Why Would You Want a Second Passport?
According to the State Department, almost 2/3rds (64%) of U.S. citizens don’t hold an active passport. While I highly encourage you to get a passport if you already don’t have one (it’s a pre-requisite to visit other countries), this post is about obtaining a second passport and citizenship.
BLUF: Bottom Line Up Front
Reasons to get a second passport:
My Family’s Unusual Passport Situation
Before I start getting into specifics, I wish to set the table. Why am I qualified to speak about second passports and what’s my experience with them?
I was born to a Mexican father and British mother in France. As an infant, I was already a holder of two different nationalities and citizenships. I could have had French citizenship as well, but ironically my mum didn’t want to subject me to compulsory military service.
When my family immigrated to the USA (age 7), we did so because my father obtained an “alien of extraordinary ability” visa. It took ten years of living and working in the USA for my parents to earn their citizenships, which I then automatically received as a child under the age of 18. These reasonably fortuitous circumstances are how I came to have three separate nationalities and passports until the age of 21. I then had to renounce all non-US citizenships to obtain a Secret clearance that is mandatory for all Army officers.
6 Reasons to Get a Second Passport
To see countries other than the one you were born and raised in, you typically need a passport to get around. Each nation has different arrangements with other countries. Different passports allow you to travel visa-free to different countries.
For example, a U.S. passport currently grants you the privilege to travel to 156 different countries without a visa. That’s great, right? There are only 195 countries in the world, so the U.S. passport already gives you a huge leg up.
The same site I linked above shows you what happens if you have multiple passports. For example, with the addition of my British passport, I can now travel to four additional countries without a visa (Vietnam, Turkey, Brazil, and Venezuela). While it’s unlikely I’ll be going to Venezuela any time soon, it doesn’t hurt to have more travel options.
A second passport could save you a lot of time and hassle sorting through the bureaucracy of another country.
As an MBA student, I saw something I didn’t expect to see: dozens of HIGHLY skilled and qualified international students forced to return to their home countries.
The competition to get into a top MBA program if you’re from India or China is insane. Of the nine international Indian students I knew well, the “dumb” one had a 740 GMAT score, which was higher than the school’s average.
The struggle of receiving sponsorship and an H1B visa is real. Many companies won’t even hire you in the U.S. if you don’t have prior authorization to work here. The process is time-consuming and expensive, so if a company can hire someone local, they typically do.
Let’s say you wanted to go work in Europe. The process will take longer and be more difficult if you’re not already authorized to work there. I have the option of working in the U.K. and E.U. (for the time being – see Brexit). Since I stepped away from my last job, I now appreciate this flexibility. One year ago, I would not have anticipated this, and I’m glad I already had this option available immediately.
An additional passport allows you to work somewhere else. Maybe you don’t like where you’re at now; perhaps you’re consumed by wanderlust, perhaps you want to shake things up a bit…it doesn’t matter, another passport will facilitate this.
Many countries around the world are incredibly pro-business. Governments start these programs to jump-start the local economies and bring in talent (and potential future citizens).
Let’s say you’ve got a great idea for a new business…some countries will give you grants and residency for starting your business there.
Without going too far down the rabbit hole, I’ll quickly mention a few programs that I know.
Ireland may grant you E.U. residency for starting a business there with the Start-Up Entrepreneur Program.
While the programs above are more concerned with residency than citizenship, countries that offer them are typically forward-looking and pro-business and offer considerable advantages to citizens as well. Maybe after living there you’ll decide to become a citizen! I’ll get into more detail in another post.
The beauty of another citizenship is that sometimes it can save you substantial sums in taxes. Do you think Apple set up its taxes in Ireland for fun? Do you think they moved their tax shelter again (Jersey) for the hell of it?
If you can save a substantial amount of money by structuring your taxes elsewhere, legally, why wouldn’t you? That is the rational choice. Saving substantially on taxes can help you retire faster or help you stay retired.
People can get squeamish about this idea. It’s unpatriotic to not pay your “fair share” of taxes, they say. Offshoring your taxes is a “1%-er” thing to do. Newsflash: if you become financially independent and retire early, you probably qualify as a part of the 1%.
If you were to leave the U.S.A. and never come back again, would it be reasonable that you pay taxes in this country for the rest of your life? The U.S. currently is one of two nations that demands taxes regardless of where you made the income and what your residency status is. The only other country to do this is Eritrea. Eritrea is not good company to keep.
You can pay taxes in the U.S. for the rest of your life, but I have no issues with legally mitigating my tax burden later with the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion if I decide to do so.
The choice is personal and often emotional. I’m letting you know that there are options available. Given that there may or may not be drastic tax changes coming down the pipeline soon, especially regarding the repatriation of overseas money, these tax codes are likely to change in some way.
Obtaining residency in a foreign country can range from a relatively straightforward process to a bureaucratic nightmare filled with unexplained periods of inactivity, missing documentation, and the whims of whoever is processing your residency request. It depends entirely on the country and, often, luck.
As a citizen and passport-holder of another country, you have the right to live there. Right to residency is usually clear-cut and obtaining a second passport can, in some instances, be easier than trying to gain residency.
If Sally dreams of living the rest of her life in France, she’ll have to arrange for something because currently U.S. citizens are limited to 90 days in the E.U. If, however, she obtained an Irish citizenship, she’d be able to live and work in France whenever and however long she pleases.
I created a post explicitly going into some details about geoarbitrage so I won’t dig into it here. That said…would you retire potentially decades earlier if all it meant is living outside of the U.S.? Would you like to improve your standard of living when you retire? I think, given that you’re reading this blog, that your answer is yes. Having a second passport immediately widens your options of where you can retire.
7. Bonus Reason: The Cool Factor
Never ever pull out more than one passport at a country’s border or customs. It’s stupid and there is zero upside to doing this. However, I can tell you from personal experience, you do feel like a spy carrying more than one passport. This is gratifying so it gets an extra cool point and honorable mention here.
I hope I’ve convinced you that it’s worth looking into a second passport. While there is endless more material to cover here, I want to spare you the brain damage of having to sort through all that in one blog post.
I’ll be following up soon with another post dedicated to the different ways to get a second passport now that I’ve potentially piqued your interest.
Do you have a second passport? Have you ever thought about it? Are there other reasons to get a second passport?