During World War II, the Nazis stripped millions of Jews of their German citizenship and shipped them off to concentration camps. Most died there, but a few thousand fortunate survivors had an escape plan: a second passport they could use to escape the Nazis to freedom.
This wasn’t the last time a second passport became a lifesaver. Just before the brief 2009 war between Israel and Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, Israel allowed individuals possessing a foreign passport to leave Palestinian territory. Hundreds left before Israel’s ground forces invaded the Gaza Strip. Over 1,000 Palestinians (and a handful of Israelis) died.
How you would react if the country you live in now became a war zone? Would the authorities allow you to leave your own country? Or, as in Gaza or Nazi Germany, would you become a virtual prisoner? Further, what would you do if your own country—or an authority controlling access to it—wouldn’t allow you to return home?
One way to protect yourself from these grim possibilities is to obtain a second citizenship and passport. And, there are numerous other benefits. A second passport can expand your travel possibilities, reduce your profile to terrorists, give you the right to reside in other countries, and give you a way to cross international borders if your primary passport is lost or stolen.
For Americans, a second passport has another benefit: it is an essential prerequisite to expatriation; i.e., giving up U.S. citizenship in order to permanently disconnect from U.S. taxing authority.
Almost every country has a program offering citizenship or passports to individuals with a family history in that nation. In Ireland, persons with at least one Irish-born grandparent qualify for Irish citizenship and passport. Many countries allow spouses of citizens to apply for citizenship and passport, usually after a specified period of residence. In Austria, the ordinary 10-year period of residence necessary to qualify for a passport and citizenship is reduced to six years if you’re married to an Austrian citizen.
Your religion may also be a viable route to alternative citizenship. For instance, Jews who immigrate to Israel are entitled to Israeli citizenship and passport. Since Israel has compulsory military service, taking out Israeli citizenship may not be prudent for parents of teenagers and young adults.
If you don’t qualify based on these factors, in most countries, you can acquire citizenship following a period of prolonged residence. Among other countries, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States exchange residence rights for domestic investment. Eligibility also depends on your age, education, life skills, health, and other criteria. Your spouse and minor children can often accompany you, although in some cases they may be subject to a separate qualification process. Some countries (e.g., the Netherlands) recognize same-sex marriages or domestic partnerships for immigration purposes. In most cases, after you live in a country for three to ten years of continuous legal residence, you and the family members accompanying you can apply for citizenship and passport.
Residents of the overseas territories of some nations, notably the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, qualify for citizenship in the home country. For instance, individuals living in one of the Dutch Caribbean island territories for a period of five years or longer may qualify for a Dutch passport. To qualify, you must demonstrate good conduct and substantial integration, including oral and written fluency in the Dutch language.
A handful of countries offer “instant” citizenship in return for an economic contribution. The Commonwealth of Dominica and the Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis are the only countries with an official, legally mandated, economic citizenship.
The least expensive option is to obtain economic citizenship from Dominica. Under this country’s program, you may acquire citizenship and passport in return for a cash contribution. Total costs including all fees for a single applicant come to about US$135,000. Add US$75,000 if you need a passport for your spouse and another US$25,000 for up to two children under 18. Dominica passport holders can travel without a visa, or obtain a visa upon entry, to more than 100 countries and territories.
The Nestmann Group, Ltd. is a fully licensed and authorized provider of economic citizenship in the Commonwealth of Dominica, and the only one in the United States with this status.
In the Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis, there are two ways to obtain economic citizenship. The most practical strategy is to make a direct contribution. Total costs including all fees for a single applicant under this option come to about US$285,000, or US$335,000 for an applicant with up to three dependents. Alternatively, you may purchase qualifying property worth a minimum of US$400,000. However, fees and taxes under this option are much higher than if you make a direct contribution. St. Kitts & Nevis passport holders can travel without a visa, or obtain a visa upon entry, to more than 120 countries, including nearly all of the 27 member countries of the European Union.
Many countries have in their citizenship laws provisions allowing the government to offer citizenship and passport to individuals who provide a significant benefit to that country. These countries do not offer “economic citizenship” as such. Rather, individuals with a genuine interest in that country and who are prepared to provide an outstanding service to it (including an investment) may be rewarded with citizenship and passport without requiring a period of prolonged residence or proof of fluency in the official language. Two countries in the European Union offer such an opportunity, with total costs starting at a minimum of US$600,000. Holders of an EU passport can live and work in any of the 27 members of the European Union.
In all cases, applicants must pass a strict vetting process that includes a comprehensive criminal background check.
An Internet search will reveal many companies offering to sell passports from countries that don’t legally sanctioned economic citizenship programs. In recent years, passports from Costa Rica, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Ireland, Lithuania, and other countries have been offered. All these offers are either scams or involve illegally purchased or stolen documents. Securing a passport on this basis, through fraudulent misrepresentation, either directly or through an agent is clearly illegal. Your passport could be revoked at any time and you could be subject to arrest and/or deportation.
The Nestmann Group, Ltd. can assist individuals seeking a second passport through an economic contribution or investment in Dominica, St. Kitts & Nevis, and in selected EU countries. Please contact us for more information.
Copyright (c) 2011 by Mark Nestmann