Your US Passport Is Now a Travel Liability
You’ll no doubt be happy to learn that last week, the State Department lifted the “Global Level 4 Travel Advisory” which warned Americans not to travel abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But if you want to leave the US, you might have a hard time finding a country that will let you in. When the advisory was issued in March, your US passport gave you the right to enter more than 180 countries visa-free, or with minimal visa formalities (such as the ability to obtain a visa online, or upon arrival). It was one of the world’s most desired travel documents, with passports from only a handful of countries (mainly in the European Union) offering superior visa-free options.
Today, that number has shrunk by more than half – to 86 countries. One reason, of course, is that many countries have closed their borders completely in an effort to thwart the spread of COVID-19. But now that some countries are reopening their borders, US passport holders have discovered they remain excluded from entry.
Today, nearly 50 countries now offer a passport with superior travel options in comparison to a US passport. International backwaters like Moldova, Albania, Serbia, Ukraine, and even North Macedonia now offer their citizens a passport of better travel quality.
What happened? When I spoke to a client about this phenomenon a few days ago, he said it was because other countries hate President Trump and would do anything to discredit him, including closing their borders to US passport-holders.
There’s no question that world leaders have repeatedly dismissed or even ridiculed President Trump. But I don’t think that’s the main reason why the quality of a US passport has fallen so much since January.
Instead, I believe the principal cause for the sudden loss of the US passport’s power is the global perception that America botched its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The US leads the world in both cases (more than five million to date) and deaths (more than 160,000). While the US population is a little over 4% of global population, it’s experienced more than one-quarter of reported cases. In response, many countries have chosen to keep their international borders closed to US citizens.
When I mentioned these statistics to my client, he said they were misleading, because the US was doing far more COVID-19 testing than any other country. “Of course, the numbers are going to be higher,” he told me.
That’s a valid point. Next to China, a country nearly five times as populous, the US has performed more COVID-19 tests than any other country. Yet, in many states it can take a week or more to get test results back. That means many infected people may pass the disease on to friends, family members, and co-workers before they receive their diagnosis.
Whether the discrimination against US passport holders is justified or not, it is real. Vast swathes of the world remain off-limits to Americans, including every country in the EU (other than Ireland). The global perception of a botched response to the pandemic has literally made Americans “second class citizens” with respect to their passport.
Other similarly situated countries haven’t faced this discrimination. Canada, for instance, has about 0.5% of the world’s population and has experienced about 0.6% of the world’s COVID-19 cases. Per capita, Canada’s COVID-19 case count is about one-fifth that of America’s. Thus, now that the EU has partially reopened itself to travel, Canadian passport holders, unlike their American counterparts, aren’t locked out.
Since my company is in the second passport business, it would seem self-serving for me to say that the solution to the dilemma that US citizens now face would be to acquire a second passport. Yet, that is the primary way that individuals who are citizens of “passport hells” – countries with limited travel options due to the low quality of their passports – can improve their international mobility. Other advantages of a second passport include giving you the right to reside in another countries (or group of countries), providing an international travel option if your primary passport is lost or revoked, and potentially giving your children better educational opportunities.
However, a second passport isn’t always an instant panacea for improved travel options in a pandemic. For instance, one of the main second citizenship programs The Nestmann Group represents is from the Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis. At the moment, passport holders from this jurisdiction – like the US – can’t visit the EU.
Yet St. Kitts & Nevis has experienced only 17 cases of COVID-19, with only one current active case. When the EU announces its next round of border re-openings, which jurisdiction do you think would be more likely to regain admission – St. Kitts & Nevis or the US?
Over the years, we’ve helped over 100 clients acquire a second citizenship and passport. If you think you could benefit from a second passport, contact us for more information.
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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