passport, the process wouldn’t have been as comfortable. I was glad I had taken advantage of all the opportunities over the years to collect the different passports that were available to me.
Often, opportunities to gain another passport will have a specific time frame when they’re available. Two of the passports I have, you can’t get very easily any more. Don’t be afraid to take the steps and jump at opportunities to build a strong passport portfolio.
3. Determine What Passports You’ll Keep
After you’ve taken that second step to create a passport portfolio strategy, you next need to figure out which of your many passports you want to keep.
In general, there’s not a reason to get rid of anything unless they change something major, start trying to chase you down, or impose rules that infringe on your strategy.
If you’re a US citizen though, you’ll need to decide if you want to keep your US passport and all the baggage that comes with it. Once you have two or three different options, you can make a better decision about that.
You could get a citizenship from a place like St. Kitts, Dominica, or St. Lucia as a means to renounce US citizenship because that’s available to you. That’s fine. What I can tell you is the minute you get that second passport in your hand, you’re going to make a much better decision. You’ll see things more clearly about what you want to do.
We’ve had people start working on their second passport and once they’ve gotten it they’ve decided to wait on renouncing for a while. Now they know that any day they want to, they can. They have that option. You’ll feel great because you know you have options.
We also had a gentleman with four passports from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. He had enough other powerful passports that he didn’t need his US one. He could use his Canadian passport to show up in the US whenever he wanted.
Analyze your mix and determine which passports you want to keep. If you’re a US citizen, ask if that passport should play in your mix.
4. Where Do You Want to Live?
Step 4 is the step that I’m working on right now. Beyond diversification and protecting your financial and personal freedom to travel and exist in the world, ask where you want to live. This speaks to your personal desires and choices.
What would you choose?
A residence visa is a good place to start when considering places that you like. But only citizenship guarantees that you can live in a place. When a residence permit expires, they might decide that they don’t want you anymore and not renew your permit. Or they might say that they’re raising the price for renewal and it would no longer be economically feasible. That’s certainly their right. As a non-citizen there’s not much you can do about that.
The solution is to look for where you want to live and secure it with a citizenship.
A lot of people aren’t going to get their first or second passport in a place where they want to live long-term. If you’re lucky to get an Austrian or Estonian citizenship through descent, you might want to live in the European Union. It might not be the best place in terms of taxation, but you would be able to live happily somewhere in the EU.
I also recommend opening up your mind to other options. You may like a place like Armenia, Georgia or Malaysia. Many places aren’t as bad as you might think and it’s helpful to be open to places you might not originally consider.
Someone came to me recently and said that he wanted to live in Malta so that he could live in Europe. I let him know that he could first get a residence permit to live in Europe for much less and then he could travel and get a better idea of where he really wanted to live. The guy saved hundreds of thousands of dollars and was able to make a better-informed decision.
We help people do that all the time.
But once you figure out where you really want to live, that will be a citizenship you’ll want to pursue in order to guarantee your right to live there.
Where do I like? Recently, I like Mexico, Colombia, and Peru. Latin America is more culturally similar to what I’m used to in the US. There’s a lot of American influence that you won’t find in Europe or Asia. For that reason, it’s not a bad idea to find a Latin American country that you like and would want to live in.
The main point though is to find where you would like to live long-term and preserve that with citizenship from that country.
How Many Citizenships Should You Have?
How many citizenships can you have? Depending on your original citizenship, as many as you like. But knowing the answer to that question is much less important than knowing how many citizenships you should have.
To know how many citizenships you should have, first become diversified and cover your bases. As a general rule, four passports is probably enough. For some, two or three could even be enough. Some people just don’t want to be a US citizen anymore. Find what you want and then work to create the passport portfolio that supports that.
I have clients that have been Dominican citizens for five years and they’ve decided that’s all they need. Your needs will depend on what you like and how frequently you want to travel.
The key is to start now to create what you want. I challenged people recently in one of my YouTube videos by asking if they have their second passport.
Have they started diversifying and setting up options for themselves through dual citizenship?
Iff not, why?
For me, once I stopped hesitating to act on opportunities to get a second citizenship, things really started taking off.
So, I would ask you to consider similar questions and discover what’s holding you back. Then, I would challenge you to get started. If you’re a seven or eight-figure entrepreneur, my team and I are ready to help you start building your passport portfolio today.
Start the process of creating your perfect passport portfolio.