Gaining a second residency or passport is arguably the most effective way to safeguard your freedom, wealth and family’s future. After the wakeup call in 2020, we saw that having dual citizenship gives you the peace of mind to maintain your mobility in times of crisis or a pandemic. There are three types of second passports and residency programs such as residency by investment, citizenship by investment or tax residency. Depending on your individual needs and goals, Latitude has a team of experts in investment migration based in 14 countries worldwide who can provide a bespoke solution to provide a seamless experience to obtain a second residency or citizenship.
The Latitude Advantage
With 19 offices around the world, and a combined experience of over 100 years, the Latitude advisors are licensed in each of the jurisdictions that they operate in and can provide expert guidance to their clients from their departure country to their final destination country. With expertise in the local immigration laws, customs, languages, and jurisdictions they can identify the programs that best suit their needs whether it is a residency or citizenship by investment program that have a clear pathway. Christopher Willis, Latitude’s Managing Director of Government Advisory and Program Delivery, has been helping people immigrate and settle for 27 years, and he shares his insights on why the secondary residency and passport has become the new ‘must have’ tool for the wealthy elite.
IW: What is the fastest second passport to obtain?
CW: The quickest second passport to get is from the Caribbean which can take as little as three months. In St. Kitts and Nevis, they offer an accelerated application process where you spend an additional $25,000 to prioritize your file, and can get a second passport in 60 days, assuming there’s no due diligence issues. Prior to the pandemic most applicants for the Caribbean came from countries that had a very weak passport to travel with such as Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan, Venezuela, and South Africa. By making an investment in the Caribbean, they get economic citizenship, and can travel to the Schengen area visa free without tying up their passport at an embassy. The more options you have, the better off you’re going to be and the advantage of having another travel document is huge.
On the flip side, the American passport was always a very strong passport to travel with but during COVID many countries banned Americans from travelling. But if you had, for example, citizenship in St. Kitts and Nevis, which is only 50,000 people, one of the smallest countries in the Western Hemisphere, you could go to 157 countries visa free. Americans who had this second passport from St. Kitts were able travel to Europe, Middle East and Canada freely.
IW: What are the most popular citizenship programs that Americans are applying for?
CW: For Americans, Portugal has been very popular. The lowest investment level for residency is 280,000 Euro and you only have to spend seven days a year in Portugal while in the Residency program which is fairly low compared to other jurisdictions in the European Union. After five years and you’ve learned some basic Portuguese, you can apply to become a naturalized citizen of Portugal. Most people can easily handle a week long holiday in Portugal for five years. It’s a seven year journey before you get a Portuguese passport, but you will get access settlement rights and European Union status. For succession planning, your children will have a full EU passport which is a huge advantage to US citizens. Although American citizens can obtain dual citizenship, they still need to file their taxes in the US. Whereas if you have a Canadian passport, taxes are filed in the jurisdiction where they spend 183 days a year.
Many of our clients are getting a combination of the Caribbean and European passports. The lowest investment amount in the Caribbean is $100,000, which is nothing for the UHNW clientele, and geographically it is very close and people are familiar with it. Their private planes can get there easily. During the pandemic you couldn’t travel there unless you were a citizen. In certain instances, some of our high profile clients don’t want to travel under an American passport and be marked as a target, and a second passport allows them to travel incognito.
Having a second passport provides a non traditional insurance policy in case things go south very quickly and it is becoming more of a must have right for the wealthy elite. It’s not about what watch you’re wearing or what car are you driving, it’s about what passports are in your pocket.
IW: What are the advantages of choosing citizenship by real estate investment vs. direct investment?
CW: In the Caribbean you can make a cash donation to the National Development Fund which the government uses to fund certain projects they’ve identified. In exchange for that investment, you get your economic citizenship, which is the quickest and easiest way to do it. This is extremely popular with the American client. Family offices that want to diversify their portfolio will buy property in the Caribbean instead of the US and get the double benefit of an economic citizenship as well. St Lucia is the only country that has a bond option, which hasn’t been that popular, but you pay into a government back bond with a zero 0% return and you get it back after five years. Those are the main ways that people will apply. In some countries the citizenship by investment program can generate close to 40% of their GDP, so these programs are beneficial to their overall economy.
IW: Are there any fast tracks to obtaining European citizenship?
CW: The only program now is Malta, which is very popular. They offer residency with a very clear pathway to citizenship by investment, but you still need to demonstrate residency. For the first year you will receive a residence card before you can graduate to citizenship. Although the residency is on paper, you still have to show that you’ve made at least three trips to Malta, have a bank account, a driver’s license, and maybe joined some social clubs to demonstrate an established footprint and some contribution to the island. From start to finish, it’s about 18 months to get full EU citizenship.
You you get what you pay for. If you spend more money, you will get citizenship in 18 months. If you spend less, it’ll take seven years to get the Portuguese passport. If you spend a little bit less, you can get a Caribbean passport but it’s not as powerful as a European passport.
IW: How do you work with your clients?
CW: We work closely with our clients to come up with a bespoke solution for them based on their needs, timeline and budget. We focus on countries that have very clear and predictable pathways of how to get citizenship or residency. We also work with governments to help them either refine their existing program, or we build it from scratch. We also help our clients to submit complete files so it can get done in a very predictable timescale.
Rules are changing all the time, and the EU may change the residency programs to require a greater footprint in the country. I encourage people that are looking to do this, do it now before any rules change. Once you have your citizenship, you are protected by the state and they can’t take it away. You may qualify today, but you might not qualify tomorrow. If you are a resident it’s easier to take it away. Once you have access to Europe your rights extend far beyond just travel, it’s actual settlement rights to live, work, study, and set up a business. This is not cost prohibitive, and the benefits are enormous, it gives you options that others didn’t have.
It’s the usual adage, it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.