Guys, let’s face it. Having a Philippine passport kind of sucks.
Up until recently, you’d have to renew it every five years, and that’s if you remember to book an appointment three months in advance (any later and it’s no can do, mate). Worst of all, being a Philippine passport-holder means you’ll need to submit everything from your financial statements to your marriage certificate/certificate of employment to your diary of innermost thoughts and feelings (okay, I’m kidding about that last bit, but you get my drift) just to get certified that you’re worthy of entering most of the world’s developed countries.
And even with a valid visa, you can still be refused entry at a border officer’s discretion and they’re not even obliged to explain why. *sigh*
Little wonder then that some of us opt to apply for dual citizenship, but what if I told you that there’s actually a lesser-known, almost mythical alternative?
It’s called citizenship by investment, and it basically gives you a second passport from any of the participating countries (most of which issue the world’s most powerful passports), along with all the previously inaccessible benefits that come with it.
Which Countries Issue Second Passports?
St. Kitts and Nevis has been credited with introducing the concept, but it didn’t take long for other countries to catch on. Australia, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, and the Caribbean, for instance, all offer similar programs for foreigners seeking second passports.
What Benefits Can You Get With a Second Passport?
Oh, dear, how do we even begin?
Okay, for starters, a second passport gives you visa-free travel, even if you remain a Filipino citizen. (Note that nearly all the countries mentioned in the previous section gives you unqualified access to hundreds of countries.)
More interestingly, citizenship by investment fast-tracks your ability to do business in other countries, provides your children with schooling eligibility in the sponsoring nation, and well, serves as a safety net in case your home country gets done in by politics, war, or some other crap.
Canada, for instance, endows its investors’ children with free schooling, or if this isn’t possible, their tuition fees would be equal to that of a citizen’s. Countries in the Caribbean, meanwhile, entice business-minded applicants with some very attractive tax regimes.
The most advantageous second passport to have, however, is arguably that issued by Cyprus. Not only is theirs the fastest and simplest to get, but successful applicants are also granted passports for all their children under the age of 28 and for their parents too. A Cypriot passport allows you to travel visa-free to 158 countries, and the dual citizenship it entails also enables you to live, work, or study in any of the nations that comprise the European Union.
Best of all, Cyprus doesn’t require its second passport-holders to reside in the country, only that they visit once every seven years, plus the passport is for life. Nifty.
How Do You Get One?
Now, this is where things get hairy. Most applicants prefer to apply via immigration and business firms that specialize in processing investment citizenship, such as the Harvey Law Group.
First, the assisting firm will assess which country would be a better fit for the applicant based on his or her needs. Then, the ensuing process is much like a visa application. The potential investor’s criminal records and background are examined for eligibility, and the usual documents (e.g., birth certificates, marriage certificates, bank statements, etc.) are submitted.
Processing times vary per country. Caribbean territories generally take weeks, while it can take years to get a second passport from powerful Western countries like the United States, Australia, and Canada. Cyprus is known to release passports within six months.
It is possible to apply without consulting an immigration firm, but then, applicants would have to navigate through all the unwritten rules and hidden complications by themselves. For instance, Cyprus’ application process looks very simple on paper, but they need everything certified by their embassy and there isn’t one in the Philippines.
How Much Would a Second Passport Cost?
An arm and a leg, and then some.
As with processing times, it depends on the country you’re applying for. The US requires about PHP25-50 million in investments while Canada has several programs, one of which dictates that an investor plunk down at least PHP4 million in any Quebec-based company and own at least 25 percent of the shares.
And Cyprus? Their passport comes with a price tag of around PHP120 million invested in Cypriot property, be it a single piece or a portfolio. This can then be sold three years after the initial investment, but investment citizens do need to maintain a minimum property value of PHP32 million locally henceforth.
Admittedly, second passports are yet again the prerogative of the world’s 0.1%. You would definitely have to be on the Forbes list just to cash in, let alone drum up the funds necessary for living expenses in your adoptive country.
Still, as the forces of globalization keeps reshaping the world and as more and more things get democratized, perhaps it wouldn’t be too far-fetched for us to hope that some brilliant mind out there could come up with a similar option for the rest of us mere mortals.