The idea of international diversification is a simple one– if you live, work, hold investments, own property, structure your business, store gold, etc. in the same country as your citizenship, then you truly have all of your eggs in one very fragile basket.
If just one little thing goes wrong, whether it’s a court case, divorce settlement, political instability, government agency ‘administrative error’, or some noxious bureaucrat who’s out to get you, all of those aspects of your life can be put at extreme risk.
The idea of ‘planting flags’, or diversifying internationally, involves spreading these aspects of your life across multiple jurisdictions and territories overseas. Banking in one place. Setting up a brokerage in another. Investing in another. Storing gold in another. Owning property in another.
You can do this with dozens, potentially hundreds of aspects of your life and/or business– using an offshore email account, obtaining medical treatment overseas, seeking personal companionship abroad, setting up an overseas credit card processor for a web business, initiating an IPO for your company on an overseas exchange, foreign health insurance, etc.
Taking these kinds of steps can make your life much, much easier. Suddenly all of those aspects of your life no longer fall under the jurisdiction of your home government; legions of blood-sucking bureaucrats no longer have access to confiscate your assets and frustrate your life with a few mouse clicks.
Potentially the most important and most powerful aspect of your life to diversify, however, is citizenship. I view this as the ultimate insurance policy– something that you hope you’ll never have to use, but you’ll really be glad you have it in case you do.
Having a second citizenship is like having a ‘get out of jail free’ card. It creates options. No matter what happens in the world, you’ll always have a place to go. You’ll always have a ticket out. And as I’m fond of saying, nobody ever hijacks an airplane and threatens to kill all the Lithuanians. Second citizenship does bring a greater sense of security.
Obtaining citizenship, however, is elusive for many people. Some people are lucky enough to come from a line of Irish, Polish, or Italian ancestors. For most, though, it takes a combination of three things:
If you’re willing to simply pay for it, there are certain countries like St. Kitts and Dominica which offer citizenship to people who are simply willing to pay. Most folks unfortunately can’t afford the $250,000+ price tag that’s required, so that leaves the other two.
Just about every country is willing to eventually naturalize permanent residents who reside in the country for a particular amount of time. It varies greatly from place to place. This past weekend, I learned from a subscriber who came down to Chile that, in Japan, it takes two decades of continuous residence.
Other places, like Belgium, offer naturalization after as little as three years, possibly two in extreme circumstances. This is a much easier option for most people, especially for such a valuable passport.
Then there’s the ability to obtain citizenship through what I call ‘flexibility’. This may include something like getting married to a local, which in many countries can provide an extremely rapid path to naturalization.
As an example, I’d like to outline a few options below of high quality passports that anyone can obtain with either time and/or flexibility:
1) SINGAPORE. Easily the most valuable travel document on the planet, a Singaporean can travel almost anywhere without a visa, including to the US and Europe. It takes two years of residence after obtaining permanent residency to qualify for naturalization. And obtaining permanent residence is a snap– you can simply set up a local company to qualify.
Pitfalls: Singapore does have mandatory national service, and it’s important to review the rules to find out whether you would fall within the window.
2) BRAZIL. There are two great things about Brazil. One, they refuse to extradite their citizens to answer for foreign crimes. It just doesn’t happen. Two, ANYONE can be Brazilian, whatever their ethnicity– black, white, brown, it doesn’t matter. Brazil is a huge melting pot. We are all Brazilian.
Brazil is the KING of ‘flexible’ citizenship options– getting married, adopting a child, hell even adopting a rain forest in some cases. And it can happen in as little as six-months to three years. Just don’t expect the process to be crystal clear.
3) ISRAEL. Speaking of flexible, if you’re willing to become Jewish, the State of Israel’s Right of Return entitles you to citizenship. Make no mistake, though, it’s not just going through the motions– you have to work with local religious leaders and actually make the conversion before they’re willing to go through the process.
Pitfalls: The downside of Israeli citizenship should be clear as military service is compulsory.
4) BELGIUM. At its core, Belgium’s naturalization laws allow foreigners who have maintained residence in the country for three years to apply for citizenship. “Residence” can either be in Belgium, or even abroad so long as you can demonstrate ties to Belgium, i.e. family, friends, employment, property ownership, paying taxes, etc.
Aside from being an incredibly valuable travel document, Belgian naturalization also passes to all minor children– in other words, if you become a naturalized Belgian, your kids do too.