“Holy mackerel! A Dominican citizenship for only $10,000? Better grab my credit card!”
Not so fast, Jimmy.
Aside from often marketing misleading prices, offshore service providers don’t always give you a transparent, upfront breakdown of the pros and cons of having a second citizenship.
The True Cost
Sometimes, you will find websites offering a second passport for a few hundred dollars or euro. These are either pure scams or, at best, they send you a fake passport that might fool a bouncer or inexperienced summer-intern postal worker. Use it to cross a border and expect your stay that country to be extended. Indefinitely, in some cases.
I often see prices of around $5,000 to $10,000 for a second passport. This is reasonable, but it only covers the agency’s fees.
Economic citizenship, or citizenship by investment, usually requires an investment in government bonds or in property at a value from a few hundred thousand to several millions.
Additionally, accounting for all the various documents you need to provide (references, police conduct reports, and notarization and apostille), you are looking at $2,000 of your own costs, plus the agency’s cost, plus the investment required in the jurisdictions.
Second Citizenship through Residence
If you are going with an agency that offers second citizenship through residence, your costs will be lower but you will need to live in a foreign country, which comes with different costs and challenges. These are often Spanish-speaking countries in South America, where for example English works very poorly outside of the major cities. It’s a great opportunity to learn a new culture and language, but requires the right mindset to work.
The length of the residency, during which you must have an honest source of stable income in most cases, is typically a couple of years. You do not necessarily have to spend all that time in the country. In the case of Paraguay, the restrictions on duration of stay in the country are notoriously lenient.
Offshore Jurisdictions that offer Second Passports
Below are non-exhaustive lists of jurisdictions popular in the internationalization community.
Economic citizenship / citizenship by investment
- Cyprus (EU) –
- Austria (EU) – 10 million EUR
- Malta (EU) – not finalized as of writing, 650,000 EUR
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Antigua and Barbuda – not finalized as of writing
Citizenship by residency
Most countries on the planet offer citizenship by residency, usually with a prerequisite to have and hold employment or otherwise be financially sound. The ones that don’t issue citizenship even through residence are probably countries of which you don’t want to hold a citizenship.
Below are some often talked-about offshore jurisdictions to acquire citizenship through residence, sometimes using various gray-zone methods.
- Argentina (two years)
- Switzerland (extremely long process)
As a side note, permanent residency can be acquired in Bahamas for $500,000. This is not a citizenship.
If you are a citizen of a problematic country, having a second passport may enable you can travel more easily and make financial transactions not previously possible.
Holding a citizenship may help you find a job in that country or the nearby region. It may also entitle you to social benefits and pension, and open up ability to own property.
Travel might not work entirely as smoothly as you had hoped. There are reports about dual citizenship holders being subject to closer inspections at border controls. Saint Kitts and Nevis and Dominican passports are notorious for being issued quite freely and can be target for scrutiny.
If you are travelling with two passports, make sure you get entry and exit stamps in the same passport, except where this would be illegal (some countries will require that you enter and exit using their own passports if you hold one) or impractical (it may be easy to leave your country with one passport and enter your destination with another passport). If you enter a country on a Spanish passport but leave on a Dominican passport, expect to have to spend another hour or more to explain your situation.
Recognition is another problem. In countries where dual citizenship is not recognized, the citizenship you acquired at birth is used to assess your rights and obligations under local law and international treats. As an example, if you are a Russian travelling on a Cypriot passport and enter a country which does not recognize dual citizenship, you will be considered Russian.
You may also face recognition problems even in countries that allow dual citizenship. If you are arrested and demand consular assistance, the host country may deny you access to such assistance from one or sometimes even both consuls or embassies.
Marriage – in particular same-sex marriage – may not be recognized in the other country. This may put you in a position where you are legally married in one jurisdiction but not legally married in another. This can have adverse tax implications in some jurisdictions.
It’s an unlikely fringe case, but you may be drafted for military and suffer significant penalties if you do not show up for the draft. This is unlikely to happen in jurisdictions that have economic citizenship, as such citizens are often excluded from military service.
I have met with several people who have purchased passports — even diplomatic passports — from various African nations. None of these countries’ consulars or embassies have offered help when needed.
Will the Dominican embassy help you out if you, as a dual American citizen, enter a country on a Dominican passport? Will the American embassy help you?
Having a second passport can be a significant benefit to those having a problematic citizenship by birth. Before you apply for a citizenship for some sunny island nation or remote low-tax country, make sure you understand the implications and consider whether you actually need one.
If you do need one, research the agency carefully and get a clear picture of all costs and expected timeframe. The process usually takes a couple of months for economic citizenship, and years for citizenship through residence.