Most people might be surprised to learn that Robert De Niro has more passports than he has Academy Awards.
Come to think of it… most people probably have more passports (one), than they have Academy Awards (zero).
But De Niro has two Oscars: the first for playing Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II, and the second for his starring role in Raging Bull.
Yet he has three passports (that we know about).
De Niro was born in New York City, making him automatically a US citizen at birth because of the nationality laws in the United States.
Almost anyone born on US soil becomes a US citizen at birth; the only exception is children born to foreign diplomats who are in the United States on official business.
This law isn’t unique to the United States; nearly every country in the Americas, from Canada to Argentina, plus a few ‘random’ countries like Tanzania, grants citizenship to anyone born there.
So right from day one, De Niro was a US citizen.
But it turns out that De Niro has Italian ancestry as well. And Italy is one of a multitude of countries that grants citizenship to people who can prove their ancestry. (Others include Ireland, Poland, Germany, and a number of other countries in Europe.)
So De Niro was able to obtain an Italian passport back in 2006.
This is really valuable; a European second citizenship gives you the right to live, work, and do business in all 28 European Union countries– like France, Spain, Germany and Sweden. It’s a great Plan B.
Even if you don’t have European ancestors, Spain takes it a step further and allows citizens of former Spanish colonies (most of Latin America) to obtain Spanish citizenship after living in Spain for just two years as a legal resident.
De Niro’s third passport is from the Caribbean island nation of Antigua. Even more specifically, De Niro holds a Diplomatic Passport from Antigua with the title of ‘Special Envoy’.
And because of his diplomatic credentials, De Niro is entitled to a great deal of special privileges and amenities that even movie stars don’t normally receive.
Based on the 1969 United Nations Convention of Special Missions, special envoys like Robert De Niro are eligible to receive tons of travel benefits.
Diplomats always skip the line at airports. And under Article 26 of the convention agreement, it’s illegal for foreign customs officials to search a special envoy’s bags.
Then there’s diplomatic immunity; a special envoy “immunity from the criminal jurisdiction” of the foreign country where he is carrying out his duties. And his residence/office are protected as if they were the soil of a sovereign nation.
And if all that weren’t enough, the 1969 United Nations Convention on Special Missions even includes a host of tax benefits; special envoys are eligible for exemption of income tax, social security tax, and customs duties.
It’s a pretty great deal if you can get it. And apparently if you’re Robert De Niro, you can.
But Antigua is one of a handful of countries with an “economic citizenship” program, which awards citizenship to foreigners who invest a certain sum of money in the country.
For anywhere between $100,000 up to $1 million or more in some countries, you can obtain citizenship. But in most cases you’ll never see that money again, so it’s more of a ‘donation’ than a true ‘investment’.
For people who aren’t eligible for citizenship by ancestry, though, these economic citizenship programs are a fast and easy way to obtain another passport.
There are nearly 200 different countries in the world, so that’s a lot of options for a second passports and citizenship.
And obviously some are much more valuable than others.
My team created a global passport ranking, to systematically assess which passports are best.
We took into account criteria like how many countries a passport gives you visa free access to, and how much of the global GDP, population, and surface area it gives you access to.
15 of the top 20 ranked passports, for example, are from European nations. These all give you visa free entrance into at least 157 countries, which account for 77% of global GDP.
It makes sense why so many people want to obtain a second passport from a European country. Any second citizenship will give you another option for where to live and work– a major component of any solid Plan B.
And the nice thing about European countries is that it’s fairly straightforward to obtain citizenship through another means: legal residency.
Portugal, for example, has one of the lowest barriers to become a legal resident in the country. You have to demonstrate just €14,600 in savings or liquid investments. And after five years of residency you are eligible to apply for naturalization and obtain a passport from Portugal.
Belgium will grant residency if you start or move your business there. And like in Portugal you’ll become eligible to apply for a passport after five years.
Everyone’s situation is different. But there are many excellent options to obtain a European citizenship and a passport if you are lucky enough to have ancestors from Europe or are willing to invest time or money.
You can start with this free in-depth article my team just put together– The Three Ways To Obtain a European Citizenship & Excellent Second Passport.