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How to Choose the Country of Second Citizenship: Asses the Options by 20 Criteria

More than a hundred countries allow dual citizenship. Both of them are located in Europe and America but every continent has a few countries where dual citizenship is allowed. How should you choose the country of your second citizenship when there are so many options? The choice will mostly depend upon your goals, preferences, and financial opportunities.

Criteria for choosing a second citizenship

Acquiring second, third, etc. citizenship can bring a number of benefits but you should realize that each option will have its own downsides too. The table below lists 20 criteria that you can use to assess the available options.

We have divided the criteria into 4 groups:

Administrative componentRights/ opportunitiesGeneral characteristicsCitizen’s obligations
• speed and simplicity;
• opportunity to keep present citizenship;
• anonymity;
• integration opportunities;
• family.
• visa-free travel;
• new immigration routes;
•security/ ‘escape hatch’;
• protection against extradition;
• business, investments, finance, and banks;
• ‘camouflage’ and reputation;
• education and medicine.
• location;
• economy;
• prospects;
• cost of living to living standards ratio;
• stability
• military service;
• taxes;
• participation in political life

Administrative component

The administrative component is highly important. It has to be technically possible to acquire citizenship of a foreign country if you are to consider it as one of the possible options.

Speed, affordability, and simplicity

If you are looking to obtain citizenship of a foreign country, you probably want to find an option that is fast, simple, and cheap. At a time. Unfortunately, miracles don’t happen. Maximum two of these parameters can come in a combination but never all the three of them. Let’s consider the drawbacks of different methods of acquiring foreign citizenship:

  • By investment:
    • Fast (from 3 months or even less) and simple (citizenship by investment can often be acquired remotely) but expensive (minimum US$ 100,000 in St Lucia, for example);
    • You cannot use borrowed money to obtain citizenship of a foreign country by investment;
    • If your application for economic citizenship of a certain country has been rejected, chances are that you applications to all other countries will be automatically rejected;
  • By naturalization:
    • Takes a long time;
    • You often have to pass tests in the language and culture/ history of the country;
    • You have to physically reside in a foreign country to become a naturalized citizen, which means that you have to become a tax resident of that country;
  • By marriage:
    • A bit faster than by naturalization;
    • A fictitious marriage is a crime on most countries;
  • By birth: if the child’s parents are of different nationalities, the child can be born with dual citizenship but here luck plays an important role;
  • By descent:
    • One of your ancestors has to be a citizen of a foreign country;
    • A language test is often required;
    • Complicated bureaucratic processes are involved;
  • By right of soil:
    • Available to children born in foreign countries but helps their parents to accelerate naturalization;
    • Birth has to be given in a foreign country, which is ripe with difficulties;
    • In some cases, the original citizenship has to be renounced when the child comes of age;
  • By joining the foreign army:
    • Accelerates naturalization;
    • Soldiers risk being killed especially in the modern world;
  • By providing special services: you have to have an outstanding talent and belong to one of the following groups of people:
    • Outstanding sportspeople;
    • Outstanding artists;
    • Outstanding scientists.

Unless you acquire foreign citizenship by birth, you have to submit police clearances from the country of your origin in all cases.

Anonymity and restrictions on dual citizenship

Some countries disallow dual citizenship and China can serve as an example. On the other hand, the Chinese actively invest in second passports anyway because most of the countries administering citizenship-by-investment programs do not disclose the names of their new economic citizens. The exceptions are Dominica and Malta. Malta publishes lists of its new citizens on a regular basis but it does not indicate the route to citizenship that the new citizens have taken.

Integration opportunities

If you are planning to move to the country of your second citizenship, you have to find out about the integration opportunities there. Some nationalities are not welcome in some parts of the world. Citizens of Israel, for instance, are not welcome in many Middle East countries. Learning a foreign language can also be a challenge for some people. Generally speaking, Canada and the EU countries are the friendliest countries to foreigners.

Family

When applying for foreign citizenship by investment, you can add your spouse and underage children to the application in all cases. Sometimes, you can also add your adult children (if they are unmarried and they attend a university), your parents, and your siblings. You also have to find out about the regulations concerning citizenship for newborn children of an economic citizen in a certain country. They differ.

If you become a citizen of a foreign country by naturalization, for example, you are going to be the only member of your family with a second passport. However, most countries have family unification programs that allow acquiring foreign citizenship for your family members with time.

Keeping your second citizenship

There are often some additional requirements that you have to meet when ‘buying’ a second passport. For example, citizenship of Antigua by investment can be acquired remotely but you have to spend at least 5 days in the country over the first five years if you want to keep your Antiguan passport.

If you are making a returnable investment into property to become a citizen of a foreign country, you have to keep the property in your possession for a few years in all cases. You can sell it back only after 3 to 7 years, depending on the country.

If an economic citizen breaks the law or does harm to the international image of his/ her new home country, he/ she can also lose the passport. Every country has its own list of ‘don’ts’ for economic citizens.

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Rights and opportunities

A passport of every country will bring you some new rights and opportunities.

Visa-free travel

Freedom of transboundary travel and global mobility is one of the central reasons why people build collections of passports. This is important for tourism and investment purposes. A large number of visa-free destinations allows learning more about the world and expanding your business opportunities. Besides, you can take an urgent trip to a foreign country if you don’t need a visa to enter it. Please note, however, that lists of visa-free destinations can change over time: they can become longer or shorter.

If you are fond of traveling, you should also find out about the consulates of the foreign country whose passport you are about to acquire. The consulates can provide assistance to you when you are traveling in a third country.

New immigration routes

Some people use their second passports as ‘springboards’ that open new immigration routes for them. A passport of Turkey, for example, makes its holder eligible for an E2 business visa to the USA and if your home country’s passport does not give you such an opportunity, you might consider applying for citizenship of Turkey by investment.

Of all countries running citizenship-by-investment programs, Malta offers the strongest passport. Why? Because it is an EU member state and with a Maltese passport, you can legally stay in any of the EU countries and travel to most destinations outside Europe without visas.

Protection from extradition

You don’t have to commit a crime to be declared a criminal. You may be unlawfully prosecuted for your political views or because a corrupt official wants to take hold of your business venture. For this reason, a passport of a country that does not practice extradition of its citizens would be a nice insurance policy.

Security and an ‘escape hatch’

If some abrupt political, social, or economic changes take place in the country of your origin, having a place where you could resort to can be precious. If the situation in your home country becomes unbearable, you can quickly relocate to your second home country with your family. Moreover, you can relocate your capital to a safer place too.

Some countries are more comfortable for living and others are less so. You have to find out about the level of comfort in the country whose citizenship you are planning to apply for.

‘Camouflage’ and reputation

People of some nationalities may face threats when traveling to certain parts of the world. Citizens of the United States of America, for example, risk being kidnapped and held at ransom in some places. This is why Americans would be better off ‘camouflaging’ their nationality with the help of a second passport when visiting certain potentially dangerous places.

Israelis may feel unsafe when traveling in the Middle East and citizens of some other countries may be at risk at some other locations. On the other hand, a passport of Vanuatu, for example, can help the traveler to conceal his/ her true nationality when and where necessary because Vanuatu is a neutral country and nobody hates it. Citizenship of Vanuatu can be acquired in exchange for a donation within a rather short time.

Education and medicine

The educational opportunities available in a foreign country are of importance for you if you have children. You have to make sure that the healthcare system there is efficient if you are advanced in years. Generally, western countries offer the best education and healthcare opportunities.

Business, finance, investments, and banks

If you would like to expand your business internationally, you could benefit a lot from having a passport that gives visa-free access to the countries that you are interested in. Obtaining a passport of a country that belongs to a regional block (such as the EU or MERCOSUR, for example) would give you full access to the common market in the area. This means that you would be able to extend your business and investment horizons significantly.

Your second passport can also help you open bank accounts in foreign countries, especially if you obtain a passport of a reputable jurisdiction. This advantage is especially relevant for those whose home country’s passports limit their international banking opportunities.

General characteristics

The country of your choice should have a promising future in addition to a stable present.

Location

If you are planning to make frequent trips to other countries, having visa-free access to them is not enough. You have to make sure that the transportation infrastructure in the country that you are considering is sufficiently advanced. Are there international airports in the vicinity? How far away is the nearest train station? Are the roads good enough? You have to inquire about these issues. Besides, you have to find out if it is going to be easy to travel to your home country if you are planning to live ‘between’ the two countries as some people do.

One of the reasons why the Maltese economic citizenship program is so popular is the opportunity to reach all major European cities fast by plane. There are also direct flights from Malta to Great Britain and the USA.

Economy

Civil unrest is hardly possible in a country with a strong economy. It is just safer to live in a rich country. We must admit at this point that not all countries issuing their passports to foreigners for money are prosperous. They have launched citizenship-by-investment programs because they want to attract some capital from abroad. Please take this factor into account when choosing the country of your second citizenship.

Stability

Some countries where you can acquire second citizenship have been politically stable for years and years – no military conflicts nor civil unrest. Take Uruguay in South America, for example. Some people call Uruguay ‘South American Switzerland’ because the country is prosperous by regional standards. In addition, there have been no military conflicts in the area for centuries already.

Cost to standard of living ratio

In general terms, the higher the living standards in the country, the higher the living costs. The ratio can fluctuate, however. This is an important factor to consider when choosing the country of your second citizenship especially if you are planning to relocate there.

Future

If you have children, you have to take care of their future. The country of your second citizenship may open a much wider spectrum of education opportunities for them. Inquire about the schools and universities that your children can attend when you obtain second passports for all members of your family.

Citizen’s obligations

Finally, let’s say a few words about the obligations that acquiring foreign citizenship can entail. 

Military service

Conscription is something most people want to avoid facing. In some countries such as Israel and South Korea, military service is obligatory for all citizens. This may be a reason to keep away from such countries (think of your children). On the other hand, there are countries that don’t even have an army such as Grenada, for example. And Grenada ‘sells’ its passports to foreigners.

Taxes

As a rule, the person’s fiscal residence is determined by the place of residence rather than the citizenship of the person. There are exceptions, however. Citizens of the USA and Eritrea are taxed on the basis of their citizenship: they have to pay taxes to their national authorities even if they live and work in other countries. Some experts believe that some European states might follow suit and introduce the same taxation system in the future. If fiscal planning is on your mind, you have to study the issue carefully.

On the other hand, a second passport can help you save on taxes if you act wisely. Some countries with citizenship-by-investment programs (Vanuatu, St Kitts, and Antigua) charge zero tax on personal income if a foreigner relocates there from somewhere else. It does not matter if the income is obtained locally or internationally.

Participation in political life

In some countries, participating in national elections is obligatory for all adult citizens. They may be fined if they don’t vote. You can find a few such countries in South America and Central Africa. The regulations are the same in Australia, Mexico, and some Middle East countries such as Turkey, for instance.

The fines are not high at all (the amount was only 300 liras in Turkey in 2023) but the refusal to vote may lead to more serious consequences. For example, Ankara restricts access to state services to those who do not take part in national elections.

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