Second passports, and the legal right to exist as a citizen of more than one country, are not a common, every day topic. You might encounter it in the plot of a movie about international financial crime, or in a novel about secret government agents spying on one another.
In fact, although it is not generally known, the legal right to dual citizenship, and with it the right to obtain and employ a second passport, is available to millions of people worldwide.
While it’s impossible to know exactly how many U.S. citizens have acquired a second passport, experts put the number of U.S. citizens who either hold or legally are entitled to hold a second passport at 40 million.
These are the three main routes to acquiring a second passport:
• By place of birth, where the laws of the country in which a child is born make them a citizen automatically, as in the U.S., where the 14th Amendment does this. This principle is expanded by what is known as “sanguinity,” blood relationship, citizenship based on that of one or both parents, or even grandparents in some countries, such as Ireland and Italy. This relationship is perhaps the easiest and fastest route to a second passport.
• By official naturalization, which usually involves a specific period of prior residence in the country. Almost all countries have a route for foreigners to obtain permanent residence, linked to marriage, a job, starting a business, or other commitment to the country. On average, this means living in the country for five years.
• By purchasing economic citizenship, which involves a large investment in the country or payment of a substantial fee. Some countries offer this in exchange for investment in real estate, starting a business, or payment to the government. Among these countries are St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, Cyprus, and Malta. These citizenships involve an extensive due diligence process and investigation.
But for low cost and quick action, there are two countries that stand out, based on the ease of acquiring immediate residence:
• The Republic of Panama has a special Pensionado law that welcomes foreigners as new residents, especially retirees. Another law grants immediate residence, and later citizenship, to foreign investors who create new businesses and jobs. Panama has a sound banking system, a stable government, and enjoys one of Latin America’s strongest and fastest growing economies.
• Another good option is Uruguay, an open and free South American country that welcomes new residents. Here any foreign visitor can apply for permanent residence and remain while the application is processed. An established local residence and proof of self-support of about $1,500 a month minimum is needed. Citizenship may be granted after three years, (two years for retirees), during which you must spend most, but not all, of your time there.
These are a few examples of the ways and means of obtaining a second passport, and how you may qualify. At the moment, there are 195 countries in the world. Any one of these may be just the kind of place for which you have been looking for.