- Citizenship by Naturalisation
The process of acquiring citizenship by naturalisation usually involves living in a country for a specific number of years as a permanent resident before qualifying to apply for full citizenship. The most important resource required to acquire citizenship by naturalisation is time. That’s because citizenship by naturalisation is by far the most time-consuming way to become a dual citizen, taking anything from 3 – 10 years, or even longer, depending on the country.
Obtaining permanent residency is generally the first step to any citizenship by naturalisation process. The benefit is that often permanent residency alone offers many of the advantages that a second citizenship does, so you will already be able to reap the benefits while the naturalisation clock keeps ticking.
If you are in a hurry to obtain a second passport as quickly as possible, then the naturalisation route is not your best choice. However, it is a tried and tested method which hundreds of thousands of people around the world have successfully undergone. It might also be the only viable option for those who do not have ancestral ties or upwards of $100,000 to spend on getting a second passport.
- Citizenship by Investment
A growing number of countries are offering what is known as “citizenship by investment” or “economic citizenship” programs. These are aimed at wealthier individuals who are looking to acquire dual citizenship in the fastest and easiest way possible. The process is quite simple: in exchange for a sizeable investment, real estate purchase and/or donation in the country, they will provide you with a passport within about six months. There are generally no residency requirements either.
The most popular places to ‘buy’ second citizenship are the Caribbean island nations. There are about five options available in the Caribbean and they are generally the simplest and most affordable to obtain. There are also some more premier options for economic citizenship in Europe (e.g. Cyprus, Malta and Austria). These are much more expensive but offer the benefits of European passports and access to trade and investment in the Eurozone.
For those who have the means to spend at least $100,000 places like Vanuatu offer citizenship, and want to do so as quickly and efficiently as possible, then citizenship by investment is definitely the best route to take. While the economic costs are high, you will save enormously on unnecessary time and hassle which comes with other methods for acquiring second citizenship.
- Fast-Track Citizenship through Other Avenues
The final way to acquire a second passport is by taking advantage of one of the various fast-track naturalisation processes which are offered by some countries. The most common is citizenship through marriage (which can usually guarantee permanent residence and thereafter fast-track naturalisation in most countries). There are, however, other flexible fast-track naturalisation procedures. These include having a baby in certain foreign countries, converting to Judaism to claim citizenship (Israel), adopting a child in a foreign country, or even by serving in the military (e.g. France).
These methods require a certain degree of flexibility and ingenuity on your part, but they can greatly simplify and speed up the otherwise drawn-out naturalisation process (reducing it to anything from 1 – 3 years).
Second Residency Alternative
An alternative to directly seeking dual citizenship, is to work towards becoming a permanent resident of a new country. Permanent residency allows you to legally reside in a country on a permanent basis, without being a full citizen. Being a permanent resident often confers many of the same benefits as being a citizen, such as access to employment, education, and health care in the host country, as well as potential tax benefits.
For those who are simply seeking these advantages, and do not actually require a second passport, permanent residency is sufficient. Furthermore, there are countries which do not allow their citizens to maintain dual citizenship, in which case a second residency would be the only good alternative. Becoming a permanent resident of a new country is usually faster and easier than becoming a full citizen, and can also be the first step towards a long citizenship by naturalisation process.
Similar to second citizenship, there are numerous avenues to go through to become a permanent resident of a country. These include starting with temporary residence and progressing from there, fast-track through marriage and other flexible means, employment reasons, and many others.
The most popular route for wealthier individuals seeking ‘offshore protection’ is to acquire residency by investment. This works in much the same way as citizenship by investment, only instead of receiving a second passport for your investment, you receive what has been commonly referred to as a ‘golden visa’ (i.e., a residency permit in exchange for your investment in the host country).
The great thing about residency by investment is that it opens the door to many first-tier nations which do not offer economic citizenship programs. These include Canada, Portugal, United Kingdom, Malta, Australia, and even the United States. The process is usually fast and easy, albeit costly (requiring anything from EUR 250,000 for the Portugal Golden Visa right up to GBP 2 million for the UK’s program).
High net-worth individuals seeking residence in a first-tier country without the immediate need for a second passport should definitely consider taking advantage of a residency by investment program.