Articles Related to Citizenship

As much as possible, Kathleen and I travel using our Irish passports. We made this choice initially because my U.S. passport was running out of clean pages. Having more pages added meant a trip to the U.S. Embassy and a charge of US$85. Seemed like a rip-off to me, when a new passport costs only US$110, so I decided to skip buying extra pages and instead wait until I could renew my U.S. passport altogether.

Meanwhile, again, I'd use my Irish passport whenever possible. This means that, when Kathleen and I travel together, we're both Irish. Since we've made this transition, the benefits have been many, unpredictable, and usually unexpected. Filling out the immigration forms for the trip to Chile, for example, I referenced our Irish passport information. Turned out to be a fortunate decision.

Arriving at the airport in Santiago, we saw arrows pointing to immigration and began to turn to follow them. As we paused to try to read the signs, an airport agent behind us explained, in Spanish, that the immigration area where we were headed was only for those required to pay the entry fee. We continued reading. The entry fee, the sign explained, is a "reciprocity fee" due from U.S., Canadian, Mexican, and Australian citizens. For U.S. citizens, the fee is US$160 per traveler!

Kathleen and I looked at each other, held out our Irish passports, and moved farther along to the non-fee line...where the agent greeted us politely and waved us through.

What was going on? Chile (like more and more countries around the world) charges American citizens coming to visit a visa fee that is, literally, as the sign indicated, reciprocity. The United States charges Chileans a visa fee...so Chile returns the favor, charging a fee of Americans and also of others who charge Chilean travelers, including Canadians, Mexicans, Australians, and Albanians (this one we had to wonder about...how many Chileans could be traveling to Albania and vice versa?).

If the United States stopped charging Chileans a fee to cross U.S. borders, the Chileans would take us off their fee-paying list. Reciprocity.

Note that the fee an American must pay when entering Chile is good for the life of your U.S. passport, which is not helpful in my case, as I'm about to renew mine. Had I paid the fee this time, I'd have to pay it again upon my return with my new passport.

Brazil requires Americans to get an entry visa before arriving in the country...and they charge a nice fee for the privilege. The fee isn't enough to make the country rich. Again, it's imposed because the United States requires Brazilians to obtain a visa, at a cost, to enter the U.S.

Argentina now charges a fee of Americans and Canadians who'd like to travel to that country. More reciprocity.

All of this highlights one benefit of having a second passport. Not that the time and expense of obtaining a second passport is worth saving the US$160 an American must pay to enter Chile. But the ongoing options you enjoy by holding more than one citizenship certainly can be worth the effort.

Ease of travel (not needing a visa to enter Brazil), cost savings (not having to pay a fee to enter Chile or Argentina), and safety advantages (showing an Irish passport rather than a U.S. one in certain travel situations) are all excellent reasons for obtaining a second passport.

In addition, you have the employment and residency advantages, especially with an E.U. passport, which gives the holder the ability to reside and to work in any E.U. country. You still have to register in many cases...as in France, where you need to obtain a carte de sejour, but it's simply a matter of paperwork (the French live for their paperwork). And, again, with an EU passport you don't need a work permit to obtain a job in France...or in any other EU member country.

But an EU passport isn't easy to obtain unless you have the right genealogy (Irish mother or grandmother, for example). Other more easily obtained passports, such as one from Uruguay, don't come with the multi-country residency and work benefits right now, but I suspect that, over the next decade or so, new multi-country regions of cooperation will emerge in Latin America and perhaps Asia. Mercosur already allows for easier travel and trade among Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil.

Holding a U.S. passport has advantages, as well. It's in the top tier for visa-free or visa-on-entry travel, despite the reciprocity issues with some countries. And if you're planning a trip to Mongolia, the United States is the only country where you can show up without obtaining a visa in advance of arrival.

Lief Simon

Editor's Note: Lief writes regularly on all things offshore, from citizenship, residency, and second passports to taxes, structures, and international banking. His twice-weekly Offshore Living Letter is free. Find out more here.
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Similar programs (offering property investors rights of citizenship along with associated visa-free travel benefits) are currently working well in the nearby islands St. Kitts and Dominica. Cash-strapped Antigua & Barbuda is also planning to launch an invest-for-citizenship program later this year. 

From 1998 to 2001, Grenada sold passports to investors for US$40,000. The practice put the country on the international blacklist of nations considered uncooperative in fighting money laundering and finally was determined to be too detrimental to security in the wake of 9/11. Grenada was removed from the money-laundering blacklist a year later. Now, a decade later, the cash-strapped country has decided to give its economic citizenship program another go. The price this time is expected to be at least US$100,000.

Potential areas of qualifying investment include infrastructure (roads, airports, and ports), agribusiness, tourism, energy (renewable and non-renewable), and "youth development." Key performance metrics will include level of investment and number of jobs created.

Grenada has passed through the global recession and is currently a top Caribbean destination. This is a beautiful little island with a growing property market and high hotel occupancy rates. Now, in advance of the expected return of its citizenship investment program, would be a good time to take a stake.

Lief Simon

 

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Fortunately, different countries shine for different reasons. Some are better for banking, others for investing, some for residency, and yet others as places to incorporate your business. No country gets A ratings on all fronts.

Panama is one country that gets close. Banking options are great in Panama, with more than 80 banks operating here. Most won't open a consumer account for you unless you have a "connection" to Panama either through residency or because you own real estate in the country. Private banking accounts are easier to open, but require high minimum balances, from US$25,000 to US$1 million at the high end. You can also open a corporate account if you open a Panamanian corporation. Investment opportunities in Panama are mostly related to real estate--rental investments, timber, land banking, and development.

Using Panama as a base for incorporating your business can make sense as the country doesn't tax entities that aren't operating in Panama. You can set up a business in Panama and have an office in the country and still pay no Panama taxes if all your income is derived from outside Panama or if your business qualifies under the rules of one of the incentive areas of Panama Pacifico or the City of Knowledge.

Panama offers many options for residency, including the new "Specific Countries" residency visa that has been expanded to include 47 countries. If you hold a passport from one of these countries, residency (and I mean permanent residency) is straightforward. If you don't hail from one of those 47 countries, you still have a dozen other residency options, including a very easy retirement residency option.

Even though Panama offers good choices related to nearly all the Five Flag agendas, you don't want to plant all your flags here. Choose one or maybe two to base in this country and then look to other jurisdictions for the others. If you decide to live in Panama, then you'll want a local bank account, but plant a banking flag in another country, too. Don't bring the bulk of your assets with you to Panama if you plan to live here. And incorporate your business here only if you need a local company for operations.

What other jurisdictions should you be looking at? We'll discuss the best choices right now in more detail at the conference later this week. Here's a short list to help focus your thinking:

  • Banking - Belize, Uruguay, Singapore
  • Residency - Uruguay, Ireland, Malaysia
  • Citizenship (through residency) - Ireland, Uruguay, Dominican Republic
  • Citizenship (through ancestry) - Dictated by where your family is from
  • Economic Citizenship - Dominica, St. Kitts
  • Assets/Investment - for real estate: Colombia; for farmland: Uruguay; for a brokerage account: Denmark
  • Asset Protection - Belize, Cook Islands
  • Incorporating Your Business - Singapore, Nevis

 

Of course, coming up with a personal strategy for which jurisdictions are best for you is more complicated than simply picking countries for each flag. Still, this list will get you started.

This is where we'll start our discussions tomorrow for this week's Offshore Summit. With the help of more than three-dozen of the world's leading offshore experts and advisors, I'll walk attendees through the thinking that should go into customizing your own Five Flags diversification plan.

If you're unable to join us, don't worry. Kathleen Peddicord will be attending as journalist-in-residence. She'll report from the scene in real time each day.

In addition, each day's sessions, including every presentation, every workshop, and all Q&A, will be recorded. We'll make the complete bundle of recordings and speaker materials available as part of our new Offshore Summit Home Conference Kit, which you'll be able to purchase starting tomorrow for a discounted pre-release price. Meantime, you can register your interest here to be sure to be eligible for the pre-publication discount.

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

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