Welcome to CitizenshipBureau.com, an information source to help you understand the different second citizenship options open to you and your family.
My name is Stephen and I am the creator of this website. In an earlier part of my career I was a financial advisor to expatriates. I held several UK based qualifications about personal financial and investment planning.
When you work with expats and their finances, conversations about taxation, residency, citizenship and domicile are very common. These are complex areas and you need to do lots of reading and research to understand things. But, there are very few books about the subject, no international qualifications and really not much help at all.
A typical situation I encountered might be something like a Dutch citizen, with a Brazilian wife, resident in Belgium, with banking and assets in Europe and South America…
I then worked as a marketing consultant in 2014 and 2015 with several companies based in Malta that were actively involved in promoting the Maltese citizenship by investment program, known as IIP. This meant that I had to do much more reading and hold many more conversations with experts to ensure that my knowledge was up to date.
Generally, the only people that study the area of economic citizenship programs are lawyers and they typically study only the naturalization rules that relate to the nationality of their examination (which means the country that they are in), or EU law, so while they have some knowledge of passports, it usually has very real limits.
This website’s goal is to put that right, just a little bit. I do not claim to know everything possible about dual, economic or second citizenship or citizenship by investment. Nobody knows everything on this subject. I am also not pretending to have the right qualifications, because I don’t and there aren’t any. I’m not even a lawyer, but I know a lot about this subject and I am making that available to you.
I understand that there are many sensitivities that surround nationality and passports, some are easy to quantify, while others are more like general emotions.
There are many people that are practical or open-minded enough to be able to buy or sell passports through economic citizenship programs and many people that would refuse on principle. Despite this, the site is designed to provide an unbiased look at the various naturalization schemes that exist.
Some of the information will be the (boring but) vital facts that are needed to make a decision. There is also some more general commentary about countries and second citizenship issues.
At this juncture it is important to point out that everyone’s situation is different and I recommend that you conduct your own due diligence and seek out advice tailored to your circumstances before making any important decisions. Hopefully this website will help you to narrow down your naturalization options to the most appropriate schemes, but from there, you really must seek out advice tailored to your specific circumstances.
There are a number of pages which can provide you with a good overview of a topic. For example:
– an explanation of domicile (information here)
– an explanation of residence (information here)
– an explanation of tax havens (information here)
– an explanation of naturalization (information here)
– an explanation of dual citizenship (information here)
– an explanation of citizenship by investment (information here)
– an explanation of double taxation agreements (information here)
– an explanation of how an immigration lawyer can help you (information here)
– lists and links of the best passports in the world for visa free travel and the highest quality of life (information here)
Whatever your reasons for wanting a second passport may be, the aim of this site is simply to provide unbiased information that helps you to make decisions that lead to further research and appropriate options.
Therefore, I wish you luck in your quest to discover more and enhance your life through naturalization and economic citizenship.
What is citizenship?
Firstly, within the legal frameworks of modern society, everyone needs to “belong” somewhere, at least in a legal sense. A passport was originally designed as a way of proving that national belonging so that individuals could pass from one country to another with less fear of arrest or interference. As you might imagine, this began as a way to allow diplomats to visit a country and pass a message from one king to another in safety, even while both countries were at war with each other. Clearly a passport was an important development.
These days, a passport enables it’s bearer to cross borders. While this sounds everyday and nothing special, seeing the lengths that people will go to to reach Europe from conflict areas and poverty in Africa and the Middle East, shows what a huge benefit holders of European or EU passports have.
Why is citizenship important?
Upon arriving in the EU, across borders such are Iraq or by sea from Libya, hundreds of thousands of people try to cross each year in search of a better life. This better life is provided by being a legally recognized member of a developed economy. And it is a passport that proves that membership and guarantees those rights. Quite simply, everything in the developed world depends upon the rule of law. While to many people it may seem as though the rule of law (and their taxes) seems like a problem, to those with less (rights, income and wealth), it is incredibly important. In other words, our nationality and citizenship underpins the rest of our lives – it is that important!
However you may describe it, economic migration, immigration or expatriation, there can be little doubt that many millions of people take steps every year to move to another country seeking a better life for themselves and their families.
In addition, when combined with tax and social security payments, citizenship1 provides medical rights, educational rights for children and potentially retirement and pension care rights in old age. Once granted, these rights are often passed on to children and grandchildren.
Depending upon the country of issue, many nations have reciprocal agreements for their citizens. This means that many rights are also granted in other countries. The best example of this is the European Union, where citizens of one country essentially have the same rights to settle, live, work and retire in all the other countries. For this reason, EU citizenship is a highly valued status – especially when combined with Schengen rights providing document-free freedom of movement across national borders. These factors make the European Union and EU passports very valuable. Once you have access to one, let’s imagine with an Estonian document, then you have rights in Paris, Rome, Milan, Barcelona, Dublin, Berlin and on and on.
Why is EU citizenship so valuable?
Negotiating as a bloc also means that EU citizens can travel to more than one hundred and fifty countries without a visa. Visa free travel is a big deal because most visa processes are arduous and need multiple visits to embassies (which might not be nearby) and long delays at airports upon arrival or whilst in transit.
Most of the “strongest” passports in the world are European, with Germany and Sweden being the best travel documents to have.
It is this level of importance that creates the demand for fast second passports, forcing many people to ask can I buy citizenship by investment, and also provides the opportunity for fake passport documents. Quite simply, when life closes in, people become desperate enough to explore every available option, including paying lots of money and acquiring forgeries.
Who approves citizenship and naturalization applications?
On the other side, representing governments, civil servants understand the value of the documents they issue and so there are usually strict processing rules to ensure that only eligible persons can become citizens. It is also worth pointing out that the more of something is created and the easier it is to obtain, the lower the value. This means that for the most valuable documents, such as American citizenship, there are many rules to comply with. These rules include the Green Card application process, the US naturalization test, completing Department of Homeland Security forms, an Oath of Allegiance and all the time and effort required to deal with the INS.
What are the normal citizenship requirements?
An application for citizenship by naturalization – either through residency, birth, marriage or investment – will normally require the applicant to prove themselves, with their existing passport document, their birth certificate, some sort of police clean conduct form, multiple declarations, possibly translations and then perhaps also documents relating to either or all of their spouse, their children and their parents. Citizenship by naturalization applications can be very arduous on everyone concerned. They are like government created obstacle courses to be completed over the course of many meetings and either months or years. Most people would not even attempt to complete these processes unless they really had no other choice. For many people, that is the situation.
A great example is the UK permanent residency form for EU citizens. It is 85 pages long! Not only that, but applicants need to account for every trip outside the UK during their normal residency period – which for anyone that travels frequently for work must be a very difficult task to complete.
Why have citizenship programs become popular?
This is another reason why economic citizenship programs have become popular. For people of significant wealth, their time is worth more to them than the money it costs to buy. By having a lawyer follow a predetermined process, everything is accelerated. Not only will there be less meetings and general hassle, but the timeline of application and residency is normally shortened for paying applicants. This all works in the government’s favor because a passport is ultimately a document that is relatively inexpensive to create. They certainly cost a lot less than the hundreds of thousands of euros and dollars that governments sell them for! This makes them a profitable proposition for the government and a valuable additional freedom for the investor and his or her family.
Not everyone can apply. Many countries have restrictions on dual nationality, meaning that a person can be a citizen of their country only. If they also become a citizen of another nation, they are legally required to renounce their original citizenship. Taking up a new nationality – whether by marriage, birth, residency or investment – is a criminal offense. Perhaps the most notable country with such a law is China. This fear of dual citizenship is perhaps the only barrier to the fast growth of the citizenship by investment market – there are many wealthy Chinese businessmen who would like the option to buy, but do not wish to renounce their Chinese nationality.
Which citizenship is the hardest to get?
There are other countries, such as Japan, where it an applicant is required to change their name and take up a new one in the local language. Japan is another country that does not allow citizens to have more than one nationality and combined with the required name change and a ten year residency period, makes it quite unappealing to most people with an international mindset.
There are also a few countries where it is actually almost impossible to qualify. Two that come to mind are Andorra and Switzerland. Both countries have a minimum twenty year residency period before an applicant can even apply. Even though both countries are clean, safe and beautiful, their strict residency rules and this minimum period means that very few people ever even apply.
A passport will have both a date of issue and a date of expiry. Under normal circumstances a passport will be renewed automatically, though there is usually an application process and a small fee to be paid. The process differs from country to country. There are circumstances where passports are not renewed and sometimes even revoked, but these normally only apply after a serious criminal conviction. It ought to be pointed out that normally nationality is not revoked, meaning that the person is still considered to be a citizen, but they have had their travel rights removed.