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Caribbean, Europe, News feed Date: 07 December, 2018

What is a second passport worth to you?

What is a second passport worth to you?

Omar Mina is a Jordanian-British solicitor of England and Wales. He is the Managing Director of Latitude in Cyprus. In this article, Omar shares his insight into some of the more recognized RCIB programmes. He discusses some of the major considerations when looking for a second passport or residency.

Growing up with multiple citizenships, I never appreciated the importance of having a European passport. I would never worry about visas and would always pass through security at border controls with relative ease. This became much more advantageous when I went to university and did not have to concern myself with a student visa. It was even more advantageous afterwards, as I did not have to worry about work permits or travelling on short notice for business.

Nevertheless, I was always aware of the effort exerted by those around me into attaining a second citizenship. Friends and relatives of mine were striving to get Canadian citizenship. Others were ‘temporarily’ moving to the US in hopes of securing a green card. Far fewer people were targeting Europe, however. Despite its distinct geographical advantage, it was not considered to be a viable option.

Yet things have changed. As a result of a number of new Citizenship- and Residency-by-Investment Programmes, conveniently complimented by a weakened Euro and British Pound, a window of opportunity has opened. You can obtain EU citizenship, earning the ability to live, work, and travel in Europe.

Who is investing?

Information company Wealth-X reports that while Middle Easterners only account for 5% of global UHNWs (ultra-high net worth individuals, usually classified as those with liquidity over $60m), they smake up 60% of the total UHNWs who apply for second citizenship. For Middle Easterners, this is not about getting a beach house and potentially a tax break. It is about necessity.

Since the eruption of the Arab Spring, Lebanese, Syrians, and Egyptians have jumped at a second citizenship for obvious reasons. According to the same report, in 2014, Lebanese people made up 15% of second-citizenship applicants. Syrians and Egyptians closely followed, each making up 7%.

The majority of these people head first to Dubai where they are offered a safe haven. Yet Dubai is not a permanent solution as the UAE residency will never result in citizenship. A UAE resident is still unable to travel or set up a business overseas. Added to that, they can be made to leave at any time. For that reason, it is from Dubai that many of these people start to plan their next move.

While wealthy Middle Easterners are very much contributing to the second-passport business, demand is also soaring from the east with Chinese investors accounting for the majority of US EB5 visas. They also have secured more than half of Canada’s Immigrant Investor visas dating from 2001-2010 and around 65% of Australia’s Investment visas. A reported 80% of Portugal’s Golden Visas are held by Chinese investors.

China, and India have enormous pockets of wealth. Many of their richest citizens possess a second (if not third) citizenship. Despite the numbers, until the Middle East achieves political stability, the locals will continue to contribute handsomely to this industry.

Tax Benefits

Most investors obtain a second citizenship for political security and the right to travel visa free. But there is an increasing number of American and European clients seeking alternative citizenship as part of a tax-planning exercise. This is in anticipation of a need to relinquish their original citizenship.

Tina Turner enjoys the benefits of a new citizenship after having renounced her US passport to live in Switzerland. The co-founder of Facebook, Eduardo Saverin, has also given up his American citizenship. Another high-profile case is London’s former mayor Boris Johnson threatening to revoke his British citizenship. This came after he was given an enormous tax bill by the IRS for the capital gains on the sale of one of his London properties.

According to the American Treasury, Americans revoking their citizenships or residencies rose to a new record of 3,415 in 2014. This number has been continually increasing since US Congress passed the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.

US residency has become much cheaper to obtain than to give up. Currently, in order to renounce your US citizenship, you must pay an exit tax on unrealized gains as of the day before you give up your passport. In other words, it is as if you sold all your assets (this would include all international real estate including overseas land) the day before you expatriated and paid whatever applicable tax would have been owed on all capital gains, ordinary income, land, and so on.

Time is of the Essence

Many of these programmes have limited positions available. Malta‘s programme has an 1,800 main applicant limit. Once this has been achieved, the programme may close. It is rapidly approaching this quota.

Another real concern with timing is that in the future certain countries may become blacklisted. Iranians for example are already ineligible for most of these investment programmes. Now Syrians face greater scrutiny. One hopes that this exclusion policy will not become a trend. It is certainly an important consideration for those debating when to move forward.

Caveat Emptor/Let the Buyer Beware

I am often approached with questions about programmes such as Panama, Bulgaria, and Hungary. Every programme has its merits. It is important though to consider if the respective governments approve and regulate the programmes. Many programmes have been involved in multiple corruption scandals. Although they are often sanctioned by their respective governments, they do not have a clearly-defined set of rules. This results in many applications being refused.

In such cases people will still not receive residency or citizenship. This is despite having made the ‘suggested’ investment and paid the subsequent fees. For example, in 2013, 8,656 applications to the Bulgarian immigration authorities were rejected.

What is more daunting than the financial loss is the effect on the applicant’s permanent record. No doubt, a rejected immigration application from Bulgaria will indeed come back to haunt an applicant on every future visa or immigration application. For that reason, potential investors need to be properly informed about these investment programmes. They must seek professional advice as there is a substantial amount of money, time, and risk involved.

For the avoidance of doubt, there are two main types of investment programmes. There is Citizenship by Investment and then there is Residency by Investment.

Citizenship-by-Investment Programmes (CIPs)


This CIP offers the most efficient and straightforward way to obtain full European citizenship. You’ll earn the right to work, live and travel around Europe. The application process is quick with approvals in as little as six months. This convenience comes at a cost, with a minimum investment of at least €2m plus applicable property taxes. This investment can be in property, government bonds, or other investments. If combined, the minimum threshold increases to €2.5m. An additional benefit of this programme is that three generations of the same family may apply together.


A Maltese citizenship gives you all the rights of an EU citizenship, along with visa-free travel to the US and Canada. The process to obtain the citizenship is about 14 months, of which presence is minimal. The price here includes an investment of €150,000 into government bonds, €350,000 into a property, and a €650,000 contribution to the Maltese government.

St Kitts and Nevis

Established in 1984, this CIP was the very first of its kind. It has become a very common passport. A US$200,000 investment in a Government-approved real estate project or a donation from US$150,000 will qualify you for citizenship. The St Kitts and Nevis passport allows visa-free access to 151 countries.


This newer CIP functions like the St Kitts and Nevis offering. For a similar investment, you receive the same travel rights but dependent children up to the age of 30 may be included in an application. They do not need to be enrolled in post-secondary education. The country also enjoys being a party to the USA’s E-2 Investor Visa Treaty. Grenada citizens may apply for an E-2 visa. This entails investing in a US-based enterprise and actively running it, giving you and your family the right to reside in the USA.

Residency-by-Investment Programmes (RIPs)

United Kingdom

The Tier 1 Investor category is for HNWIs who invest £2m into a UK regulated investment (not real estate). Either the investor – or spouse and children – need to spend a minimum of 180 days a year in the UK for five years before indefinite leave to remain is granted. This type of visa works very well if you plan to educate your children in the UK. Once six years have elapsed, the family is then entitled to permanent residency status. At this stage the investment can be resold and the family is free to relocate.

Canada (Quebec)

In July 2011, due to the exceptionally high volume of applications, the Canadian Federal Government shut down the Immigrant Investor Program that many Jordanians are familiar with.  However there remains a small window of opportunity for the Quebec Immigrant Investor Programme which remains very popular. Purchase Quebec Government bonds from CA$1,200,000 which are held for five years to qualify. Most clients take the financing option from CA$350,000.

United States EB5

An investment of $500,000 dollars will give you a residence permit in the US. Amongst the ultra-wealthy this is not as popular, as people are turning away from – and not towards – US residency.  You will need to maintain the investment for five years. Only then will you receive a green card.


This is a favourite programme for many due to the minimal residence requirements.  There are a number of qualifying options but the most popular is tied to the purchase of real estate from €500,000. In order to maintain the residence status, you need to spend seven days per year in the country. After holding residence status for 5 years, and with a basic knowledge of the Portuguese language, you’re eligible for EU citizenship.


This is the most competitively-priced European RIP. You need to invest at least €250,000 in real estate. A struggling economy makes an investment in Greece very attractive.  You’ll receive a Permanent Residency card with a five-year duration.

In Conclusion

Both price and value are distinct and relative factors. For that reason, whether these programmes are perceived as an affordable opportunity is subject to personal opinion.

Additionally, despite the incentive, these programmes (for the most part) are still investments and in many instances may prove to be good ones.

Finally, with regards to the European investments, it is also worth pointing out that both the Euro and the European property market are at all-time lows. While nobody can truly predict the future, it may not be the worst time to diversify and consider a second home in Europe.


What is a second passport worth to you?

Date: 07 December, 2018

Posted in: Caribbean, Europe, News feed