The world is getting to be a very dangerous place, and many people believe that it is no longer wise to rely solely on one jurisdiction to provide them and their families with security. That is why people are seeking “second passports” or citizenship in another country as a response to uncertainty.
There is a great deal of confusion about the issue of getting a second passport or citizenship. What is the difference between residency and citizenship? Is it legal to have another citizenship? Do I need to abandon my current citizenship? What are the reasons?
Residency is the right of a foreigner to live in a country and perhaps work in that country. The rights of a foreign resident are often significantly less than that of a citizen. Not only can foreign residents not vote, but they are also denied many civil and economic benefits usually granted to citizens. In some countries ownership of land is restricted in various ways as is the right to form companies, operate businesses, get jobs, etc. Also, the very status of a foreign resident can be terminated or denied at will, property rights can be suspended, and constitutional rights are often absent or limited. Not so for a citizen. Being a citizen of a country imparts much greater benefits.
Many people ask, “Is it legal to have a second citizenship, and will I have to abandon my current citizenship?” In most countries the answer is yes, it is legal, and no, you will not have to abandon your current citizenship. Even in those countries that do not allow dual citizenship for its citizens, enforcement is often lax or non-existent. All the same it would be wise to seek legal advice regarding your country’s rules and regulations.
What are the reasons to get a second passport? There are many reasons, and they vary from person to person, but the primary ones are:
- Banking Options – for some people it is very difficult to establish foreign bank accounts. Due to recent changes in US law it is extremely difficult to open bank accounts as a citizen of the USA. It can often be much easier with a second passport.
- Economic Benefits – It is often much easier to establish and operate businesses, and invest in real estate when you are a citizen of the country. Almost every country has some form of restrictions on business ownership, operation, and land ownership by foreigners. Becoming a citizen solves this problem.
- Expat Lifestyle Benefits – If you plan on becoming an expat (or expatriate) it is often very helpful to have a citizenship from another country for tax purposes as well as security issues. In order to claim expat tax privileges you usually have to prove that you are domiciled outside your home country.
- Travel Security – When you travel abroad not all passports are treated equally. Yes, US citizens are treated very well at most airports by the immigration control officers, but not so well by criminals, terrorists, etc. Often having a US (or other major country’s) passport makes you a target. In some situations having a more neutral passport could save your life.
- Domestic Insecurity – People in democratic nations often take their freedoms for granted, specifically the right to travel outside the country. Historically most regimes that are under pressure and experiencing domestic unrest limit the ability of its citizens to leave. They impose capital restrictions to keep you from moving your assets, reporting requirements on foreign assets and travel, exit visa requirements in order to discourage leaving, restrictions on the issuance of passports except under government approved purposes, and finally complete restrictions on exiting the country at all. When this happens foreign nationals (those with foreign passports) are generally allowed to leave. Having a foreign passport may mean you can leave your country without being smuggled out, and without becoming an “undocumented” refugee or worse. You will also have a place to go to if things get bad. Something to think about.
- Renunciation of Current Citizenship – there are a lot of reasons why people want to renounce their citizenship: political, economic, religious, philosophical, etc. Renouncing your citizenship is a very serious matter and should not be done without considering all the options, and obtaining competent legal advice, but for some there are a lot of benefits. For some it is lower taxes, and for others it is obtaining significant economic or political freedoms. For some it may simply be escaping an intolerable situation. If you are even considering renouncing your current citizenship, you need to have another citizenship and a passport from that country to prove it.
Whatever you reason may be, a desire to start a new life somewhere else or just a desire to have a safe haven to fall back on, having another citizenship and passport can often be helpful as well as comforting.
Currently we suggest the Republic of Georgia as a very viable option: Citizenship in the Republic of Georgia