Psst! Wanna buy a passport?

2014-04-30 17:00

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Having a second passport can dramatically increase your personal and economic freedom. Having dual citizenship – or even multiple citizenships – is an important step in internationalizing your life.

Unfortunately, the increasing desire for second passports has created a cottage industry of scammers and misinformation peddlers, but there are legal ways to obtain dual citizenship of countries even without ancestral ties.

Andrew Taylor, Managing Partner Henley Estates Ltd International Real Estate Residence and Citizenship says, “If someone tells you, for instance, that they can obtain a ‘diplomatic passport’ or a ‘grey market passport’ for you in a month, you can be assured that this is one of those deals that sound too good to be true. Passports aren’t just available for the taking to anyone with a small roll of bills.”

For the innocent, a ‘diplomatic passport’ is one of the highest honours a country can give and you can rest assured not even shady banana republics will give one away for a few thousand rand. As for a ‘grey passport’ this is where someone bribes a guy in the immigration department to take some passports and put their clients’ names on them.

Promoters will normally refer to their ‘special friend’ at the immigration office. The passport itself is as ‘real’, as a framed photograph of the Mona Lisa is ‘real’. Also ‘grey market’ passports may or may not be entered into the official system, and they may be cancelled if the government official taking bribes is found out, or worse still, if a future government decides to take action against ‘foreigners.’

If you end up falling for a second passport scam, it will most likely end up causing you significant problems as the consequences for using a fraudulent passport are severe almost everywhere in the world. Also, in the electronic age where governments around the world have linked databases, it's foolish to think you would be able to get away with using an illegitimate passport indefinitely.

The way to do it legally, says Taylor, is to get a second passport which is citizenship by investment.

Taylor says, “If you decide to pursue a second passport, you absolutely want to make sure the path you are taking to obtain it is legitimate. One of the best ways on offer is the Cypriot Citizenship by Investment Programme. This is a programme offered by the Government of Cyprus through which foreigners can get citizenship-by-investment within a 90-day time-frame.”

Recently the existing programme has been discounted by 60%, so whereas before you would be eligible for your Cyprus passport free of residency requirements if you bought property to the value of EUR5.5million (R80 292 960), now you need only invest EUR2 million (R28 856 600) in order to enjoy the same benefits. It’s a special offer that the Cyprus Government is offering only until 1 June 2014. After this deadline, the government’s minimum residential real-estate requirement will be increased. Obviously this particular plan is only practically relevant to the super wealthy, but as it includes business property this widens the scope of interest considerably.

Taylor adds, “The cheapest legitimate economic citizenship program available today costs $100,000 plus tens of thousands of dollars in fees. It also takes at least a couple of months processing time under the best circumstances. Any economic citizenship programme offered that is cheaper or faster should be treated with great caution, and those much cheaper/faster should be dismissed out of hand.”

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