By Mark Nestmann, Wealth Preservation and Privacy Expert
Dear Sovereign Investor,
When I applied for my first U.S. passport many years ago, I merely completed a simple application form and forked over $25 to the State Department. A few weeks later, my little blue book arrived, ready to accept stamps from friendly immigration agents worldwide.
That world ended on Sept. 11, 2001. Ordering a passport now sets you back $135, and you must also provide your Social Security number.
Currently, you don’t need to present copies of prior years’ tax returns to renew your passport, but Congress could impose this requirement anytime.
And it’s probably safe to assume the requirements will become more stringent as time goes on.
A recent report released by the Government Accountability Office claims the IRS could collect billions in owed taxes by blocking delinquent Americans from acquiring or renewing U.S. passports until they settle their alleged debts.
All of this is to say if you’re a U.S. citizen, it’s more important than ever to get a second passport … just in case.
A Second Passport Is Literally a
Passport to Freedom
A second passport is your key to free movement, greater flexibility and legal tax reduction.
It can expand your travel possibilities. Even a citizen whose passport usually allows easy international access can find a visa denied due to travel restrictions, trade sanctions, or political disturbances. For instance, the United States forbids its citizens from visiting Cuba without obtaining a “license” from the Treasury Department. No other passport carries such a restriction.
It lets you travel if your primary passport is lost, stolen, confiscated, or cancelled. That’s increasingly common in the United States. U.S. citizens can be denied a passport if they owe money to the IRS or child support payments. Even U.S. citizens living abroad must pay tax on their worldwide income. If they fail to do so, the government can decline to renew their passport.
It can reduce your profile to terrorists. For instance, travel in many parts of the world using a U.S. passport can make you an instant target for criminal or terrorist groups. If you travel with a passport issued by a politically neutral country, you’ll present a much lower profile to anyone with an axe to grind against your country.
It gives you greater travel privacy. A U.S. passport is now equipped with biometric identifiers and a radio-frequency identity chip. It can potentially track you everywhere you travel. If you use your U.S. passport to visit a country not favored by U.S. authorities, you may face questioning—or worse—when you re-enter the United States. But, if you use your second passport to enter that country instead, no record exists of your visit in your U.S. passport.
It allows you to travel internationally if your primary passport is withdrawn. The first measure many governments take if you come under investigation, or become an “enemy of the state,” is to confiscate your passport. A second passport renders that sanction much less effective.
It gives you the right to reside in other countries. A passport from a member of the European Union, for instance, gives you the right to live or work in any of 27 EU countries. Another example: a passport from a member of the Caribbean Community (e.g., the Commonwealth of Dominica), gives you the right to live or work in most other CARICOM countries.
It can aid in international tax planning. For Americans, a second passport has another benefit: it is an essential prerequisite to expatriation; i.e., giving up U.S. citizenship in order to permanently disconnect from U.S. taxing authority.
Who Qualifies for a Second Passport?
In most cases, if you qualify for a second passport, your spouse and minor children will also qualify.
It’s possible that you qualify for a second passport by virtue of your family history, marriage, or religion. If not, you can acquire citizenship and a second passport following a period of prolonged residence in most countries. Physical residence for a period of three years or longer is generally required to qualify.
If you don’t want to wait that long, a handful of countries offers “instant” citizenship in return for a monetary contribution or investment. The Commonwealth of Dominica and the Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis are the only countries with an official, legally mandated, economic citizenship program.
The least expensive economic citizenship program is from Dominica, with total costs for a single applicant coming to about $100,000. You’ll generally receive your passport six to nine months after you apply.
In all cases, applicants must pass a strict vetting process that includes a comprehensive criminal background check.
Overcoming the Obstacles to Freedom
Individuals who might qualify for a second passport hesitate because of perceived obstacles. Fortunately, you can usually overcome them.
In my experience, the biggest obstacle for a person who wishes to acquire a second passport is a past indiscretion that led to arrest or detention. In most cases, this will show up on the police record that must be submitted with your application.
Fortunately, most misdemeanors won’t disqualify you from receiving a second passport—only a felony. My company has successfully processed second passport applications for individuals with DUI, trespassing, or other misdemeanors on their record.
Another common obstacle is a name change. If the name on your birth certificate doesn’t match the name under which you apply for a second passport, you need to show proof that you legally changed your name. For married women who assume their husband’s name, a certified copy of a marriage certificate is sufficient. But for other name changes, you’ll probably need to go through a formal name change process. In many common law countries, including St. Kitts & Nevis and Dominica, this process is called a “deed poll.”
A third obstacle may occur if you can’t find the required documents. One of my clients, for instance, lost his college diploma, which was required for an application for second citizenship. What’s worse, it couldn’t be replaced because the university he attended had closed. The solution was for the client to produce a college transcript, together with a sworn affidavit certifying his attendance and graduation. This turned out to be an acceptable substitute for the actual diploma.
If you sincerely believe you can benefit from, and qualify for, a second passport, don’t let minor obstacles get in your way. Many times, you will be able to overcome them—and often, they are a small price to pay for the benefits that come with dual citizenship.
Wealth Preservation and Privacy Expert