Sanctuary cities for Americans – where can you go without a passport?

With all the talk about sanctuary cities in California and throughout the United States, I got thinking about sanctuary cities for Americans. Where can we go without a passport? Where can we go if we lose our US passports? Here are the sanctuary cities for Americans.

Note that this article is for American citizens who don’t have lost their passport for one reason or another. Those who’ve had their travel document taken by the government for taxes, back child support, etc. This post is NOT about where to hide out if you’re wanted by the law. It’s not about extradition, but rather where you can go without a passport.

I’m focused on US citizens who can’t get a passport or had their passport revoked. Such a person might qualify for a border crossing card and must have a US birth certificate. If you don’t have a US birth certificate, this article might not be for you.

The number of US citizens who will be without a passport is expected to increase dramatically in the next few months. The IRS will begin revoking or refusing to renew passports of anyone who owes more than $50,000. As this amount includes interest and penalties, this travel ben is expected to impact as many as 16 million Americans. For more, see Trump’s next travel ban will affect up to 16 million American citizens.

So, what sanctuary cities will accept US citizens? Where can you go without a passport? Your choices are VERY limited.

Your only options will be countries you can enter by land. All airport entry points require a passport. That cuts the list down to Canada and Mexico.

Canada will allow you to enter with a border crossing card but not on a birth certificate. If you can’t get a crossing card from the US government, your only option is Mexico.

  • Border crossing cards include the U.S. Passport Card, the Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL), the Enhanced Tribal Card (ETC), Trusted Traveler Cards (NEXUS, SENTRI, Global Entry and FAST cards), the new Enhanced Permanent Resident Card (PRC) or new Border Crossing Card (BCC).  Ready Lane locations can be found here. U.S. Passport Cards can be obtained through the Department of State.

When you drive from San Diego or another border city into Baja California, Mexico, there is no immigration checkpoint. You just drive or walk across and won’t be asked for your papers… unless you’re importing goods into Mexico. If you cross with a suitcase or two, you’ll have no problems.

You can’t import goods (including furniture and household items) or get a residency visa in Mexico without a valid US passport. For this reason, you’ll need to stay in one of Mexico’s sanctuary cities.

That is to say, you’ll be an illegal alien in Mexico. Technically, you need a visa if you’ll stay in the country longer than 72 hours. No one bothers with this visa, the FM-T, and it’s not enforced when you cross by land. It is enforced if you enter through an airport.

Also, if you stay longer than 6 months, you’re supposed to get an FM-2 or FM-3 visa. If you’re within a sanctuary city, it’s unlikely you’ll ever be asked for this document. I’ve been traveling across the border for 20 years and have never heard of anyone having a problem within the border region.

The border region is 20 to 30 kilometers into Mexico depending on point of entry.

Sanctuary cities in Mexico include:

  • Tijuana,
  • Mexicali,
  • Ensenada,
  • Rosarito,
  • Cabo San Lucas, and
  • San Felipe.

Most Americans prefer Ensenada and the developments outside of Rosarito. I’m a big fan of Tijuana. For my reasoning, see The Best Foreign Real Estate Market for 2017.

You can live in any of these sanctuary cities without fear of immigration roundups and without a valid US passport.

What about returning to the United States?

Back in 2009, the United States changed the law and began requiring a passport to enter the country by land. However, I personally know several Americans who crossed the border in 2016 and 2017 with a birth certificate and photo id. This is not publicised, but is generally accepted.  

This is anecdotal evidence and your experience might be different. But, much like living in a sanctuary city without proper papers, it’s a risk you’ll need to take because your government revoked your passport.

As a US citizen, you have the right to enter the United States. The government has used your passport as a weapon against you in an effort to collect a debt. They can’t put you in jail or revoke your citizenship, all they can do is take your passport.

So, if you’re not eligible for a passport, what can they do but let you back in the country? They can’t send you to the US embassy to apply for a new passport. They can’t force you to stay in Mexico… you’re not a citizen of Mexico and have no legal right to be there.

At the end of the day, all immigration can do is let you pass. It will be a headache, but you’ll get in eventually.

Remember that this article is about living without papers in a sanctuary city. It’s not a discussion of the law. For a discussion of what you would need to live legally and with a visa, see About.com and USA Today.

If you’re at risk of losing your passport, you have four options:

  1. Stay in the United States and take it,
  2. Move to a sanctuary city in northern Baja California, Mexico,
  3. Buy a second passport, or
  4. Get a permanent second residency.

If you don’t want to pay unto Caesar, and Mexico isn’t your cup of tequila, you must buy a second passport or secure permanent residency abroad before you lose your US passport. Once your passport is gone, a sanctuary city in Mexico is your only option.

The most popular second passport program in 2017 is St. Lucia. A single applicant will spend about $130,000, or invest $500,000 plus $50,000 in fees, to get a passport from this country. This gives you visa free access to the EU and the Schengen Region.

If you want a top passport, look to Malta. This allows you to live and work within the European Union and gives you visa free access to the United States and Canada.

If you don’t have a pile of cash to buy a second passport, you’ll need to get permanent residency before losing your US passport. This won’t allow you to travel the world as a second passport does, but it will allow you to live and work in your country of residence.

The fastest second residency is from Nicaragua. An investment of $35,000 gets you permanent residency immediately. That means, no matter what happens, you can’t be kicked out of the country. Then, after two years of residency, you can apply for citizenship and a passport.

The catch in Nicaragua is that you must spend 6 months a year in the country to maintain your residency. Nica wants residents who are buying things, bringing in money, and generally becoming part of the community.

Once your 2 years of residency are up, and you have your passport in hand, you’re no longer required to live in the country. You can spend as much or as little time in Nica as you wish. For more on Nicaragua, see The Fastest Low Cost Second Passport.

The easiest second residency is Panama. Invest $20,000 and get temporary residency. After 3 years of temporary visas, you’ll receive permanent residency. Then, after 5 years of residency, you can apply for citizenship and a passport.

What makes Panama the easiest second residency is the fact that you’re not required to live in the country to maintain your visa. You can come and go as you please… though, I suggest you visit the country once a year to keep up appearances. For more on Panama, see Best Panama Residency by Investment Program.

So, if you can commit to 12 out of 24 months in Nicaragua, this is the best second residency with the fastest path to a second passport available. If you are focused on residency, but not permanent residency, and can’t live abroad, Panama is the best option.

If you have the cash, and want a second passport immediately, St. Lucia and Malta are the best options in 2017. Malta is the best passport and St. Lucia is the best value proposition in the second passport market.

Just remember that you MUST complete your second passport or permanent residency before losing your US passport!

I hope you’ve found this article on sanctuary cities for Americans – where can you go without a passport to be helpful. For more information on this topic, or on securing a second passport or a second residency, please contact me at info@premieroffshore.com. All consultations are free and confidential.