Dateline: Tbilisi, Georgia
This is a second passport conversation even I thought we would never have.
We normally talk about the benefits of getting a second passport for reasons of asset protection, personal freedom and as part of having a Plan B.
And while most of the people I work with are from the West, I also receive requests from individuals from developing countries who want a better passport for the increased travel that it provides.
People from India, Pakistan, Russia and other countries come to this site to learn how to increase their freedom of movement. Never did any of us think that US citizens would one day be in the same position, seeking better visa-free travel.
But it might happen.
US passport holders could lose visa-free travel rights to almost the entire European Union. According to EU rules, the European Commission is required to consider reciprocal visa provisions for countries that deny visa-free access to EU citizens.
The requirement takes effect two years after the given country is notified, and in the case of the United States and Canada, the deadline was . . . yesterday.
While US and Canadian passport holders can enter the EU visa-free, visitors from Bulgaria and Romania must obtain a visa to enter Canada. The US requires the same of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens and includes Croatia, Cyprus and Poland on their list as well.
Because of these exceptions, EU officials have the responsibility to review a proposal to suspend the visa waiver program for the US and Canada, meaning anyone from either country wishing to travel anywhere in the EU must obtain a visa before doing so.
No matter how long they plan on staying.
One reason for the conflict is that both Canada and the US have a merit based visa waiver program, while the EU follows a rule of reciprocity. The US government claims that the countries that are currently denied access have not yet met the criteria for the visa waiver.
While I don’t think Europe can afford to lose tourist dollars from lazy people who won’t get visas (although countries like China are outpacing US tourism and diminishing the need for it), the objective of the European Union is to achieve full visa waiver reciprocity for all union members, making denial of a visa waiver a viable concern.
How the unthinkable could happen
It may not happen, but the fact that revoking visa-free travel to Europe is even being discussed shows how ANYTHING is up for grabs.
In reality, that’s how most of the unthinkable happens.
First there is denial, then there is discussion, and then the issue gets pushed onto the slippery slope that almost always leads to a loss of freedom for you and me.
For instance, there used to be a time when people thought Social Security was sacrosanct… and then someone suggested that we would have to extend the retirement age. And when the National Security Agency was formally established, people argued that the NSA would never spy on US citizens.
There used to be a time, as well, when socialism and fascism were abhorred and the idea that either ideology could have any credence in the US was laughable. Now, both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are making alarmingly successful runs for the presidential nomination.
People have said “It could never happen!” about things that eventually did, and the first step has always been discussion. Unfortunately, visa restrictions for US passport holders is now under discussion in Europe.
The EU Commission is discussing the issue this week. If they decide to implement the change and gain the approval of the majority of EU member states and the European Parliament, the visa restrictions would take effect within four months of the decision.
While Americans would still have visa-free access to Ireland and the UK (who have opted out of the EU’s common visa policy), the change would be a devastating hit to the US passport as a practical travel document.
How to maintain visa-free travel to Europe
Developing countries — countries that some of you currently sneer at — may soon have better visa-free access than the US and Canada. Countries like Colombia, Peru, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova are about to get visa-free access to the EU.
Having a second passport in one of these countries may actually make sense now, not just as a Plan B, but as a means of entering countries you are denied access to as a US or Canadian passport holder.
In fact, some of these countries already have advantages over the US. For instance, Americans can’t visit several Latin American countries without burdensome visa procedures, particularly Brazil. And while Argentina just lifted the $160 visa-on-arrival fee as they get their act together, there’s no guarantee that the fee waiver will be permanent.
The truth is, the quality of US (and now Canadian) passports is going down. I’ve been saying from day one of Nomad Capitalist that arrogant countries will eventually get their just desserts.
Canada has been following the US in implementing its own version of ESTA and other nonsensical bureaucracy. Now the rest of the world is finally sitting up and saying “enough”.
Combine that with Europe’s new push to fight terrorism and increase security, and your freedom of movement is on the line. This is the second proposal in only a week to strengthen Europe’s border controls. There is also a plan to implement a system that will record the fingerprints and photos of visitors traveling throughout Europe.
Who knows what else will be compromised in the fight against terrorism, or even just as a casualty of the political tit for tat that has Europe second-guessing whether or not they’ll let you in their borders.
Now, more than ever, it’s time to set up your Plan B, get that second residency, and work toward a second passport. If you are ready for your personal Strategy Call, apply here, or click on the link below to view my free strategy session for setting up your Plan B offshore.