Why Your US Passport Could Become Less Valuable
In May, the Department of State received approval for an emergency procedure for more thorough review of certain US visa applications.
The intention of the request was to prevent terrorists from entering the US. Security experts are skeptical that the new procedures will stop terrorists, since the US already has one of the world’s most stringent visa application processes. But a likely side effect of the new procedures together with other steps the US has taken to beef up border security will be greater hassles for US citizens traveling abroad.
The new procedure means that some visa applicants will need to complete an intrusive questionnaire (Form DS-5535). The form asks for details of all employment, residential addresses and international travel for the previous 15 years. It also demands the applicant provide the usernames for all social media platforms they have used in the previous five years.
Completion of the questionnaire is voluntary. But with a visa rejection rate exceeding 60% for applicants from many countries, failure to do so is likely to result in rejection for the overwhelming majority of applicants.
The State Department estimates only about 0.5% of visa applicants – individuals thought to present a terrorism or other national security risk – will be asked to complete Form DS-5535. That is about 65,000 applicants annually.
However, Form DS-5535 is just the beginning. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has confirmed it may require all visa applicants to turn over cellphones and social media passwords. A similar process would apply to citizens of the 38 countries that don’t require visas to visit the US. These countries include all 28 members of the European Union, Switzerland, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
And, of course, the Trump administration is seeking an outright ban on visas to citizens of seven majority Muslim countries. Two federal appeals courts rejected the travel ban, but yesterday, the Supreme Court partially upheld it.
It’s one thing to thump your chest and say you’re tough on immigration. But these new measures will undoubtedly affect US citizens traveling abroad.
For instance, many countries such as Brazil apply a reciprocity standard for citizens of foreign countries who wish to visit. This means that Brazil applies the same standards for a person wanting to visit Brazil that a Brazilian citizen would need to satisfy to enter that visitor’s country of citizenship. A Brazilian citizen who wishes to visit the US must pay an application fee of several hundred dollars, make a personal visit to a US consulate, and submit to an interview. Brazil applies the same standard for US citizens who wish to visit Brazil.
In addition, there’s already been some pushback to the new US policies: in January, the Iraqi parliament passed a reciprocity measure aimed at US citizens after President Trump issued his executive order targeting seven Muslim-majority countries.
China, Russia, and most of Africa already require US citizens to obtain a visa to enter. The list of countries requiring travel visas for US citizens could grow very quickly if US visa applicants from those countries are forced to turn over social media passwords and cellphones.
Should these measures come into effect, a US passport will inevitably become a much less valuable travel document. For most US citizens, this will be a non-issue. Only about one-third of Americans even have a passport. And only about 5% of US citizens regularly travel internationally.
But if you’re part of that 5%, you could experience significant difficulties entering foreign countries on your US passport. Even if you don’t need a visa, border officials could demand access to your social media accounts, cellphone, and laptop.
I think that’s why we’ve recently had a big uptick in the number of clients inquiring about a second passport. At least eight countries now offer citizenship and a passport in exchange for a donation or investment. The least expensive option, the Commonwealth of Dominica, offers a single applicant citizenship and a passport in exchange for a $100,000 donation. Application, due diligence, and legal fees bring the total expenditure to about $135,000.
With a Dominica passport, you can visit Brazil and more than 135 other countries without a visa. Nor is Dominica threatening to impose extreme vetting on visitors. It’s very unlikely other countries will impose visa restrictions on Dominica citizens based on reciprocity.
Could you benefit from a second passport? We’ve put together a detailed report that cuts through the confusion and shows you how to obtain a freedom-saving second passport in a safe, straight-forward and completely legal way. To learn more about The Nestmann Guide to Popular Second Passports, click here.
Protecting your assets (and yourself) against any threat - from the government, the IRS or a frivolous lawsuit - is something The Nestmann Group has helped more than 15,000 Americans do over the last 30 years.
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