Offshore Living

This Crazy Idea Could Affect Your Travel Plans

Those “heroic” EU bureaucrats in Brussels are at it again.

They’ve already banned bananas that are too curved. Water companies can’t claim that drinking water fights dehydration. Sales of high-powered vacuum cleaners are prohibited, too.

Now, they’re threatening to revoke the ability of US passport-holders to travel to the EU without a visa.

Currently, US citizens can visit all 28 EU nations without a visa, and several more that are part of the “Schengen region.” Citizens of 23 EU countries and five more that are part of Schengen don’t need a visa to visit the US for up to 90 days. Usually, they can obtain a near-instant online electronic travel authorization.

However, citizens of five EU countries must obtain visas in advance to visit the US: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania. They must submit to a face-to-face interview. Most succeed in scoring a visitor’s visa, but 11% of Romanian and 17% of Bulgarian applicants are rejected. Still, that’s a lot lower rejection rate than, say, Afghanistan (61%) or Laos (67%).

The US is taking the position, in effect, that some EU citizenships are better than others. That frustrates many in the EU, especially citizens of the five affected countries. So earlier this month, the European Commission (EC) – the EU’s governing body – met to consider a suspension of US visa-waiver privileges.

What’s ironic, though, is that while the EC is considering imposing visa restrictions for Americans, EU members themselves are reimposing their own entry restrictions.

It’s easy to understand why. Millions of migrants from Libya, Syria, Iraq, and other war-torn countries are streaming into the EU. The EU has spent billions to stem the influx, but its generous asylum policies continue to draw refugees fleeing war zones. Migrants are also blamed for the terrorist attacks in Paris last November and in Brussels last month, although the attackers were all EU nationals.

At last count, at least five EU members – Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, and Hungary – have reimposed border controls for travel within the Schengen region. Norway and Sweden, which are part of this region but not the EU, have also restored border controls.

What’s more, a new study from a German think tank claims that restoring full border checks would save the EU more than €65 billion (US$72 billion) annually. Cost savings would result primarily from ending mass migration. Sweden, for instance, has budgeted more than €6 billion to support immigrants in 2016.

“Schengen is dead in its current form,” says Eric Ciotti, a senior member of France’s conservative opposition party. And Europe’s voters agree; nearly three in four people in France want to scuttle the Schengen agreement. About two-thirds of German and Italian citizens feel the same way.

If the EU scraps the Schengen agreement, the decision will have some unintended consequences. One is that it will greatly reduce the value of an EU passport. Currently, anyone who holds citizenship and a passport from an EU country can live or work in any other EU country. And in theory, once in the Schengen zone, an EU citizen – or anyone else – can travel anywhere else in the zone without needing to show their passport at a border checkpoint. But even now, that’s no longer possible, as an increasing number of EU nations reinstitute border controls.

Several EU countries offer wealthy foreigners the opportunity to obtain residence or citizenship in an expedited procedure in exchange for a large contribution or investment. Perhaps the best-known offer comes from Malta. In exchange for a €650,000 (US$730,000) donation, the purchase of €150,000 in Maltese government bonds, and other financial requirements, Malta promises qualified applicants citizenship and a passport after a year’s residence. Cyprus, Hungary, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain also offer well-heeled investors an expedited path to citizenship or residence.

These programs will become less attractive as EU border controls proliferate, officially sanctioned or not.

At the same time, much less-expensive “citizenship-by-investment” programs in several Caribbean countries could experience renewed interest. The least expensive such program in this region comes from the Commonwealth of Dominica, an English-speaking island located about 1,400 miles southeast of Miami.

There are two options to acquire citizenship and a passport through a qualifying investment in Dominica.

  • Contribution option: The minimum contribution for citizenship and a passport is US$100,000 for a single applicant. Larger contributions qualify your spouse, children under 26, and qualified adult dependents to citizenship and a passport.

  • Real estate option: Alternatively, you may purchase qualifying real estate in Dominica with a minimum value of $200,000.

Now, a Dominica passport won’t give you the right to live or work in the EU, although you can currently visit any of the 28 EU members without a visa. You can also visit 1n10 other countries without a visa or by obtaining a visa on arrival or online in advance. And since Dominica welcomes EU visitors without a visa, the European Commission isn’t debating reprisals against it.

In case you’re interested in this option, The Nestmann Group is the only US-based firm that is licensed by the government of Dominica to process applications under this option. For more information, contact us at .

Mark Nestmann

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