Robert W from Omaha writes:
Dear Ambassador Nagel,
What are the ways to go about getting a second passport and why is a second passport good to have?
Your question about Second Passports is a very good one. There are a variety of ways that one can get a second passport. Generally one receives the citizenship of either the place they are born or the citizenship of their parents. For many people this is one and the same. If you were born in Nebraska and your parents are American, then your first citizenship and passport is US.
But, if for example your mother was from Canada and your father was from the US, then you’d be entitled to both US and Canadian citizenship and you would be a “dual” national. More and more people are born dual nationals today.
After citizenship by ancestry, there are really two ways that one can become a citizen of another country. The process is referred to a “naturalisation” and occurs when someone not from a country goes through the processes and procedures to become a citizen of that country. While every country has their own process governing the naturalisation process, most countries offer one of two methods (or both methods) to acquire second citizenship.
The first method is the traditional method of acquiring citizenship through a residency process. In most countries if you become a legal resident and live and work in that country for some period of time, then you have the right to apply for citizenship. In Europe, Beligium has the fastest residency period of three years after which one is eligible to apply for citizenship. Switzerland requires 12 years of permanent residency to apply for citizenship and Andorra has the longest period of twenty years to be come a citizen of that country.The average period of time to acquire citizenship through standard residency is five years.
Remember that the period of legal residency is predicated upon a person having legal residency to start. If someone enters a country illegally and stays for any period of time, the time spent will generally not lead to legal residency or citizenship. Personally, I like Portugal as a very flexible country when it comes to residency. There are so many different ways from getting a job, to making an investment, buying property or simply having sufficient means to support onesself that can be the bases of legal residency. I particularly like the “golden visa” because of the very flexible amount of time that one can spend in Portugal to maintain that residency status in the five years leading up to naturalization.
The second method of acquiring citizenship can be referred to as “fast track” citizenship, “citizenship by investment” or “economic citizenship”. This method of becoming a citizen generally shortens the residency requirement or eliminates it altogether. The US’ EB5 program is a very good example of how fast track citizenship works. Under the EB5 program a foreign investor can invest $1 million or more into a new or existing US business which creates at least ten new jobs and they immediately qualify for residency, which in turn leads to fast track permanent residency “green card” and US citizenship.
In Austria, one must invest 10 million euros (approximately $11.5) and create at least ten new jobs to get fast track Austrian citizenship. Many people believe Austrian citizenship is one of the best citizenships and second passports one might acquire but obviously only for those of considerable means.
In Malta, the total government costs, fees, expenses and “investment” is $1 million, only there really is no “investment”, but rather a simple payment to the Government of Malta that you will never recoup. Nevertheless the Maltese passport is also one of the best in the world and confers the ability to live and work throughout Europe as well as visa free travel to the United States and 150 other countries around the world which makes it very dought after.
Cyprus also has an interesting program. There are a couple ways to qualify, but the easiest for those with sufficient means is to buy Cyrpiot real estate of over 2 million euros which you must hold for three years. The passport itself can be obtained within 90 days of acquiring the real estate and passing all of the background checks. This makes Cyrprus one of the fastest second citizenship and passports to obtain.
If you don’t have millions to spend on a passport, there are also a variety of second citizenship programs in the Caribbean which range from $100,000 to half a million. These programs also can be accessed by making a donation to a government fund such as the St. Kitts “sugar fund” to help retrain displaced workers, or by purchasing property or through other investment. Again these programs can be very fast with a second passport obtained in a year or less.
Bob, I hope that you found this general overview on second passports to be useful. Next week i’ll continue and answer the second part of your question as to why people want to have a second passport. And for selecting your question about Second Passports to answer in this “Ask the Ambassador” series, i’ll be sending you a certificate to stay for a free week at the Exotic Caye Beach Resort” in San Pedro, Belize. With this certificate, You’ll have up to one year to visit Belize as my guest.
Ambassador Joel Nagel
About Joel Nagel
Joel Nagel is a U.S. licensed attorney who specializes in international business tax planning and offshore asset protection. Mr. Nagel has been practicing for over 20 years and is considered one of the top experts in planning, structuring, and operating an offshore business in a tax efficient manner. He is also the former Ambassador for Belize to Austria.
Joel Nagel sits on the boards of a wide variety of global companies including banks, real estate developers and online publishers. He brings a unique skill set and real world experience to each engagement.
Joel is a hands-on, in the trenches lawyer working on behalf of his clients. No matter the size or scope of your offshore business, he’s “been there and done that.”