As a U.S. passport holder, you have a lot of freedom to travel where you please. According to the Henley visa index, as of 2017, the U.S. passport is ranked third worldwide in terms of travel freedom. (It’s tied with Danish, Finnish, Italian and Spanish passports.) That means Americans can travel to 174 countries and territories -- no visa required. According to the index, only Germany and Sweden ranked higher for travel freedom.
It’s pretty sweet deal, but there are drawbacks to carrying only a U.S. passport. For instance, traveling to and from countries like Iran and Cuba, who have strained diplomatic ties with the U.S., can be difficult -- if not impossible -- on a U.S. passport. And, according to Andrew Henderson of Nomad Capitalist, restrictions on U.S. passport holders may grow tighter. “A U.S. passport can even be a strike against you in a tough situation,” Henderson wrote. “Not only could having only one passport limit your travel options in an emergency, but citizens of the United States...are more likely to be a target in attack.”
Perhaps most significantly, holding a second passport may give you the ability to live and work abroad without fighting bureaucratic red tape. Luckily, some countries provide ways (some easier, some harder) to obtain a second passport and be on your way to even more high-flying adventures.
Which country is best?
“The best passports in terms of visa-free travel come from Europe. Finland, Norway, the United Kingdom, and most European Union countries enjoy visa-free travel to the United States and many other countries — and, of course, all of Europe,” writes Henderson. These passports can be among the most difficult to obtain, but that’s not to say there aren’t ways you can do so.
Beware of some pitfalls: Some countries place onerous rules on their passport holders, like requiring you to renounce your previous citizenship (e.g. Singapore) or enroll in military service (e.g. Israel). It also won’t help you to get a second passport that doesn’t open any additional doors to visa-free travel. Plus, be on the lookout for scams that involve phony documents. Traveling with forged papers is a surefire way to get nabbed by the authorities at the airport, so investigate further if someone offers you a second passport a little too easily or cheaply.
Overall, what country you choose to apply for dual citizenship, and all the privileges that come with holding a second passport, boils down to your personal circumstances — where your ancestors came from, where you want to live or visit, and how much money you’re willing to spend.
If you’ve got a lot of spare cash that you’re willing to invest in a foreign nation, economic citizenship might be for you. For example, $130,000 will get you citizenship in the tiny Caribbean nation of Dominica, a second passport, and the right to live and work there permanently. When it comes to European countries, and their more desirable passports, the price is much steeper — Austria won’t take less than two million euros, for instance. On the plus side, you often don’t need to live or even visit these countries to obtain their passports. Other countries that offer this option as of 2017 include St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Malta, and Cyprus.
Growing up, listening to your grandparents’ tales of life in the old country, did you ever think you might live there again? Well, in some cases, you can — permanently. For instance, there are hundreds of thousands of Irish passports in circulation — and that’s because anyone with one grandparent born in Ireland qualifies for an Irish passport. Many European countries, including Poland, Italy, and in some cases, Germany, allow you to apply for their passports if you have parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents who were born there.
There are also other options for those whose ties go even further back. For instance, Israel offers birthright citizenship to all those of Jewish descent, as does Spain for Jews whose ancestors once lived there. And if that fails, you can always start looking for love, if you’d like to begin a new life abroad — almost every country offers an expedited (though often not immediate) process for applying for citizenship if you marry one of their citizens.
If you’re not lucky enough to have a grandparent who was born in, say, Poland, and you also don’t have the means to shell out for a second passport, you have one last weapon at your disposal: time. In some countries, such as Uruguay and Paraguay, it can take as little as three years of residency before you’re allowed to apply for citizenship. Other countries with short waiting periods include Brazil, Panama, and Canada. Generally, requirements can be shortened further if you have some kind of economic tie to the country, like starting a business there. However, this may come with other restrictions, such as having to spend some or even all of that time in your new country.
All in all, in order to apply for citizenship in any foreign country, you will likely have to endure bureaucracy and red tape, but if you want the freedom and options that come with having a second passport, it may be the route to go for you.
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