Now and again when an American (or any other national) grumbles about the sad state of affairs in their home country they may hear a sharp response: “If you don’t like it here, go find another country.”
If you can spare a few hundred thousand dollars, or maybe a million, you can do just that. You can buy what is euphemistically called “economic citizenship.”
There are currently only three nations out of the 196 official independent countries of the world that offer to sell their citizenship and with it, a second passport. Austria is one.
In the past a few other countries had such controversial programs. In August 2010 Montenegro announced that it would sell economic citizenships, but three months later the program was suspended indefinitely. The program was rumored to have been placed on hold due to pressure from the European Union.
There are good reasons for obtaining a second passport; expansion of travel possibilities; concealment of nationality for safety reasons; exercising the right to reside in another country; opening offshore bank and other financial accounts; easier crossings of international borders when a primary passport is lost or stolen.
For U.S. citizens, a second passport can provide another major benefit. Having a second citizenship in place is a legal prerequisite to disconnecting from the U.S. tax system. The only way available to end all U.S. tax liabilities is to cease being a U.S. citizen, an individual right that U.S. law allows. But to avoid becoming “a man (or women) without a country,” the first step is to obtain another official citizenship and valid passport.
The cost of obtaining Austrian citizenship can approach $1 million. The more difficult requirement is that a foreign person must invest substantially in the country in an officially approved way. The rarely granted procedure is limited to special circumstances or to special people, such as famous artists, musicians, sports figures and the like.
In the case of the other two nations that offer economic citizenship, a clean personal past life and sufficient funds are the keys; if you qualify, in perhaps 90 days you can become a dual citizen with a new passport. And neither country imposes taxes on foreign income.
The first of these nations is an amazing Caribbean island with mountains rising nearly 5,000 feet out of the ocean. A former British colony, it has been independent since 1978.
For now, and in the foreseeable future, there are two options for citizenship here:
Option 1 – Family of four, investor, spouse, two children under 18 years. Required contribution: $100,000. Children between 18 and 21 years: $25,000 per child (up to two children); additional children under the age of 18 years, $15,000 per child.
Option 2 – Direct Cash Single Person Option. Required contribution $75,000.
Other government and professional fees can add another $30,000 or so. The government guarantees the return of all investment funds if an application is rejected or withdrawn, but $2,200 in processing fees is non-refundable.
Since granting citizenship is at the sole discretion of the government, there is no guarantee that applications will be approved.
If there is one “tax haven” country that has all the things needed for smooth offshore financial operations, it’s the second nation I mentioned (a two-island federation).
One of these islands is known worldwide for its tailored trust, corporate and asset protection laws cloaked in maximum financial privacy.
It has a no-nonsense strict banking and business privacy law. Its pro-offshore laws have existed for 30 years—so there is plenty of experience and precedent legislative assembly keeps the applicable laws current. There are well-established offshore financial service companies that can meet your needs and some have convenient U.S. and foreign branches branch offices.
The price of the economic citizenship program here is higher than the first nation I told you about.
There are two options: You can purchase qualifying real estate with a value of $350,000 or more (plus a one-time 10% payment of property tax), or make a contribution of $200,000 to a government fund. Application, registration, due diligence, and legal fees add a minimum of $15,000 to these figures; substantially more if you opt for the qualifying real estate option.
Editor’s note: For this full article on second passports, see page 23 of the current issue of International Living magazine. If you’re not a subscriber, you can become one here and get instant access to this issue.