The UK invented the idea of domicile when the British Empire existed. Members of the British aristocracy would be sent away to fight or manage a part of the empire in some far away land, such as India. Of course they didn’t all return home.
Their heirs argued that inheritance taxes should not be paid on their estate’s because they died outside of Britain. Clearly that was not a situation that the tax department liked because they invented the concept of a country of domicile to ensure that these wealthy gents families would still pay their taxes. How does this history help to explain the situation in 2018?
How To Define Domicile
To use a non-legal domicile definition, it is which country a person ultimately considers to be “home”. For most people this is clear, but for those with a more international mindset, it can become tricky.
To use a legal definition, a country of domicile is applied to a person as his or her permanent legal residence, or the permanent legal residence to which they are likely to return if they currently live in another country.
A person might leave a country – perhaps for work or to travel – and so is no longer actually a resident of a nation, but it is possible to still be domiciled there. This is because the presumption is that the person will ultimately return.
The idea of returning one day is important because taxation on one’s income is based upon residence, whereas inheritance tax is impacted by one’s domicile. Therefore, while it might be of no interest to you where you are domiciled, it will be of interest to your heirs.
Not every country recognises the concept of domicile. However, since the idea originally came from Great Britain and the reach of the Empire and Commonwealth was so large, most countries that do recognise it broadly follow the definition of the British. If you are British, then you might find it useful to read this.
Are Domicile And Residence The Same?
This is an area that confuses many people. A person is resident in a country for tax purposes in any given tax year, but may be domiciled in a separate country because of their life history.
Therefore, it is possible to be tax resident in country B in one year and then move and become resident in country C in the following year, but because they were born and raised elsewhere, actually be domiciled in country A. It is this concept that makes for difficult explanations and confusion.
To provide an example, your author is a British citizen and was born – and until my late 20s – lived in England. In my late 20s I moved to Belgium for some years. I was lived in Belgium, but was still domiciled in the UK. Then I moved to Malta. Now I am still a UK citizen and still domiciled in the UK, but I am a tax resident in Malta.
Since a person’s country of domicile is considered to be their “permanent” home, it is not a quick process to move or change domicile. The time frames vary from country to country, but for most it would take a minimum of five years. In the UK, for example, it can take between 25 and 30 years to prove that you left and are not returning!
A person would normally need to make a permanent home in a new jurisdiction and maintain that home and life for many years.
Even then, just being away for decades might not be enough! To be certain, and especially if there is a significant estate at risk, it is important to take legal advice to inform the relevant authorities and legally change your domicile. The rules are often open to interpretation which provides work for lawyers as they do their best to explain the connection between the law and an individual’s circumstances.
It is possible for a person to have a different citizenship to their domicile and it is also possible to have a different residence as well. In fact, though it would be quite unusual, it would be possible to be a citizen of one country (France, for example), a resident of another (let’s say Spain) and domiciled in a third (such as the UK) because of a previous long-term residence. In other words, this can be quite a complicated topic…
Can A Person Have Domicile In Two Countries?
In theory, the answer is no, a person can only have one domicile. However, it must be quite clear that if the UK takes 25 years or more to accept a change, then a person could pass away in another country, having lived there for many years and the UK might still have rights under the law.
There are a number of countries in the second citizenship market whose passports enable a choice to be made. Essentially the individual is able to declare whether or not they wish to be domiciled in this new country. That is all well and good, but if they happened to pass away in their original country, then the declaration of domicile would likely be meaningless.
At this point, it becomes very complex and specialist legal advice is required. The nature and location of assets is important, as is the location in which the person passed away and where they chose to be buried and more.
What Is UK Non Domiciled Status?
London has become a global mecca for the super rich in recent decades. The combination of being a global hub, having all the freedoms and attractions of London and legal and financial hubs, makes it a very attractive city.
The result has been that many high net worth individuals have invested in real estate, bought businesses and moved themselves to the United Kingdom.
However, their tax status has been something of a hybrid because while they took up residence, they are third country nationals and have significant business and financial interests internationally. Additionally, they do not hold UK passports.
These people are often referred to as “non-doms” in the UK press.
They are eligible for UK income and capital gains tax. However, this is on a remittance basis. This means that they pay tax on their UK income and any other income that they bring into the country. If the income remains outside the UK, then it will not be taxed as income or a capital gain. This offers the ability to almost decide on their tax bill, because they can bring into the UK only as much as they need to live and no more.
Quite simply, a citizenship by investment scheme is one that enables wealthy individuals and families to fast track naturalization in a new country.
Cynics tend to suggest that these individuals are simply using their wealth to buy citizenship. However, very few countries want to be tarred with a label of passports for sale, so there are always criteria for applicants to satisfy to ensure that only highly appropriate candidates apply.
These criteria differ from country to country, but any legitimate immigration scheme will include a minimum period of residency in the country to create and demonstrate ties, plus some form of background check or vetting. Most second citizenship by investment countries also want applicants to purchase or rent long-term valuable residential property. Some countries also ask that government bonds are purchased, or that a contribution is made to a fund that benefits the country. A few economic citizenship schemes1 also require some form of business investment that employs locals.
Most of these rules have come about because of the experience learned from previous passport programs. For example, there have been “no questions asked” schemes in the past where a new passport would be issued in exchange for a large payment. These countries soon developed a bad reputation and their passports were soon being bought by criminals and gangsters. No matter how broke a country might be, nobody wants that reputation!
Small nations actually want to be seen as a haven for high net worth families and individuals, people of talent and education.
It is worth pointing out at this early stage that not all passports2 are the same. For example, some countries have very few reciprocal travel or visa arrangements, while others enable visa free travel to most of the world.
Equally, citizens of some countries are expected to perform national service, while most are not. Some countries place quite a high level of taxation on their subjects, some place no taxes on their citizens, whilst most nations lie somewhere in between.
In other words, there are options for a family to naturalize into a second country and some countries will be more appealing that others, depending upon the circumstances of the applicants.
For governments – usually smaller nations – it is important to investigate options for raising income. Many smaller nations already operate to a greater or lesser degree in the world of offshore finance or investment, so passports can seem like a logical next step. Ultimately, a passport is a relatively inexpensive document to produce, despite the much higher value it has.
There are many reasons why an individual or family might wish to have a second (or third) passport. For many, it is simply diversification. Once your net worth and income reach a certain level, you have a luxury apartment in London and one in Paris, then what?
An obvious next step is to add extra security to your personal freedom. It might be an escape option in case your country ever goes to war or there is a change in government that brings in rules that limit freedom.
For others, they already live in countries where personal freedom is limited. Now that they have accumulated some assets, it is time to loosen those shackles. Economic citizenship may enable the children to be educated in America or Europe, for example. Reasons like these can make the investment worthwhile.
Many people are less philosophical about these things and simply see second citizenship by investment or dual nationality as a way to reduce their tax burdens.
Why Is It So Difficult To Learn About Citizenship By Investment?
There are several answers to this question. Firstly, there are very few lawyers that are genuinely international. There are obviously many international law firms and practices, but most lawyers sit exams and qualifications in one country. This means that there are many attorneys that understand the laws of their own country, but few are qualified or licensed to advise beyond that.
As a topic, this market is dominated by professionals that mostly work by referral from other firms and consultants. The very wealthy tend not to expect to find the best advice in a Quora or reddit thread, in a wiki or a YouTube video. They are much more likely to ask their wealth manager or consultant to refer several lawyers or attorneys and review their proposals than to read online reviews and explanations.
By speaking to a lawyer or attorney, letting them explain options and solutions and then taking time to compare and review their offers, perhaps in a Malta vs Cyprus type scenario, the wealthy are able to only buy the best and most suitable passport for their needs.
If you are genuinely wealthy and reading this page, it is worth considering whether you ought to be taking legal advice from a trusted and competent advisor, letting that person review and understand your circumstances and letting them refer the best and most suitable offers to you. It is certainly true that no matter how well meaning, a blog post, YouTube video, reddit or quora thread or wikipedia page, will be able to give the personalised explanation that is needed.
What Criteria Make Citizenship By Investment Countries Popular?
There are many countries whose passport is not a particularly helpful travel document, meaning that only the truly desparate and career criminals would apply for one. In contrast, there are other countries with very powerful passports3 that most people would be interested in.
Some criteria for selecting a nation for naturalization might include:
– Is the country an EU member state? EU citizens are allowed visa free travel and the right to reside in all EU member states as a fundamental right. When this is combined with the rights of movement under the Schengen Agreement, it provides powerful benefits to lifestyle and freedom.
– Is the country “neutral”? Some nations have a fairly bad reputation around the world whilst some others are thought of incredibly well. For example, the reputation of Ireland seems to be very good everywhere. If you are going to be associated with a new country, it might as well be a country that is generally liked. It will make life much easier.
– Are citizens required to perform some sort of national or military service? You might want to serve in an army, but lots of people do not.
– How does the citizenship by investment country tax it’s residents? On top of any costs to apply will be the costs of actually being there. Taxation is generally one of the highest bills we have to pay, so it makes sense to investigate the situation carefully. Your income and it’s source will differ from that of many other people, so it is important to consider this question and your own circumstances carefully.
– What is the national language? Will you be able to function there with the language that you speak? For most people, finding a country where a sizable portion of the population speaks English is very important. This makes many of the Caribbean islands attractive.
– How long is the application process? Having to wait one year is very different to having to wait five years.
Considering that there are almost 200 sovereign nations in the world, these simple criteria limit the number of attractive countries quite considerably.
Which Countries Give Citizenship By Investment?
As might be expected, there are some nations that have never and will never offer such benefits. However, there are a small number that consider economic citizenship to be very valuable.
There are few identifying characteristics that can be used to quickly categorise these countries. In the mind of the general population, a country that sells a passport is usually a small island in a sunny far away place, but the reality that there are many some first world nations that provide economic citizenship.
Outside of the EU, there are a number of schemes to investigate:
Antigua and Barbuda
– a passport that is valid for 5 years
– visa free travel to 100+ countries
– time required is 2-4 months
– minimum investment: from $200,000
St Kitts and Nevis
– no dual citizenship restrictions
– visa free travel to Schengen countries and the UK
– no residency requirements or taxation
– minimum investment: from $250,000
– the EB5 Green Card Program
– enables permanent residency status with citizenship granted after 5 years
– investment required for a minimum of 4 years
– minimum investment range: from $500,000 to $1million
Which EU Countries Give Citizenship By Investment?
– the Belgium Business Program
– no residency requirement
– citizenship granted after 5 years
– no dual citizenship restrictions
– minimum investment: 350,000 euros
– Investment Program for Residence and Citizenship
– 1 year minimum residency
– options to invest in local businesses, real estate or government bonds
– minimum investment range: 125,000 to 500,000 euros
– no residency requirement
– time required 3-4 months
– 100% real estate investment possible
– minimum investment: 2.5 million euros
– known as the Individual Investor Programme
– visa free travel to 180+ countries
– no need to actually live in Malta
– time required is 12 months
– minimum investment: from 1 million euros (including an investment in government bonds which can be sold later)
– Golden Residence Visa
– citizenship granted after 6 years
– the minimum residency requirement is just 7 days per year
– minimum investment: 500,000 euros (some of which will be in the form of real estate)
– UK Tier 1 Investor Programme
– minimum investment: from £2 million
As you can see, there are many options available to a high net worth individual or family. However, those words are the key ones – high net worth – because whilst countries describe themselves as wanting to attract creative and talented people, the reality is that they need to have been creative and talented enough to earn and save significant amounts of money.
If you qualify, then there will be many doors open to your family and a new passport may be possible.
Are There Any Disadvantages?
It would seem that there are some potential disadvantages, depending upon the country and individual in question. For example, some people simply do not fit the normal ethnic profile of a well known nationality. This could create potential problems when crossing a border or at an airport. A related issue is that some of the nations that offer economic citizenship are very small, meaning that a new citizen might stand out because the population is not diverse enough. For example, we all know that the population of America contains people with heritage from everywhere on earth. Any person you suggest could potentially be an American citizen. Could you say the same thing for Antigua?
Another potential problem would relate to beginning an application process and for some reason being unable to complete it. For example, some nations require the founding of businesses that generate employment for locals. What if the business idea does not work out? What if some form of rule or circumstance prevents it from even being launched properly? Under such circumstances, it is easy to imagine that investments, application fees and lawyers fees would be lost. This could be a very expensive mistake.
There are also possible reputational issues to counter. While these would not reduce a person’s legal rights, the EU citizenship by investment schemes are coming under renewed pressure from Brussels since early 2018.
Can Anyone Apply?
The rules are obviously different for each country, but generally, most people can apply. The exceptions relate to those outside of the global community. Therefore, citizens where some form of economic sanctions exists against their country – such as North Korea – or failed states – such as Somalia – cannot apply.
There are also people that have international sanctions open against them personally that cannot apply. In theory, each country tells the world that there is a background check to ensure that no undesirables are granted a passport, but it is not always clear that these rules are followed.
It would be hoped that each country would have some pride and be worried that international criminals, for example, might obtain their documents and then be caught breaking laws, but it seems that many countries have no such fears. There are many third world nations where both genuine and fake passports can be purchased quite easily. There are obviously risks associated with using such a document, which is why only purchasing from a verified scheme is recommended.
This is one reason why personal interviews are always a part of any legitimate application process. There have been countries who back in the 1980s and 1990s were notorious for selling documents to anyone with enough money. There were cases uncovered where passports were granted to people serving jail time! Those days have passed and citizenship by investment is now a much more responsible and respectable sector.
It might also be worth pointing out that these schemes are designed only for the wealthy. Each nation has it’s own rules relating to how and when natualization is possible at no cost. There are no scholarships or discounts on these natualization by investment schemes. No matter what a government or Prime Minister may say about “attracting talent”, if the talent does not have enough money they will not be accepted.
Proof Of Funds Will Be Required
The issues mentioned above mean that since the 1990s most governments have agreed to comply with anti-money laundering and KYC (Know Your Client) rules. These apply to all large purchases and should also apply to money used in passport purchasing schemes. Applicants will need to prove that their money is legitimate tax paid money (from investment or salary) and that they are proper and respectable people.
Citizenship By Investment Scheme Comparison
At the time of writing in mid 2018, any citizenship by investment scheme comparison can only look at a small number of programs. Those programs are based either within the European Union, or are a Caribbean island.
It needs to be pointed out that the needs of each individual and family are different, which makes any type of overview comparison very difficult. For example, to most people, a one year minimum residency period ought to be quite acceptable, but there will be some for whom this is literally impossible. For others, the overall cost will be a vital consideration – is there such a thing as value for money citizenship by investment? It is also worth noting that each of the citizenship by investment schemes has multiple options which can complicate matters. Therefore, please seek out specialized advice for your personal situation before making any major financial decisions.
Citizenship By Investment Price Comparison
Bulgaria: BGN1 million investment for 5 years into a government bond portfolio. This is currently around €510,000. After 5 years the full investment will be returned.
Cyprus: €500,000 contribution into the country’s Research and Technology Fund, plus €2 million purchase of shares or bonds in the State Investment Company.
Malta: €650,000 donation into the National Development and Social Fund, plus €150,000 investment into government bonds and either a minimum property purchase (€350,000) or rental for 5 years.
Antigua and Barbuda: US$200,000 contribution to the National Development Fund.
Grenada: US$250,000 real estate investment.
St Kitts and Nevis: US$150,000 contribution to the Sustainable Growth Fund.
Citizenship By Investment Residency Period Comparison
Bulgaria: Six to nine months. Special exemption from physical residency provided by law.
Cyprus: Three months with no requirement to spend a minimum number of days in the country.
Malta: One year minimum residency with no requirement to spend a minimum number of days in the country, plus five year property ownership or rental.
Antigua and Barbuda: No minimum requirement.
Grenada: No minimum requirement.
St Kitts and Nevis: 60 day processing possible.
Citizenship By Investment Visa Free Travel Comparison
(Details to the best of our knowledge at the end of 2017.)
Originally a nation state would claim all of the people within it’s borders as it’s own. There was a feudal theory of allegiance to the sovereign of the country and it was presumed to be permanent.
After a number of international incidents where citizens of one country were persecuted or prosecuted for treasonous acts against a country that was not actual their own, the United States Congress passed the Expatriation Act of 1868 which enabled Americans to renounce their citizenship.
The British Parliament followed suit and gradually the idea that a person was perpetually attached to a country was questioned. Despite this, countries were not keen on the idea that a person might be attached to more than one nation at a time.
Two of the goals of the 1930 Hague Convention were to abolish dual citizenship and statelessness. It was only ratified by twenty countries.
Where Did Dual Citizenship Originate?
In fact, it is only recently, since the 1980s that dual citizenship has become more easily attainable, in part because of the internal rules of the European Union, which aims to bring people’s together peacefully from across the European continent. In other places, such as Canada for example, it was only on the passing of the Canadian Citizenship Act in 1976 that restrictions were removed. Similar acts had been passed in 1948 in the UK and 1967 in the USA.
How To Qualify For Dual Citizenship?
Every nation state has the right to write it’s own laws as it’s legislators see fit. While there are some overriding concepts laid down by organisations such as the United Nations and European Union, the reality is that exact rules are different for each country.
This means that very specific individual research and guidance needs to be conducted for every individual before proceeding. The rules required to qualify for dual citizenship are literally different from country to country. It is also worth noting that the rules can be different on paper and in reality. The power over family and lifestyle that residency and nationality have means that unsavoury bureaucrats can and often do expect bribes and favours for the fast expediting of paperwork.
Is Dual Citizenship Good Or Bad?
There are a number of difficult to define emotions that nationality and a passport carry. Where we are born and to whom are intangibles that are built into our psyches and are interpreted differently by each person.
There are certainly some people, often categorized by their career path that see a second nationality as being unpatriotic and a bad thing. In contrast, there are many people that have some level of libertarian political views that see a second passport as being an extra level of freedom from big government. Whether one view is philosophically right or wrong is not for me to say.
On a purely practical level, there have been many times in recent history where there has been some level of trouble or conflict and it has been impossible for residents to cross a border to safety. In these times, being considered to be from a neutral country and allowed to exit the situation would be very useful, perhaps even life saving. In life or death circumstances, who can argue that an extra option is a bad thing?
Does Dual Citizenship Mean Two Passports?
Yes, dual citizenship does mean two passports for the individual. That, generally speaking is a good thing. However, it is worth remembering that nationality has responsibilities as well as rights. For example, some countries still have national service where everyone withing certain age ranges are expected to perform some time in the armed forces. Other countries have mandatory voting or taxation responsibilities.
I have once met a person that told me that he had three passports. This was mainly an accident of birth, but as more and more Europeans of different nations marry (it is around ten percent of all EU marriages) there will likely be more and more people that have a third, or perhaps even a fourth passport. For those people, multiple citizenship is a better description of their situation.
Is Dual Citizenship Expensive?
The level of cost depends purely on the circumstances. For the majority of people with more than one passport, they will have qualified by birth, marriage or through their parents or grandparents. In circumstances like these, the cost is generally just a matter of time and effort to complete the correct paperwork and complete the application process.
However, for others, either purchasing or bribing their way to a document is obviously more expensive. There are other parts of this website that explore the idea of citizenship by investment (explained here) and the potential costs.
As mentioned above, some countries have a taxation burden on their subjects, based on nationality and not residence. The most well known of these countries is the United States. If you happen to have a US passport, then yes, it might prove to be expensive!
All modern passports are issued with a start and expiry date. It is therefore designed into the system that a passport will expire. Normally it is a simple task to renew a document. However, if a government changes a law relating to multiple nationality while a document exists it is possible that it will be difficult or impossible to renew.
In practice, changing the terms of what it means to be a national of a country is a big deal and will attract a lot of press attention, public and political debate. This means that there ought to be ample notice of a change in the law.
Is Dual Citizenship Illegal?
Yes, in some countries it is illegal. For example, in recent years there has been something of a gold rush for small nation states to try and attract wealthy foreign investors to buy real estates and economic citizenship.
The lawyers and brokers have targeted Russian oligarchs and more lately wealthy Chinese businessmen. As it happens, China does not recognise dual nationality which means that the investor is taking quite a risk if he (it is almost always a “he”) and his family acquire second passports.
For another example, the best friend of your author is married to a South African. His wife renounced her nationality to take up German nationality some years ago to enable her to live and work in Europe. If she wanted to live in Europe – the UK – which she did, then being an EU subject made things much easier, but South Africa does not allow dual nationality.
How Can Dual Citizenship Be Obtained?
There are essentially eight ways to obtain dual citizenship.
The most common is by descent, meaning that one of a person’s parents is a citizen of the nation. This is known as jus sanguinis.
Next is by birth, meaning that a person was born on the soil of a country. This is known as jus soli.
Marriage to a citizen of a nation usually confers rights of nationality after a qualifying number of years of wedded bliss has been completed. This is known as jure matrimonii.
Naturalization requires a person to live permanently in country for a qualifying period of time, normally several years, and prove themselves to be a good and productive member of society.
Some countries allow nationality by religion, meaning that proof of your religion is enough, or a vital qualifying factor to acceptance.
It was relatively rare, but is now more common for nationality to be granted by adoption.
Economic investment in jobs, real estate or the country (government bonds), plus a qualifying period of time is becoming more common and is offered by a wide range of countries (listed here) and at very different price points.
There are a small number of nation states that provide nationality by office. This is known as jus oficii. The most well known example of this relates to the Holy See and Vatican City. Members of the diplomatic corps and residents of Vatican City are granted time limited nationality. When their occupation changes or comes to an end, they revert to their former nationality, which means that dual citizenship must be allowed to prevent them from becoming stateless at the end of a term in office.
Does Dual Citizenship Affect Social Security Benefits?
This would need to be checked on an individual level, but generally social security benefits relate to one’s residence (where you live) and the contributions being made to the system.
How Many Passports Can A Person Have?
There are almost certainly a select few individuals in the world that have taken the words “multiple passports” to a limit. Perhaps they have unusual life circumstances where they were born to parents of differing nationality in a third country and then have moved and naturalized elsewhere.
The most your author has met and seen was actually an ex-girlfriend who had three European Union passports. There are almost certainly many people with more than three. But, the nature of nationality and naturalization means that there is a very real limit to how many a person might have – more than five would seem to be difficult. In a world of investment opportunities, it must be possible for a person to buy their way to several extra documents.
Which Countries Allow Dual Citizenship?
The list of countries that allow dual citizenship is now very long. Most major nations that you can name would be on the list. For example, most European Union Member States allow dual nationality. As we have already read, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom also allow it.
Most countries allow naturalization, marriage and descent as reasons for nationality, which therefore means that countries that allow dual citizenship includes those that have not specifically prohibited a second allegiance.
Can I Have Dual Citizenship?
To answer this question it is important to investigate your own circumstances thoroughly, plus those of your parents and grandparents and also your spouse. If you are from a region where travelling was common, or from a region where national borders have changed (this was quite common in central and eastern Europe, for example) there is a good chance that you can apply.
It is also worth noting that some countries are much more open to this than others. For example, if you have some sort of family background in Ireland or Italy, or you are Jewish (Israel), you will likely have a good chance of success.
Whatever your situation, be prepared to do your research and put in the effort to apply and see the process through. Good luck!
In October 2017 the Australian government was forced into crisis when the ruling party lost several important MPs – and it’s majority.
It has recently emerged that it is not possible to be an Australian Member of Parliament and a citizen of another nation. That much sounds logical enough. However, some of the MPs involved were not dual citizens and simply had the right to be one.
The most important name that this applies to was Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce. His father was born in New Zealand, meaning that he has the right to both New Zealand and Australian dual citizenship, even though he admitted that he was unaware of this right. A recent High Court ruling has made this theoretical right a problem, unless the subject has taken “reasonable steps” to renounce their citizenship. Needless to say, since he was unaware that he had the right, he had not tried to renounce it.
This situation highlights the importance of citizenship in many areas of life. Dual citizens can receive additional rights, but they sometimes come with additional responsibilities. More likely than this situation is that a citizen has a national service responsibility or additional taxation liabilities or voting rights. This also highlights how seriously first world governments take issues such as naturalisation.
It ought to be highlighted just how unusual this situation is. In a normal business transaction or contract, for example, both parties need to agree on the terms of an arrangement before the contract is binding. In this example, the individual had not applied for citizenship and there is no guarantee that the New Zealand government would have granted it. In other words, neither party had taken any action, but the outcome was still considered to be in place and binding as if they had done so.
In other words, it is important to investigate your situation carefully before taking any steps towards either dual citizenship or citizenship by investment.
There should be little doubt that if your time is precious, or your situation is complex or sensitive, finding an expert to assist you ought to be your first choice. This is the case in any area of business or life, but with something so important as residency and citizenship, it is vital. After all, the legal basis for you to be in a country underpins everything else that you have the right to do.
In this regard, it is similar to an employment contract. The wages earned underpin every other area of life, so you really need to get it right!
Therefore, can an immigration lawyer help you? You bet!
Is An Immigration Lawyer Necessary?
This will depend upon your personal circumstances and the level of complexity of your application. These days, almost all governments will have their rules on a website. Of course, those rules do not always represent reality, but they are hopefully close to it!
Following those rules ought to be possible for you. If it is, then you ought to be able to proceed without a legal assistance. However, I do not know where you might be reading this. Outside of the developed world, there will be lots of countries where applying without an lawyer is practically impossible. You must remember that most politicians are or were lawyers and so the systems they have designed help to ensure that their colleagues will remain in work for decades to come. In such locations, don’t even think of applying without help!
Can A Lawyer Give Immigration Advice?
Yes, of course a lawyer can give immigration advice, but as with any specialization, this might not be an area that the lawyer is knowledgeable about.
In my own experience, I asked a friend that is a very well regarded advocate (in banking and insurance matters) for a little guidance. All I really needed was to have someone confirm that my understanding of the system was correct. He told me very confidently that what I was planning to do was impossible and that my reading and interpretation of the law was incorrect. The Permanent Residence scheme that I planned to apply to did not exist! Of course, it did exist and a few months later I had qualified as a Permanent Resident. This just was not his area of specialization…
Can An Immigration Lawyer Speed Up The Process?
Yes, it is easy to image that a good immigration lawyer will speed up the process. As with any realm, people that do something every day know other people that do similar things every day. When your immigration attorney walks into the government office, the staff will recognize his or her face and quite often find a way for the queue to be jumped. Additionally, it is much less likely that as an applicant you will need to make multiple visits to government offices because the attorney should have guided you correctly from the outset.
Once again, my own experience was that for each application (identity / residence card and then permanent residency status) that I had to make multiple visits to government offices. Why? Because with the first visit I established what sort of documents they accepted, then with the second visit there was usually one remaining document required that I needed and this visit highlighted the problem.
Ideally, you should try and find a personal recommendation from someone that has been through the process you plan to go through. This could prove to be difficult to get though, especially if you are new in a country.
Another approach would be to find a list of recognized attorneys that are members of the relevant government licensing body. Once you have done that, if you really need to find the best immigration lawyer that there is, approach the President of the organization and ask for a recommendation. Wealthy individuals should always be able to locate the best in class if they really want or need to.
Is There An Immigration Lawyer Near Me?
Most major cities will have big law firms with one or more lawyers that specialize in immigration, residency, naturalization and citizenship. Finding an immigration lawyer ought to be quite easy. What might prove to be more difficult will be finding one that you are comfortable working with and trust to represent your best interests, no matter what.
How Do Immigration Lawyers Get Paid?
All law firms should explain and detail the way they charge clients at the outset. Typically, immigration attorneys will charge some form of deposit or retainer in advance and then an hourly consulting rate from then on. Most of the time, immigration law is about following procedures, which means that the process should not be too expensive. Just in case, it might be wise to meet with two or perhaps three before you begin the process to find out how much they are likely to charge.
Naturalization is a process that enables individuals or families to legally become citizens of a country. These would not normally be citizens that have received nationality rights by birth. There are circumstances where a law may automatically make entire groups of people citizens, but more usually an individual needs to follow a legal process to prove their rights.
If successful, the process would normally complete with a certificate of naturalization and a passport, though the specifics will differ from country to country.
As always, please research your own situation very closely and take specific legal advice from a qualified immigration lawyer if needed. What follows is a general discussion of the subject. There is no way for me to know what country you are reading this in and where you might wish to apply, which means that it cannot be considered to be advice.
How Does Naturalization Change Your Life?
The impact of naturalization will obviously differ from person to person and family to family. However, for people who have crossed borders as a migrant – perhaps to escape persecution or conflict – the impact is likely to be profound. Full rights of citizenship open up more job opportunities, make social benefits in the new country possible, make travel much easier and on and on. It really can be transformative.
For others, new citizenship can open up opportunities for travel and study that might previously have been closed. This is one of the major reasons why citizenship by investment has become so important. Wealthy entrepreneurs from countries like China and Russia want to ensure that their families – usually wives and children – can live safely in the developed world and attend prestigious universities, such as Oxford, Cambridge or the Sorbonne.
Does Naturalization Mean Citizenship?
Normally yes, naturalization does mean citizenship and a passport can and will be issued to the successful applicant. I have read about some circumstances where this is not the case, but they are incredibly rare.
The process will differ from country to country, but normally once an individual has been naturalized they have the right to apply for a passport. A separate application would then be needed, but at this stage, it should be issued automatically.
How To Be Eligible For Naturalization
In almost all countries and circumstances, understanding whether you are eligible for naturalization will require a close inspection of the rules of the country and ensuring that your personal circumstances fit. To be eligible for naturalization you will normally need to have lived permanently within the country for a qualifying period. How long that is will depend on the rules of the country, but five or seven years is quite common. There are some countries that require a much longer residence period – Switzerland is a good example of this, where there is a twelve year minimum residency requirement.
Can I Apply For Naturalization?
It needs to be pointed out that being eligible and being able to apply for naturalization are not the same thing. The legal process to apply will be very specific and while a person might be eligible, they might not have the documents that prove this to be the case.
Does Naturalization Renounce Citizenship?
It is very important to know the legislation that exists in both your current and new countries with regards to dual citizenship. Many countries do not allow their subjects to hold more than one passport. If this applies to you then you will likely be forced to give one up. This would mean that to answer does naturalization renounce citizenship, yes it would be required. This is a very serious decision to take and your life, circumstances, family and taxes will need to be assessed closely.
As with many processes of government, naturalization is not normally a quick procedure. Even in the best and most organized countries, it is likely to take one year from start to finish. I have heard of some countries where the process is much longer. For example, in my adopted home of Malta, I have a friend whose application took more than three years to process and this was after he had lived in Malta for almost twenty years and learned the language!
It must be pointed out though that a process like this will normally require that the applicant obtain a number of documents and signatures. Simply arranging these appointments can often add to the time in the process and be no fault of the government or you, the applicant.
Can You Expedite Naturalization?
Generally speaking, no, it is very unlikely that you can expedite naturalization. The process is almost designed to be a test of loyalty to the new country. People that are unable to complete the process do not get their passport and rights, deliberately so. However, the benefit of citizenship by investment is that applicants pay for access to a special scheme. This access usually speeds the process up substantially, but they are normally expensive applications!
Can I Apply For Naturalization Early?
Once again, normally it is not possible to apply for naturalization early. As with the answer above, governments are trying to set the bar relatively high so that only the best applicants are approved. Minimum residency requirements are minimum residency requirements.
Can I Apply For Naturalization From Abroad?
By allowing people to apply for naturalization from abroad, a government would be making it a little more possible for fraudulent applicants to succeed. Therefore, it is very rare for this to be possible. Normally, an application will require attending more than one meeting at a government office. There will probably be a face to face meeting to assess eligibility, a meeting with the police and the swearing of some sort of Oath of Allegiance to the new country. None of these things can be done from outside the country.
Can You Travel During Naturalization Process?
This will depend upon you current status and existing travel documents. If you are a stateless person, then it is unlikely that you will be able to travel. However, for people with an existing passport, it should be possible to travel.
It must be noted that most residency requirements require a person to be permanently resident for multiple years. If you plan to go on holiday or travel for work, this would normally be allowed. However, if you move permanently to another country – usually for any period longer than three months – then you might lose your eligibility to apply.
Can Naturalization Be Denied?
Yes, naturalization can be denied. Firstly, there are many people that start the process but do not complete it. Secondly, the government is trying to establish that the individual is the right kind of person to be granted rights. There are reasons, such as a criminal conviction or bankruptcy, that might make a country deny a person. These rules will differ from country to country, so if you have unusual circumstances, it is best to revert to the underlying legislation or seek the help of an experienced immigration lawyer.
Does A Certificate Of Naturalization Expire?
Successful naturalization would normally grant rights for life. In many countries newly naturalized citizens must register their existing birth certificate with the government as one of the final steps in the process. This obviously means that once granted, it is granted and your new rights will be with you for life, or unless you choose to renounce them.
A diplomatic passport is given to some civil servants whose role involves representing and negotiating for their government in other countries. Usually, but not always, similar status is provided to the family of a diplomat, if they are accompanying the diplomat on mission.
In the collective mind of the public, in part fueled by spy thrillers and James Bond, it is presumed that diplomats have some sort of free reign to behave as they like. Nothing could be further from the truth. The modern diplomatic services of the world are very ordered the representatives of a government are expected to adhere to the highest standards of conduct.
Who Is Eligible For A Diplomatic Passport?
The incredible power of modern databases and travel monitoring means that it is not normally possible to simply travel on a diplomatic passport. Normally, the diplomat will be accredited with the host country and if he or she travels elsewhere – either for work or personal reasons – they will do so with their normal passport. This means that a diplomatic passport is situational and applies only when it is required to apply.
There are also equivalent documents provided by some international organisations for their highest level members of staff. For example, both the United Nations and the European Union have such documents.
How Much Does A Diplomatic Passport Cost?
It may be that these documents are available for sale in some countries, perhaps in central Africa or island nations in the South Pacific, but it is not normally possible to buy a diplomatic passport. Their issuance is tightly controlled by most governments and bribery seems to be the most likely way to purchase one. As you might imagine, it would seem to be unlikely that it is possible to buy a diplomatic passport from a country like Canada, Denmark, France or the United States.
The idea behind diplomatic passports was to enable government representatives to be able to carry out their duties in other countries. In the modern world, this seems like it ought to be obvious, but hundreds of years ago, negotiations between kings or governments were often violent affairs. Safeguarding the representatives of the ruler was important.
The reality of international relations is that every government will always have staff and representatives in other nations at all times. If the rights of one country’s diplomats are somehow violated, it lays open the diplomats of the violator to potential problems in tit-for-tat reprisals. By enacting rules, all diplomats are hopefully safe all the time.
In 1961 the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations laid down the rules that are followed to this day. Almost all countries have ratified these rules.
In 1963 the United Nations put it’s own rules in place in the form of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. A consul is not normally a diplomat, so these rules respect the rights of a slightly different group of national representatives that will be operating in another country.
Can Diplomatic Immunity Be Waived?
Yes. The goal of immunity is to ensure that representatives and their families are not pressurized by other governments or organizations. However, if a diplomat commits a serious crime, it would normally be expected that their home government would waive their immunity. Not waiving immunity could lead to an international incident which few governments wish for. This also means that it is very unlikely that diplomatic immunity would extend to civil matters.
With that stated, there are some countries that refuse to waive their diplomatic immunity as standard practice.
How To Qualify For Diplomatic Immunity?
Let’s be honest, we all would like the idea of being able to qualify for diplomatic immunity ourselves, but alas, we aren’t going to be able to. As mentioned above, unless you are related to the royal family, are a member of the ruling government or it’s civil service, or bribed someone, you won’t be getting any immunity any time soon. Sorry about that.
Not all passports are created equally. When it comes to their utility as a travel document, some are much better than others. This page looks at the best of the best to identify the world’s strongest passports.
There are a limited number of ways to judge the power or strength of a passport as a travel document. The most obvious method is to compare the number countries a holder can visit with it visa free.
Similar information is published each year by Henley and Partners and the International Air Transport Association (here is the 2016 report).
There are obviously some other potential considerations, such as the perceived neutrality of the country, therefore, who does the rest of the world think of as being friendly, but this is a softer and harder to define quality.
It will come as no surprise that countries that negotiate as a group and have a lot to offer will get the best deals. This means that the world’s strongest passports and top 10 are all European Union member states.
In their various forms, there are 219 recognised countries in the world, which obviously means that a passport ranking can have a maximum of 218 visa free arrangements.
The Top 10 Strongest Passport Ranking
1. Germany (the best passport in the world!)
3. United Kingdom
(also tied at number 8 is the United States).
We can therefore presume that the absolute best passport in the world is a German diplomatic passport 😉
Below is a list from mid 2016 of the countries with the highest quality of life. This would seem to be important if you actually have to choose somewhere new to live.
4. New Zealand
10. United States
There is clearly some overlap between the two lists, suggesting that we all ought to be interested in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands.
And what are the best cities to live in?
According to this list, also from 2016, we should be moving to any of:
1. Vienna, Austria
2. Zurich, Switzerland
3. Auckland, New Zealand
4. Munich, Germany
5. Vancouver, Canada
6. Dusseldorf, Germany
7. Frankfurt, Germany
8. Geneva, Switzerland
9. Copenhagen, Denmark
10. Sydney, Australia
If these lists are anything to go by, anyone interested in a new passport should be learning German and planning to move to central Europe.
What Is The Worst Passport In The World?
This might not take much guessing, but the bottom five on the list are:
Syria, Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Needless to say, these are travel documents from countries with a great deal of conflict and internal strife. Few countries will provide visa free travel to their citizens. For some perspective, think about how bad the travel situation needs to be for a North Korean passport to be considered better! This article highlights some of the problems holders of African passports face in Europe.
In addition to these, probably the absolute worst passport to have would either be a fake or a stolen document. Either of those could cause significant problems for the bearer, if caught.