Having dual citizenship can help protect your freedom, expand your investment horizons, and even save your life, as history has shown us. In an era when governments are imposing draconian regulations on their citizens, a second passport is the ultimate "citizenship insurance".

Central to the concept of a second passport is the notion that no government should have the sole power over your life or assets. If you are the citizen of only one country, as most people are, you are essentially at the mercy of your government. If they decide to jail you or confiscate your assets, an all too common occurrence in many parts of the world, you are on your own, unless you are the citizen of another country.

For example, if you are an American national, you are being excluded from lucrative investments and even the ability to open foreign bank accounts, simply due to the fact you are carrying a US passport. Most people carry only one citizenship and one passport, leaving them vulnerable to capital controls or restrictions of their movements.

By acquiring a second passport, you can achieve the peace of mind that you always have another place to turn to. It gives you an escape hatch in times of economic or political chaos.

How To Get A Second Passport

This is not information that you will find on Wikipedia and in fact, there is not much (correct) information available on how to actually get a dual passport. The 'industry' is full of pitfalls and sales people who assert that they can get you a legal passport in 30 days, as if passports are freely available for anyone who applies. In essence, you have two options to acquire a second passport:

1. Citizenship through Naturalization

This is where you become resident of a country and wait several years until you can apply for citizenship, the normal way. Some countries like Switzerland require you to live in the country for up to twelve years before they allow you apply for citizenship, while others, like Singapore, might force you as a new citizen to go through their two year military service.

2. Economic Citizenship: Fast Track To A Second Passport

The fastest, but certainly not the most cost efficient way, to getting a second passport is through an economic citizenship program, where you essentially buy a second citizenship. These programs often take the form of an investment program where you either invest in real estate or in certain funds as specified by the local government.

What is the best second passport?

When considering your passport options, consider:

  • The quality of the travel document. Of course, passports vary widely in their usability around the world. Get a Chinese passport and you may open plenty of doors for investment in Asia, but you'll enjoy visa-free travel to very few countries. The best passports in terms of visa-free travel come from Europe. Most European Union countries enjoy visa-free travel to the United States and many other countries – and, of course, all of Europe. Coveted passports can be difficult to obtain unless you are born in such a country or have ancestors from there.
  • Financial opportunities. While a United States passport allows you to travel to many countries without a visa, it is increasingly closing doors for investment overseas. Each month, more offshore banks decide to shut out Americans in order to avoid compliance with laws like FATCA. Additionally, American investors are precluded from many international investments because the US SEC has made it clear that they will pursue investment funds that allow US citizens to participate. Make sure your second passport offers you financial flexibility to spend and invest your money as you please.
  • Civic obligations. Some countries, such as Singapore and Israel, require military service of their citizens.
  • Tax obligations. Ideally, you should be able to be a citizen of a country but not live there and not have to pay taxes or even file a tax return there. The United States is essentially the only country that taxes it citizens based on their worldwide income.
  • Respect for the issuing country. While an American passport is good for a lot of things, it may not be your first choice to have if you are stranded in a situation where Americans are a target. The same goes for Israeli passport holders. Liechtenstein, on the other hand, is likely to raise anyone's ire. The goal is to find the best blend of respect (or indifference) for the issuing country.
  • Ability to hold multiple citizenships. A Singapore passport is an excellent travel document and its holders enjoy excellent tax laws. However, Singapore forbids dual citizenship and requires you to renounce any existing citizenship before becoming Singaporean. It also terminates Singaporean citizenship if you obtain another passport thereafter. This can cause problems when trying to achieve true internationalization because it once again limits you to once country. The ideal passport allows you to keep your existing nationality as well as obtain additional citizenships later.

Second Citizenship in Cyprus: Europe's number one second passport

Europe has long established itself as the top jurisdiction for attracting second citizenship. It accounts for just over half of the total number of global citizenship applications (the Caribbean being in second place, followed by North America in third).

Cyprus has recently been ranked the 5th best relocation destination in the world by an international lifestyle review (source: 2014 report prepared by Knight Frank, a leading independent, global real estate consultancy firm). Also noteworthy are recent studies conducted by global immigration experts, ranking the Cyprus Citizenship by Investment Program among the "top ten best in the world".

Some of the key highlights of the Cyprus Citizenship by Investment program are summarised as follows:

  1. There is no requirement to make a donation to the local government, in contrast to many/most other citizenship programs worldwide, including the UK, Malta, and the Caribbean.
  2. Cyprus does not require applicants to live on the island prior, during or after the application process, unlike all other EU countries with citizenship programs that impose some form of residency requirements. To be clear, Cyprus is the only EU country with a citizenship by investment program that does not impose residency requirements, making the application process easy and flexible.
  3. Applicants are able to receive a Cypriot passport within 3 to 4 months of filing an application, being by far the fastest route to EU Citizenship, followed by Malta where the relevant time period is 12 months.
  4. Visa free travel to 159 countries.
  5. Cypriot citizens can live and work in any country within the EU as a result of the right of free movement and residence granted in Article 21 of the EU Treaty. This give the successful applicant access to the world's largest financial economy, and home to over 750 million people across the 28 bloc union.
  6. Access to the first class EU healthcare institutes and excellent education systems.
  7. No language requirements for residence or citizenship
  8. Among lowest crime rate in the world.
  9. Among Europe's top vacation destinations.
  10. The Cypriot personal income tax regime, through the 2015 introduction of the "non domicile", is now widely considered the most attractive onshore personal income tax regime in the world.

We encourage all clients to research their second citizenship options carefully. We are confident that once all options are considered, based on accurate facts, the Cyprus citizenship by investment program will emerge as a leading option for HNWI's and their families.

As leading Cypriot immigration professionals, Savva & Associates Ltd has a fully dedicated Immigration team that can provide specialized assistance for obtaining the Cyprus citizenship and Permanent Residence Permit offered to foreign investors. Our experienced team has a 100% success record on all submitted Cyprus Citizenship applications.

For more information or to discuss your specific circumstances please contact Mr Charles Savva, (Managing Director, Immigration & Tax Specialist) at c.savva@savvacyprus.com

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.