There’s a Booming Business in Second Passports

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There’s a Booming Business in Second Passports article from our ‘On Target Newsletter’ issue no OT 266 24 April 2021 

Strangely, as the pandemic has choked international travel, the market for second or even multiple passports has grown even faster.

The big increase in buyers for what is called citizenship-by-investment —  “golden visas” — has come from wealthy Chinese, expats living in Mideast countries, the post-Soviet rich, Nigerians and South Africans.

John Dizard reports: “Emirati-based expats have been among the most desperate passport bidders. Within a day they can go from an upper middle class life to joblessness and expulsion, depending on an employer’s whim or a weaker oil market.” If that happens, they and their families can move easily to other places if they acquire second passports.

They are no longer as attractive as they used to be as a means of keeping their personal affairs secret. In the case of most tax havens, details of their applications and bank arrangements are readily available for electronic perusal by agencies of countries such as the US, the UK.

However that accessibility doesn’t apply to all offshore centres. Anyone obsessed with secrecy can, for example, go on-line using his/her VPN (virtual private network), paying $130,000 to the Pacific island-nation of Vanuatu, along with $5,000 to an intermediary, to get a passport in 30 days.

Dozens of other small countries offer their citizenships and passports quite cheaply. In the Caribbean several, such as Antigua, Dominica and St Lucia only want donations to their governments of $100,000.

There is an upper class of larger and more reputable vendors of passport and residency schemes…

► The European Union has been trying to shut down regional  programmes with little success. Although Cyprus has suspended its plan after its politicians were exposed helping a fictitious Chinese money launderer to buy nationality. Malta and Bulgaria still have offers. Austria grants citizenship to wealthy foreign investors who bring talent and highly qualified skills to the country.

► The US offers its EB-5 visa. For investing as little as $900,000 for job creation in a distressed part of the country, the visa offers a path to permanent residency and citizenship.

► Canada has abandoned its federal “landed immigrant” scheme but its Quebec province has an Immigrant Investor Program. This requires a “legally-acquired” net worth of C$2 million, a five-year passive investment of at least C$1.2 million, professional skills and an intention of settling in Quebec (promise to try to speak French).

OT 266 24 April 2021

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