With rising global uncertainties, savvy entrepreneurs can turn to second passports to not only expand their business horizons but capitalize on the many benefits alternative citizenships can bring. Considering a second passport can be a strategic move, whether accessing new markets and investment opportunities or ensuring personal and financial security.

Prominent examples of second citizenships include: tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel, who obtained New Zealand citizenship; venture capitalist Tim Draper, who acquired Maltese citizenship; and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who applied for citizenship in Cyprus.

“These individuals leveraged second citizenships to optimize their global mobility, investment opportunities, and personal security,” says Adalberto Pucca, senior immigration advisor at Global Citizen Solutions.

Pucca says his firm has assisted many high-profile individuals and entrepreneurs in obtaining residencies and or citizenship by investment. He says all are driven by the many benefits offered by a country’s citizenship by investment program.

What is a second passport by investment?

A second passport, referred to as citizenship by investment, is a pathway to securing legal status in a foreign country. Various countries have citizenship by investment programs that provide citizenship in return for an investment in their country, such as in real estate, government bonds or donations to government funds.

“The most popular countries for Americans to obtain a passport is within Europe and the Caribbean,” says Basil Mohr-Elzeki, head of private clients for the Americas, at Henley & Partners, a migration consultancy firm.

Mohr-Elzeki says there are several reasons individuals consider an alternative passport and citizenship.

“One of the main reasons is a hedge against geo-political risk and to avoid travel restrictions. In the event of country travel restrictions, such as during COVID, an alternative passport can provide entrepreneurs the ability to still travel and resume business,” says Mohr-Elzeki.

Americans surpass all other nationalities in securing alternative residences or additional citizenships, according to Henley & Partners. The year 2024 is projected to be a big year for millionaire global migration, with the firm forecasting 128,000 millionaires to relocate to a new country this year, an increase from 120,000 in 2023 and 51,000 in 2013, according to the firm.

But you don’t have to be a millionaire to take advantage of a second passport.

Advantages of a second passport

Getting a second passport in another country can result in multiple benefits.

“A second passport can offer entrepreneurs greater flexibility, security, and opportunities for personal and business growth on a global scale,” says Varun Singh, managing director at XIPHIAS Immigration.

Nuri Katz, founder of Apex Capital Partners says there are a number of reasons to consider a second citizenship. He says the first is the idea of jurisdictional arbitrage.

“The way that high net worth individuals maintains and increases wealth is through financial diversification in different asset classes. However, maintaining all assets in just one currency in one country, puts all those assets at risk of political and economic upheaval of that one country,” says Katz.

Since the currencies and economies of countries tend to wildly fluctuate, he says it is important to be diversified and not dependent on just one location.

“Being dependent on one country without the ability to move to any other country puts an entrepreneur at huge risk considering the types of upheavals that we are seeing around the world,” says Katz. “Gaining the freedom to live in multiple jurisdictions protects one and gives one the freedom necessary to always be where one is truly free, something that can change at any time in any country.”

There are also advantages that have to do with ease of business expansion and beneficial tax arrangements.

“As an example, if one was to obtain a citizenship from a European Union member country, such as Malta, Austria or Portugal, this would provide the ability to settle in any of the 27 European union member countries, thus providing many options for settlement, taxes strategies, and/or business expansion,” says Mohr-Elzeki.

A second citizenship can also bring forth ease of travel.

“Visa requirements change constantly, even for U.S. citizens,” says Katz. “For example in 2025 Brazil will require Americans to receive a visa in order to travel there. If a person has a business there then potentially they may have difficulties traveling there. A second passport that has visa free travel to that country will solve that problem.”

Katz cites China as another good example. Many Americans have businesses there but have to apply for a visa to travel there.

“The country of Antigua and Barbuda has visa free travel to China and therefore those with the Antigua and Barbuda passport who are invested in China will be able to more easily travel there, the importance of which cannot be overstated,” says Katz.

Citizenship by investment applies to individuals and their families too, and is another advantage to getting a second passport.

“It provides access to better healthcare, education, and quality of life options for themselves and their families,” says Pucca.

Plus, a second citizenship means an individual and their family have a Plan B. It can provide safety and better opportunities for the entire family and be a lifeline in a time of political upheaval or other crisis.

Most popular countries to obtain citizenship

When you think of a second passport, sunny and tropical locales often come to mind. And that’s not too far off. Europe and the Caribbean top the list as the most coveted regions to obtain citizenship.

The most popular programs in the European Union that can provide a pathway to citizenship without a relocation are Malta, Austria, and Portugal, says Mohr-Elzeki.

For example, Malta’s Citizenship by Naturalization for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment requires an investment of €738,000 for a minimum residence period of 36 months or €888,000 for a minimum of 12 months (including property lease). There is also a recommended minimum stay requirement of 21 days per year during the application process. As a member of the European Union, obtaining a passport in Malta means you get access to travel and the ability to reside in any of the 27 EU member countries.

Other popular destinations are in the Eastern Caribbean, such as Antigua & Barbuda and Grenada.

“Both countries offer direct routes to citizenships in as little as six to 12 months with low stay requirements, investing in a non-refundable contribution or real estate. Dependent children and often parents can be included as well,” says Mohr-Elzeki.

He says these are attractive options because they provide a quick and easy path to an alternative passport, along with global mobility and are permitted alongside the U.S. passport.

“There is a treaty of free movement throughout the Eastern Caribbean countries, alongside Antigua & Barbuda and Grenada, by being a citizen it allows settlement in other Caribbean countries,” says Mohr-Elzeki.

Process of obtaining a second passport

When considering obtaining a second passport, investors will need to do some research to find a citizenship or residency program that meets their objectives. It will likely also require working with an immigration advisor.

“When considering which countries are the best for immigration investments, there are a plethora of factors that an entrepreneur should consider. Those factors include investment requirements, visa-free travel benefits, tax implications, quality of life, residency obligations, language and culture, exit strategy options, etc.,” says Singh.

Pucca says the steps involved in obtaining a second passport typically include “gathering necessary documentation such as proof of funds and background checks, submitting an application to the chosen program, undergoing due diligence processes, and finally, obtaining approval and completing any required investments or commitments, as per the program’s requirements.”

He says the timeline can vary and that typically the passports that are best ranked in indexes tend to be the longest and most demanding to get.

“Therefore, how much time the customer decides to allocate for this journey is also a relevant factor,” says Pucca.

Mohr-Elzeki says obtaining citizenship from a direct citizenship program often takes between six months to three years, and obtaining citizenship through naturalization can often take five to 10 years and may require significant physical presence in that country.

“There are lots of rumors spread around about citizenship by investment programs. It is incredibly important to pay attention only to official government information and to choose only a government authorized firm that can legally assist with the whole application process,” says Katz.

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