BBC – Capital – Why citizenship is now a commodity

Gives a good sense of the target market for citizenship by investment programs and the mentality of the people seeking multiple citizenships:

For as little as $50,000 (in Latvia) or as much as $10 million (in France), foreigners can buy legal status to live, work and bank in a number of countries. Perhaps more importantly, by extension, they buy access to visa-free travel to countries around the world.

And, there’s an informal rating system for the most sought after passports. “Some people in the industry determine [the value] by the number of visa-free countries a person can travel to. So I think at the moment the data out there is that on the German passport you can travel to more countries than with any other citizenship in the world.” Emmett says.

In a globalised world where political isolationism is paradoxically on the rise, this freedom of movement is an attractive element of such schemes.

Andrew Henderson, an American entrepreneur and founder of the Nomad Capitalist, a blog, podcast and consulting company, has four passports and is working on his fifth. Multiple citizenships provide him with a multitude of entrepreneurial options, he says.

(Credit: Andrew Henderson)

Andrew Henderson, an American entrepreneur and founder of the Nomad Capitalist, has four passports and is working on his fifth (Credit: Andrew Henderson)

He says investing in programmes in the African archipelago of Comoros and the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia give him more opportunities and lower taxes.

“For me it’s about how I could have better options, better tax treatment, better treatment as a person and get the same visa free travel.” he says, adding that he expects investment citizenship to rise.

“I think the world is going more nomadic.  People don’t want to be in once place. They want to have one or two or three bases for lifestyle reasons and pay reasonable taxes, and that’s what becoming more accessible.

While not everyone with multiple citizenships will reside in multiple nations, Williams says the industry can be viewed as a barometer of turmoil in the world.  He says many of the investors he works with see these programmes as a safety net.

“Most of our clients do not go and live in the country they invest in,” he says. “They see it as more of an insurance policy. They know that they’ve got that second residency, so if they ever have to jump on a plane they’ve got that option.”

Your country for sale

(Credit: Getty Images)

The controversial EB-5 visa programme in the US allows people to invest in real estate projects in exchange for a fast-tracked green card application (Credit: Getty Images)

Such programmes aren’t without controversy.

Afterall, should citizenship be for sale? Detractors say no.

Earlier this year in the US, two senators, Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Grassley, introduced a bill to get rid of the EB-5 programme, arguing that it is too flawed to continue.

“It is wrong to have a special pathway to citizenship for the wealthy while millions wait in line for visas,” Feinstein said.

Detractors also argue these programmes unfairly favour the rich and are unattainable for everyone else. They also cite concerns about money laundering, criminal activity and backdoor access to countries that circumvent normal immigration systems.

Indeed, the intersection of large sums of money and international real estate deals is ripe for fraud.

Just this month an FBI Investigation uncovered a $50 millionvisa fraud operation involving Chinese investors in the EB-5 programme. And in April, the Securities and Exchange Commission brought charges against a man in Idaho who they say spent Chinese investor’s money on new homes, cars and a zip line for himself rather than the real estate projects it was meant for.

The St. Kitts and Nevis programme ran into trouble with the US Treasury Department when suspected Iranian operatives were caught using their St. Kitts passports to launder money for banks in Tehran in violation of US Sanctions.

Source: BBC – Capital – Why citizenship is now a commodity

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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