Are you a high net worth individual?
Then you are probably considering getting a second passport.
And it makes total sense.
With a second passport at hand, you can dramatically increase your personal and economic freedom.
Who wouldn’t want that? Having dual citizenship – or even multiple citizenships – is an important step to internationalizing your life so that no single government ‘owns’ you.
Looking after your growing net worth, tending to your business, and balancing family life all at the same time is hard work. You don’t need to worry about what happens if there is civil unrest or if your government suddenly decides to raise the tax rates.
Not if you have ‘citizenship insurance’. Not if you have a second passport.
A second passport will ensure that you reap all the benefits – tax optimization, improved travel potential, protection against controlling governments and more – counterbalanced by an acceptable (to you) level of risk.
REASONS TO BECOME A DUAL CITIZEN
Freedom of Movement
The Time Is Now
Not all second passports are created equal. Some governments will bend over backwards for your investment dollars or your entrepreneurial prowess. Meanwhile, others will just want to leech money off you for the rest of your life, no matter where you reside.
Looking at you, United States.
This is exactly why you need to strongly consider obtaining a second citizenship.
Below, I will delve into all of this and explain the benefits of obtaining multiple passports, walk you through the methods to obtaining another citizenship, and urge you to do it sooner rather than later.
It’s getting harder and harder to get that second passport, and the window of opportunity might be closing soon.
WHY DO WE HAVE PASSPORTS?
Before I get into the details of what a second passport can be useful for, let’s talk about your first one.
Did you know that no one in the world even had passports before World War I?
Everyone was a citizen of somewhere, but they had no documents that they needed to bring along when crossing international borders.
Obviously, that’s not how things are now.
Your passport defines your identity as much as it defines the places where you’re able to go and the countries you’re able to live in, invest in and bring your family to if you wish.
I’m a strong believer that no one should be forced to be a slave to one government merely because of their birth in that country.
That’s because, throughout history, governments have used citizenship as a tool of economic enslavement, rather than a cherished gift.
It used to be that a passport was a tool of convenience; your ruler gave you a set of papers to show to another ruler to request your safe passage through their territory.
Now, passports are just another form of government identification. If your government takes your passport away, you might as well just lock yourself in your house.
Owe a small balance to the IRS? They can and will put kibosh on your passport – or refuse to even issue one to you at all.
The proposals that have floated around Capital Hill to effectively limit freedom of movement among US citizens are mind-boggling.
In fact, a US, UK or other ‘western’ passport can even be a strike against you in a tough, yet unlikely, situation. Select countries are more likely to be a target in a terrorist attack.
Why not have two passports, then?
Even in times of peace, have fun getting into Iran with a US passport, and forget about doing business there.
Countries around the world know this, too. Places like Switzerland and Singapore have made it harder to get a second passport from them because the worldwide demand for second passports is increasing.
Wealthy Chinese, Russians, and Middle Easterners realize the value of diversifying beyond their own countries, and many Americans overseas are learning the hard lesson of just how much a government can limit your options.
A Swiss businessman could outpace an American business simply because they can do business in more places around the world, and with fewer restrictions.
I think you know where this is going – you need a second passport sooner rather than later to gain back your personal and financial freedom on a global stage.
The Five Ways to Become a Citizen
The easiest country to get citizenship depends on your bank account, your desire to live abroad, and your family tree.
Would you want a completely hands-off approach and go for a citizenship based purely on the fact that your grandparents were citizens of a place?
Or would you want to move to a foreign country and spend four or five years there before applying for citizenship?
You can do either, or both.
Here are five ways to get a second citizenship:
1. Citizenship by Descent
If you’re lucky, you may be eligible for a second passport right now – without even knowing it!
Certain countries offer ancestral citizenship to those who can prove family ties to the country.
This means you may be able to hit the dual citizenship jackpot.
Some people can even claim multiple second citizenships using the ancestral method.
My team and I have personally helped people get citizenships by way of decent in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Lithuania, Poland, Mexico and Vietnam.
We could help you next, particularly if you have heritage in Israel, Ireland, Brazil, Austria, Italy, Hungary or Spain!
2. Citizenship by Marriage
If you’re married or you’re planning to tie the knot, then you’re in luck. A citizenship by marriage is almost a guarantee.
We’re not saying you should marry for citizenship, but if you are already in the process of saying “I do”, why not consider citizenship too?
Countries like France and the United States will fast-track the naturalization timeline for spouses to obtain citizenship.
And then there are places, such as Cape Verde, where you can get married and immediately become a citizen.
3. Citizenship by Investment
Also called ‘economic citizenship,’ this is usually the fastest and easiest way to get a second passport.
The process is straightforward: a country will confer citizenship upon you in exchange for an investment in the country or a purchase of real estate.
It will usually take about six months to get this done. So, don’t buy into one of the stories by the scam artists who promise to get you your passport in 60 days – it simply isn’t possible.
There normally isn’t a residency requirement. In fact, sometimes you don’t even need to visit!
Several countries offer economic citizenship programs ‘off the rack,’ with several others offering more tailored solutions.
In general, the prices for economic citizenship programs go up over time, with an occasional new player offering a lower price.
A common question we get asked here at Nomad Capitalist is: ‘Are economic citizenship programs worth it?’
They can be, especially if you need fast citizenship.
However, there are far cheaper ways to get your second citizenship if you’re willing to be patient or have a little luck on your side.
Here’s where you can get a citizenship by way of investing:
4. ‘Fast-track naturalization’
This is a bit of a curve-ball because there are no hard-cut rules to granting fast-track citizenship. Often referred to as citizenship by exception, the decision to grant fast-track citizenship is often at the discretion of the head of state, be it a president or a sultan.
A good example of fast-track naturalization is the Middle East. The countries there often want to recruit promising athletes from Africa to compete for them.
So, they’ll hand them a passport and grant them Qatari citizenship, for instance, and off they go to the Olympic games.
It has also happened in Asia where they have naturalized people who are extremely skilled in arts.
And a final opportunity presents itself to those who are willing to make a substantial investment (that will most likely be returned, often with a profit) in a country.
Beware: this isn’t equal to paying a guy in a trench coat to ‘out you in the system’ and spew out a passport.
We mean following a legal and constitutional process in which you can be granted citizenship based on special circumstances that are set out by the government.
5. Citizenship by Naturalization
This is where you spend time on the ground, build up legal residence time in another country, and eventually apply for citizenship as the ‘payoff’.
The same way you’ve seen immigrants attending ceremonies to become naturalized as American/British/Canadian/etc. citizens, you can become a naturalized citizen of another country.
If you’re willing to be patient, that is.
It’s a process that can take as little as two years or as many as 30. This will depend on the country where you’re seeking your second passport.
Some of these countries, like Canada, have strict requirements for physical presence in the country. For others, you may only need to set foot in the country once or twice a year.
Fun fact: Tina Turner had to live in Switzerland for at least twelve years before being eligible for citizenship there.
And, sometimes, there are cultural, language and historical knowledge exams too, not to mention that some countries will require you to relinquish any other citizenship(s) that you might have.
Fastest Countries to Get a Second passport by Naturalization
There are some countries that, no matter how long you live there, won’t make you a citizen.
Other countries require you to obtain temporary residence privileges before becoming a permanent resident and eventually applying for citizenship.
Here are the some of the easiest places to become a citizen through “boots on the ground” second residency.
Nestled next to Argentina, Uruguay is one of the most developed countries in South America, with a high standard of living.
It is easy to get second residency in Uruguay, and you can apply for citizenship in three years if you’re married (singles can apply after five years).
However, you should actually live in Uruguay for the first year or so after applying for residency in order to show that you are serious and ensure that your future citizenship is attainable.
Brazil offers one of the best travel documents in South America, and the country itself has every type of landscape and lifestyle you can imagine.
While Brazil is part of the embattled BRICs, you can become a Brazilian citizen in four years if you’re willing to start a business there or make an investment of roughly US$75,000 or more.
Brazil is also unique in that it does not extradite its citizens from Brazilian soil.
This emerging South American country offers a straight-forward permanent residency program that allows you to apply for citizenship after three years, provided you make some form of economic investment in the country.
This can be as simple as opening and funding a bank account with as little as $5,000.
You can also start a small business and pay yourself a taxable salary or invest several thousand dollars in Paraguayan stocks.
Panama’s Friendly Nations visa program makes it extremely easy for citizens of over forty countries to get residency there with a $5,000 bank deposit and one other “economic tie”, such as ownership in a Panamanian corporation.
Once you are legally resident in Panama, you can get citizenship in as little as five years.
Believe it or not, Canada offers a fast timeline to naturalization.
The country recently abolished its Immigrant Investor Program, which means you’ll likely have to have a job in order to move there.
However, once you have official residence, you can apply for citizenship after just four years. It should be noted that you are required to spend all but a few months of that time in Canada, a rule that immigration officials will strictly enforce.
Second Passport Portfolio – No Limits
Just like an investor will create a portfolio of diverse investments to minimize risk and maximize return, a person with a passport portfolio will seek multiple citizenships.
You don’t need to stop at two passports, provided that the countries that they are from allow for dual (or more) citizenship.
Perhaps one passport would open more travel opportunities for you. And the other one would allow you to make some pretty profitable investments.
Having a second passport portfolio could be the best thing that happened to you.
If you stick to the rules of what’s legal and what’s not, all your citizenships will be legitimately gained and used.
No one will even bat an eyelid.
As you might know, I’m a strong proponent of ‘government arbitrage’ – it’s great fun to pit governments against each other to compete over you.
This is an integral part of the Nomad Capitalist philosophy to go where you are treated best.
A passport portfolio will help you achieve just that, cherry picking the benefits you want from each of the countries you want passports for.
That said, you should also know that, as with everything, there are also risks associated with second passports and citizenships.
Beware: Scams to Watch Out For
There are a lot of myths about second passports.
Unfortunately, the increasing desire for second passports has created a cottage industry of scammers and misinformation peddlers. There are several second passport scams to watch out for:
Diplomatic passports. No, not even some banana republic is not going to make you part of their diplomatic corps. Diplomats are subject to certain standards around the world, and even countries with looser standards wouldn’t want to give away such a high honor in their country. And certainly not for $7,000.
Cancelled economic citizenship programs. While there are new countries starting to offer citizenship by investment programs, others no longer exist. For instance, Ireland once offered citizenship in exchange for investment in the country. While Ireland now offers residency and the potential for future naturalization to those who invest in Irish businesses or government bonds, they don’t have an instant passport program. Belize also used to have a program that no longer exists.
“Camouflage passports”. Camouflage passports were initially offered to Americans working in high-risk places. They are passports from countries that no longer exist, like British Honduras or Rhodesia. However, some scam websites claim you can become a citizen of a country that changed its name years ago – and never offered second passports.
Gray market passports. This is where someone bribes a guy in the immigration department to take some passports and put their clients’ names on them. Promoters will refer to their “special friend” at the immigration office. Sure, the passport itself is “real”, as much as a framed photograph of the Mona Lisa is “real”. Gray market passports may or may not be entered into the official system, and they may be cancelled if the government official taking bribes is found out, or if a future government decides to take action against “foreigners”.
Black market passports. Black market passports are always illegal. They are the domain of scammers and are not legitimate in any way. They could be stolen or counterfeited. They could also be as simple as cutting someone else’s picture and information out and putting yours in.
“Banking passports”. Some promoters offer “banking passports” which they advise you not to travel on; the idea is that immigration officials would discover their fraud and throw you – the passport holder – in jail, while a bank would not.
Using an illegitimate passport could cause you a world of trouble.
Not only are these scam passports difficult or impossible to renew, but you’d be silly to think you could get away with using a fraudulently issued passport forever.
Governments use linked systems to determine which passports are legitimate, and an illegitimate passport could be cancelled at any moment, leaving you in hot water the next time you cross a border.
My advice: always go the official and legitimate route for obtaining a citizenship. You stand everything to gain and nothing to lose.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
When in doubt, consider that you can only ever expect to have two of the following when getting a second passport: cheap, easy, or fast.
If someone is offering all three, it’s too good to be true.
Now, which combo of cheap, easy, or fast will be the right one for you?
If you need someone with their ear to the ground – that’s the Nomad Capitalist team.
Few will successfully navigate the scam-filled world of obtaining a second citizenship without any help at all.
Doing it yourself will cost more in the long-run, too. Maybe you didn’t expect a tax curve-ball that you got served?
Consulting someone knowledgeable beforehand can help avoid this, and worse scenarios too.
It’s Getting Harder
It’s been pretty smooth sailing in the second citizenship world over the past decade.
Yet, recent years have seen things change.
Countries are making their naturalization timelines longer.
For example, it used to take three years to obtain Belgian citizenship by way of naturalization, but the government cracked down on some of the ‘laxer’ conditions and raised the bar to five years.
It is highly likely that this was triggered by the immigrant crisis, as Belgium is certainly not a country on the radar for tax optimization (their income tax rates go up to an effective rate of 50%).
Another example would be Georgia, which recently upped its naturalization process from one that used to take a solid six years to one that now takes a decade. Now, that will require serious commitment from the person applying for Georgian citizenship.
Plus, there are the language, culture and history requirements to pass too, which won’t be easy to fake.
Citizenship by investment programs are also jacking up their rates: the required ‘donation’ or investment bar is being raised in quite a few jurisdictions.
And what about in places where they ask that you invest in real estate? Well, real estate prices are soaring worldwide, and the threshold is higher than ever before if you want to invest your way to a second passport.
What you don’t want to do right now is miss out on opportunity or pounce on something that you think seems right, but won’t be in retrospect.
I remember when I was trying to obtain Dominican citizenship by way of investment and had to abandon ship. No need to do that again; don’t be too proud to ask for help.
You need some solid advice and expertise to do your due diligence.
My team and I have done this hundreds of times before – helping people break free from their solo citizenships and diversify their financial and passport portfolio.
We’re one application away, ready to help you next.
READY TO GET STARTED?
Our team constantly researches and analyzes 70+ citizenship programs so we can help our clients take advantage of what works in the real world, not theory. Learn how we can help you get your second passport.