Second Passports

How to Get a Second Passport: 7 Legal Ways

Concept art of an article about How to Get a Second Passport: couple holding luggage walking in an airport gate (AI Art)

The process of getting a second passport is a big decision. And one where’s there’s a one-size-fits-all approach.

Some people are lucky enough to claim a second citizenship through their parents or grandparents. But many are not. In that case, they must qualify for it in another way.

In this article, we’ll talk about all the ways to get a second citizenship and the passport that comes along with it.

#1: Citizenship by Ancestry (aka Citizenship by Descent)

Most countries automatically convey citizenship to children of individuals who are citizens of that country, especially if the child was born there.

Certain countries allow descendants (usually children or grandchildren, sometimes even great-grandchildren) of a former citizen to claim citizenship for themselves.

This is often the quickest and most cost-effective route to a second citizenship and passport if you have foreign ancestry.

Here are a few examples: 

  • Citizens of a country who have children abroad can often claim citizenship for those children if they apply before the child turns 18.
  • Even after becoming adults, children may still be able to claim the citizenship of their parents’ home country.
  • Some countries offer citizenship to those with grandparents or sometimes even great-grandparents who were citizens, such as Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Bulgaria, and Nigeria.
  • A smaller number of countries grant citizenship under certain conditions to even more remote descendants of former citizens. These countries include Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Hungary, Italy, and Poland.

Applicants generally need to show their qualifying ancestor never lost or renounced their citizenship in their adoptive country. If they did lose their citizenship, it must have been after the birth of the next qualifying generation. For instance, if your maternal grandfather was an Irish citizen, but renounced that citizenship before your mother was born, you would not be eligible for Irish citizenship by ancestry.

#2: Citizenship by Having a Child in Another Country

Some countries also offer a path to citizenship for the parents of children born there.

Here are a few examples: 

  • A child born in Brazil is immediately granted citizenship. The parents can apply for “residency of indefinite term,” allowing them to live and work in Brazil. The normal naturalization period is reduced from 4 years to 1 year.
  • Mexico has a similar policy. Children born there automatically become citizens. Their parents become permanent residents. The naturalization period is reduced from 4 years to 2 years.

Proficiency in the local language is usually required for the parents to get citizenship in these cases.

#3: Citizenship by Marriage

Some countries allow a citizen’s spouse to claim citizenship by marriage. This can happen immediately or via a fast-track residency permit.

Here are a few examples: 

  • In the United States, a non-citizen who marries a US citizen can apply for a green card and, after 3 years of legal residency, apply for US citizenship.
  • Austria shortens the normal 10-year residency requirement for citizenship to 6 years for a non-Austrian citizen married to an Austrian.
  • Some countries, like Italy, allow the spouse of a citizen to apply for citizenship after 3 years of marriage, regardless of residency. This is reduced to 2 years if both spouses live in Italy.

The US, Austria, and Italy all offer citizenship paths for non-citizen spouses in same-sex marriages. But many countries only recognize opposite-sex marriages for these purposes.

#4: Citizenship by Religion

Those with a certain religion, like Judaism and Thai Buddhism, are able to claim Israeli or Thai citizenship based on that religion.

  • In Israel, the “The Law of Return” grants almost instant citizenship to Jews or those who convert to Judaism. It also applies to their children and grandchildren.
  • Thailand grants citizenship and passports to young men who become Buddhist monks. This process takes about a year of training and ordination as a Theravadin Buddhist forest monk. It’s even possible to train to be a monk at a monastery where most communication is in English; Wat Pah Nanachat.But this option is not practical for most. It requires a lifelong commitment to poverty and sexual abstinence. You must also renounce any existing citizenship.

#5: Citizenship by Military Service

Some countries award young adults a path to citizenship and a passport in exchange for a period of military service, especially in wartime.

Here are a few examples: 

  • In the United States, non-citizens can get citizenship without a green card by serving in the military during a “designated period of hostilities.” This has been the case since 9/11. There is no minimum service requirement.Otherwise, you are exempt from all physical presence requirements for citizenship if you are still serving in the US Armed Forces or within six months of separation.
  • Ukraine recently created a program allowing foreigners to fight in its “international legion” and receive Ukrainian citizenship under a simplified procedure. But you must agree to renounce your existing citizenship.
  • France offers citizenship after 3 years of honorable service in the French Foreign Legion, with a minimum 5-year enlistment.

Many countries discourage their citizens from serving in foreign militaries, as it can potentially lead to loss of citizenship. The US no longer automatically revokes citizenship in such cases.

Indeed, The Nestmann Group once had a client who became a French citizen by virtue of his participation in the French Foreign Legion. He lost his US citizenship as a result but was able to get it back after filing an appeal. Decades later, he lost his US citizenship a second time by voluntarily relinquishing it.

#6: Citizenship by Naturalization (Long-Term Residency)

This is by far the most common path on how to get a second passport.

Almost every country in the world offers this path to citizenship.

In brief, you enter a country and start with either a temporary or permanent residence visa. You can qualify for the visa based on your work skills, a qualifying investment, a job offer, or proof of a minimum income, among other possibilities. After a certain period of time (generally five years or longer, but sometimes less), and after fulfilling certain requirements, you can apply for citizenship.

  • Eligibility for citizenship can depend on factors like age, education, skills, health, and ethnic background.
  • The type of visa is important. Temporary residence visas generally don’t lead to citizenship. In most cases, a sustained period of legal residency while holding a permanent residence visa will eventually allow you to apply for citizenship.
  • During the residency period, applicants must live in the country for a certain amount of time and show integration into the culture, including (in most cases) proficiency in the official language.
  • Good conduct, with no criminal record, is essential to qualify for citizenship.
  • Some countries also require applicants to pass a written or oral test on the language, history, and culture of the country. The test is administered in the country’s official language.

#7: Citizenship by Investment

Around a dozen countries offer immediate citizenship to individuals who meet certain basic requirements and are willing to either invest in or donate to the local economy.

Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programs are the fastest, easiest way to enjoy the freedom that comes with a second passport.

Here is a list of the cheapest citizenship by investment programs on the market. It starts with the lowest cost.

Which Citizenship by Investment Program is right for you?

At the end of the day, the best citizenship by investment program is not necessarily the cheapest; it’s the one that will help you reach your goals.

That may include visa-free access to a certain country. Or maybe you’re looking to move to the Caribbean and want to be treated as a local. Or perhaps you’re looking for a second citizenship that can open the door to new investment opportunities.

Whatever that goal is, be sure that the second passport you get will help you do that. We can help of course. Just schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our Associates to learn more.

Beware of Second Passport Scams

If you spend any great amount of time looking for a second passport,  you’ll probably come across the “color coding” system often applied to these documents — “white”, “gray” and “black.”

They all refer to different levels of legality.

A white passport is authorized legally through the proper channels in any given country.

A gray (market) passport is one that’s genuine, but issued in an unofficial and unauthorized manner. In most cases, the promoter finds a corruptible insider with the authority to issue a passport with little to no questions asked. They are often from the office responsible for issuing passports.

Depending on the quality of the insider access, a certificate of naturalization may or may not accompany the passport. Without it, the passport might not be renewable, and you may be unable to even use it to enter and leave the country or to open a local bank account.

A black (market) passport is one that is counterfeited or manufactured from lost or stolen blanks. The passport itself is not genuine, nor is it officially issued. National intelligence agencies, organized crime families, and terrorist groups all trade in black market passports.

Using gray-market or black-market passports is risky. Border control authorities need catch you only once. And they regularly receive updates of blacklisted passport numbers from Interpol and other sources. Gray-market passports may be cancelled anytime, especially once the insider responsible for their issuance is found out or leaves office. It is impossible to renew a black-market passport.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

It seems to have slowed down a bit in the last few years but there are still a lot of scam artists in this business. So if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Avoid the cheapest players.

There’s often a reason they’re so cheap. Maybe they don’t have much experience. Maybe they offer little or no client service. At least in this business, it pays to invest in the right guide.

How to Get a Second Passport: Frequently Asked Questions

How easy is it to get a second passport?

Some countries make it almost impossible to claim citizenship, no matter how long you live there. Others – like Singapore – just make it very difficult.

But most countries have a well-defined path that’s really about “checking the boxes.” Some countries have strict requirements to actually live in-country. Others require your neighbors to “vote” you in. Most require a basic knowledge of the local language before they’ll give you citizenship.

That’s a big advantage of the Citizenship by Investment programs. So long as you have a clean criminal record and meet a few basic requirements, the process is very straightforward. No residency. No language tests. Most of them don’t even require a visit. The downside is the upfront cost.

How long does it take to get a second passport?

This is an important consideration. Most countries make you wait years to qualify under the normal way. It’s typical to plan anywhere from three to ten years.

Citizenship by Investment programs are much faster because you’re paying for it. A typical application will go from start to finish in 6-9 months.

How much does it cost to get a second passport?

Cost is a factor for many second passport clients. There’s always a price.

If it’s ancestry, unless your family kept really good records going back decades (or longer), it will take a lot of time to put together the documentation and deal with government offices. But this is the usually the most cost-effective option to get a second passport.

If it’s by naturalization, you’re going to pay in terms of time (by living there for some years) and money paid to the foreign government for paperwork processing. Plus, whatever you pay to consultants to help you get through the process.

If it’s Citizenship by Investment, there’s no time cost but you will have to put in some money. Broadly, there are two types – the “investment” (such as donations, real estate, or government bonds), and the “others” (legal, processing and security fees mostly). Depending on which program you choose and how many members of your family are applying, total costs start at around $125,000 and can add up to $1 million or more.

What is a good second passport to get?

How much visa-free and visa-on-arrival access the passport gives is the most objective value of any second passport. Because getting a visa to go somewhere is a pain. A second passport with lots of this “VIP” access is thus better than one with less.

Countries like Japan, Singapore and Germany can get you almost everywhere without a hassle – around 190 countries. People from places like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan find it hardest to travel.

Most of the citizenship by investment programs mostly fall in the upper-middle range.

When I get a second passport, can I keep my US passport as well?

Many countries (including the US) broadly allow their citizens to have more than one citizenship. But not all do.

In some cases, the rules are there but not all that well (or ever) enforced. A perennial popular choice among our clients — Panama — is one such country. They don’t allow dual citizenship. But they have not been proactive in enforcing this rule. And although we strongly recommend our clients avoid Panamanian citizenship unless they are willing to give up their US citizenship, we know some still do. To our knowledge, they haven’t had an issue.

But some countries like Singapore are quite strict about this. If you don’t give up your current citizenship, you may be forced to give up Singapore citizenship.

This is an important issue that isn’t promoted well enough. Because if you apply for a second passport from a country that doesn’t allow you to have more than one, you could get yourself into trouble.

If you’re not sure about this, please feel free to reach out. There’s a good chance we’ve heard about it before and can help you on your way.

Will getting a second passport lower my US tax bill?

Sometimes people think that getting a second passport will automatically lower their tax bill or allow them to break free of Uncle Sam.

That’s simply not true.

The United States is almost unique in the requirement that citizens pay taxes on their worldwide income simply because they’re American.

It’s called citizenship-based taxation and effectively means that, even if you get a second passport and outside the US permanently, you’re still required to pay taxes and file paperwork at “home” every year.

The only legal way to completely break free of Uncle Sam is to formally expatriate and give up your US citizenship.

Need Help?

Since 1984, we’ve helped more than 15,000 customers and clients successfully build wealth protection plans and internationalize their lives. Second citizenships and passports play a big part in that, along with expatriation.

If you’re thinking about a second passport and you’d like an unbiased perspective on the various options, please schedule a free no-obligation consultation with a Nestmann Associate. We’ll help you determine whether a second passport is right for you, and whether we can help you legally get one. Click here to request a call.

On another note, many clients first get to know us by accessing some of our free publications, courses and reports on important topics that affect you.

Like How to Go Offshore in 2024, for example. It tells the story of John and Kathy, a couple we helped from the heartland of America. You’ll learn how we helped them go offshore and protect their nestegg from ambulance chasers, government fiat and the decline of the US Dollar… and access a whole new world of opportunities not available in the US. Simply click the button below to register for this free program.

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