Second Passports

Second Passport Scams Exposed

Concept art of an article about Second Passport Scams Exposed: inside an empty airport gate (AI Art)

Despite repeated warnings, it seems that my message advocating avoidance of unauthorized second passport schemes has not made much of an impact. Some promoters of these programs have faced legal consequences. For example, the Paraguayan passport scam. But others continue to thrive.

The Mexico Passport Scam

A scam centered in Mexico is particularly persistent. It continues to lure unsuspecting individuals, despite my warning nearly two years ago. [Read more information here: Mexico passport scam.]

The original Mexican “program,” as advertised by the company behind it, promised completion in four months with just two visits to the country, all for the price of $30,000. This seemed like a bargain for a passport granting visa-free travel to 133 countries, including all EU member states.

Now, an allegedly improved version of the program is even faster. It has processing times as short as eight days, according to exchanges between the promoter and potential clients, along with a revealing video shared with me.

But skepticism is warranted. Mexican law requires five years of residency for citizenship applications. Applicants must also be fluent in Spanish and integrated into Mexican culture. The supposed “program” conveniently sidesteps these conditions.

Secret Video Exposes Second Passport Scam

A leaked video confirms suspicions of corruption. In it, the promoter openly discusses bribing officials to speed up passport issuance. Despite these illicit methods, success remains uncertain, as evidenced by the promoter’s own admissions of potential failures.

The existence of this video makes it likely that this promoter will be indicted for immigration fraud in Mexico or in Canada, as he is a Canadian citizen with substantial business operations in Canada. But there are many others engaged in similar conduct. And the risks to those who buy a passport in an “unofficial” program, like the Mexican one, are very real.

Risks and Consequences

First, the passport might be recalled and your citizenship withdrawn. After all, no government stays in power forever. What happens if the new administration decides to “clean house” and fires the corrupt officials who issued bogus passports?

That’s more than a theoretical risk. In 2012, Canada revoked the citizenship of more than 3,000 naturalized citizens after a fraud investigation.

If you’re a US citizen or resident, you could also be subject to prosecution and imprisonment for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. If you bribe, or pay someone to bribe, a foreign official in exchange for some benefit, you could be imprisoned for violating this law. And that’s precisely how this Mexican “program” works.

Also, every time you use the passport to cross an international border, you’re taking a chance. If border officials somehow learn you got the passport under false pretenses, you could face years in prison. That’s especially true if you use the passport to enter or leave the country that issued it. A few years ago, the same promoter running the Mexican “program” warned that the fake Bulgarian passports he was selling at the time shouldn’t be used to enter or leave Bulgaria.

Another practical consideration is renewing the passport. Most passports are valid for a 10-year period. If you weren’t legally naturalized in the country that issued your passport, it might not be renewable.

The Difference Between White, Grey and Black Market Passport Programs

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 technically genuine and officially issued, but 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, usually someone 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 neither genuine nor 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 only need to catch you once. And they regularly receive updates on blacklisted passport numbers from Interpol and other sources.

Gray market passports may be cancelled at any time, especially once the insider responsible for their issuance is found out or leaves office. In virtually all cases, it is impossible to renew a black market passport.

How to Spot Second Passport Scams

How can you know whether the passport you’re considering is legitimate or a gray or black market offering? We look for the following red flags:

  • Too cheap. The total cost of the lowest-priced, legitimate citizenship-by-investment program, in the Commonwealth of Dominica, comes to about $130,000 for a single applicant or $210,000 for a married applicant with up to two children under the age of 18. Any passport issued for much less than that amount should be presumed to be a grey market passport unless the company offering it can point to a specific law authorizing its issuance.
  • Too easy. No country issues a certificate of nationality and a passport without a detailed application process, including a criminal background check.
  • Too fast. It takes months, not days, for a country to issue a passport. The levels of bureaucracy are deep, and the wheels move slowly. Anyone promising an overnight solution is working from, at best, the grey areas of the law.
  • Too anonymous. Any promoter that tells you that you have to pay cash for your passport, that the ability to issue the passport is based on a secret law or regulation, or that promises to issue you a passport in any name you choose, falls into this category.
  • Too limited. Passports that come without a certificate of nationality fit into this category.
  • Too late. Some promoters continue to market the now-defunct citizenship-by-investment program in Belize, for instance. Belize ended its program more than 20 years ago, yet you still see offers out there on the internet.

How to Avoid Common Second Passport Program Scams

If you’re looking for a second passport, there are only a few legitimate options.

The best way to qualify for citizenship is through your ancestry. If your parents, sometimes grandparents, were born in another country, there’s a good chance you qualify for citizenship there. Ireland is the best-known example, but there are many others.

Another route to a second passport is your spouse. If he or she has a citizenship other than the one you have, there’s likely a procedure in place where you can acquire it as well.

The best option is ordinary naturalization in another country. In most cases, that requires that you first qualify for residence. You must then live in that country for at least two years, more commonly, 5-10 years, until you qualify for citizenship. Once you do, you can then apply for a passport. Argentina, Peru, and the Dominican Republic are probably the easiest countries to qualify for citizenship after a relatively short period of legal residence.

Finally, there are a handful of officially recognized programs that provide a 100% legal path to citizenship and passports in a reasonably short time. The most affordable of these programs are in the Caribbean: the Commonwealth of Dominica, St. Kitts & Nevis, and most recently, Antigua & Barbuda and Grenada.

More Information on How to Get a Second Passport

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