It probably seems like a radical idea to those who were born and lived their lives in only one country, but individuals with financial means and a little determination can, without much trouble, become international citizens. That’s done by acquiring a second citizenship in another country. Along with that dual legal status comes an official second passport.
Acquiring a second passport can expand rights and freedom. For an American, the benefits include freer world travel and fewer problems from officious border guards or nosey customs and immigration officials. A second passport opens doors offshore otherwise closed to Americans. Best of all, dual citizenship and a second passport can be your key to reduced taxes and increased asset protection—and it could even protect your life.
Your Papers Please!
Until World War I, official passports were rarely required by most countries. In those times, document-free international travel was the rule. Times have changed: now a U.S. citizen who leaves the country must have an official U.S. passport or the equivalent in order to both leave and return—and that applies even for day visits to Canada or Mexico.
American travelers face the added problem of coming from a country that is not “politically correct” in the opinion of other countries. In some areas of the world, a U.S. passport provides little or no safety. Using another nation’s passport may give you the safety you need.
An important point: under U.S. law, having dual citizenship and a second passport does not jeopardize American citizenship. However, U.S. citizens, including dual nationals, must, by law, use their U.S. passport when entering or leaving the United States.
Five Easy Methods to Secure Peace of Mind
How you can become a citizen depends on a country’s laws, but there are five main methods:
* Birth within the borders of a nation’s territory
* Descent from a parent or grandparent
* Marriage to a foreign citizen
* Religion, as in Israel’s Law of Return
* Formal naturalization by applying and qualifying for citizenship. The naturalization process varies among countries.
Citizenship for Sale
Only two nations, the Commonwealth of Dominica and St. Christopher and Nevis, both Caribbean island countries, grant official citizenship in exchange for cash without any prior residency requirements—but both are expensive. These so-called “economic citizenship” programs offer a nationality quickly and simply for those who qualify.
In Dominica the “family option,” requires a direct cash contribution to the government of $100,000 for a family of up to four people (applicant, spouse and two children under 18-years-old), plus $25,000 for each additional child under 25-years-old. With registration and professional fees of approximately $15,000 added to the basic figure, applicants can anticipate a total cost of $165,000.
The “single option,” under which an individual applicant’s $75,000 investment is to be divided equally between public- and private-sector projects. The total cost for a single applicant is about $100,000.
In St. Kitts and Nevis (the popular name) under the official contribution options, there are four categories:
- Single applicant: $200,000 investment required, inclusive of all fees;
- Applicant with up to three dependants (i.e. one spouse and two children below the age of 18): $250,000
- Applicant with up to five dependants (i.e. one spouse and four children): $300,000;
- Applicant with six or more dependants: $400,000.
Citizenship by Ancestry
A much easier path to second citizenship may lurk up in your family tree. Several countries grant full citizenship based on the law of blood, jus sanguineous, even without a descendant ever having lived in the country. All one needs is a parent or grandparent who is (or was) a citizen of that country.
Ireland: One the best of these ancestral programs is offered by the Republic of Ireland. Persons with one parent or grandparent born in Ireland are eligible for Irish nationality, with a passport valid for 10 years and renewable. As a result, with a population of only 4.1 million, Ireland has over 14 million current official passports in circulation.
Italy: The Republic of Italy offers a similar program. The children and grandchildren of former Italian nationals can qualify for citizenship on the basis of any of the following: 1) a father who was an Italian citizen at the time of a child’s birth; 2) a mother who was an Italian citizen at the time of a child’s birth after January 1, 1948; 3) the father was not born in Italy, but the paternal grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of birth; or 4) the mother was not born in Italy, but for those born after January 1, 1948, the maternal grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of the mother’s birth.
In addition, ethnic Italians who cannot qualify under ancestry rules can qualify for naturalization after only three years legal residence in Italy.
Poland: Poland changed its laws a few years ago so that persons whose parents or grandparents were Polish citizens may be eligible to obtain citizenship. Citizenship can be claimed only by descendants of Polish citizens who left Poland after the country became an independent state in 1918. However, there can be no break in Polish citizenship between the emigrant ancestor and the descendant. Application for “Confirmation of Possession or Loss of Polish Citizenship” can be made through Polish embassies or consulates.
Other countries that offer citizenship based on the citizenship of parents or grandparents include Spain, Greece, Lithuania and Luxembourg. Spain also offers a reduced two-year residence before citizenship to citizens of any of several Latin American countries. Portugal and Brazil have a similar arrangement.
The G7 Passport That Could Help You Legally Escape Nearly All Taxes
One of the most respected national passports is that of Canada. However you must become a naturalized Canadian citizen to obtain that document.
But a qualified immigrant accepted for eventual Canadian citizenship is eligible for a complete personal income tax moratorium for the first five calendar years of residence in Canada—zero taxes if the source of income is an offshore, non-Canadian trust or corporation. You can easily create such entities before you move to Canada and become a citizen. (Canada also offers a variation on economic citizenship for investors who produce jobs.)
As a general rule, Canada has a three-year residence requirement after immigrant admission before citizenship is granted, but a five-year residence is required in order to be eligible for this very special tax break. Even better, once you are a Canadian, you can move to a foreign tax haven and escape almost all taxes, since Canada, unlike the U.S., has a territorial tax system that only taxes income earned within Canada.
Several other countries are attractive because they offer immediate official residence under a variety of plans, some leading to citizenship. Both the Republic of Panama and its Central American neighbor, Belize, offer pensionado programs to retirees who have guaranteed annual incomes. Neither leads to citizenship, but Panama does have several investment programs that grant immediate residence and eventual citizenship after five years.
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