July 23, 2015
I’ll admit that I lucked out.
Nearly 15 years ago, I discovered that I was entitled to a European citizenship because of my Italian ancestry.
Back then I hadn’t yet realized all the power and benefit of having a second passport. But it sure seemed like a good idea.
The way I figured, another passport just meant having more options. I knew enough to understand that, with an Italian passport, I could live and work anywhere in the European Union. And that struck me as a major benefit.
It took a long time– probably an entire year just to assemble the paperwork. It was a nice project, actually, because it gave me a great reason to spend time with my mother chasing around documents together.
Then there were the multiple appearances at the consulate. The Byzantine bureaucratic hurdles.
I remember at one point I paid them a small fee- it was probably just fifty euros or so. I had paid them the equivalent in dollars.
But the process took so long that the dollar lost value against the euro, so months later they sent me a letter asking me to send more money!
I’ll never forget the day, though, when the Fedex envelope finally arrived.
Inside was my very first second passport. It was incredible. And one of the things that got me started on this journey.
Suddenly I realized that I was no longer beholden to one nation. That no single government had exclusive authority over me. I had more options. I had more freedom.
It was a feeling I’d never had before. It was like I had been missing something for my whole life, but never even knew it until that exact moment. Then I wondered how I had ever gotten along before without a second passport.
I cannot overstate the benefits of this. Having a second passport is something I call the ultimate insurance policy.
It ensures that, no matter what, you always have a place to go. To live. To work. To do business. To retire. And in some cases, even seek refuge.
Now, obtaining a second passport often takes time to establish, sometimes years. So it’s advisable to start thinking about your options now.
Right here in Europe, there are a number of possibilities for obtaining second citizenship, for which there are three basic approaches.
The first is for those that happen to be a part of the lucky bloodline club. If you are able to demonstrate sufficient ancestral links to a country, in many cases you can be entitled to their citizenship.
Ireland and Poland, for example, will grant citizenship if you can prove that you have a parent or grandparent from there.
Hungary will go even further back if you can prove ancestry way back from the Austro-Hungarian empire.
This type of citizenship known as jus sanguinis is commonplace across most of Europe. So with the right ancestry and documentation, you could be on your way to a second passport in a matter of months.
If ancestry is not an option, another option is to buy citizenship.
In scrambling for money, many governments are turning to selling citizenship to well-heeled foreign investors.
In some cases, like Spain and Portugal, the government trade legal residency in exchange for a significant property investment.
In Malta and Cyprus, the governments have taken to naturalizing foreigners who make a very large economic investment and meet other qualifications.
I expect more such opportunities to begin springing up as European nations get nearer to bankruptcy.
Thirdly, lacking the right ancestry or a pile of cash, there is also the option to trade some of your time.
After a fixed number of years of continuous residency, in many countries you can be eligible to apply for naturalization.
Belgium is a very attractive options for this. There, you need just five years of residency before you can be eligible to apply for naturalization.
And you don’t even need to spend the preponderance of that time in the country.
This is not intended to be an exhaustive list. There are plenty of other options out there, but for now I just wanted to give you an idea of what’s out there.
Keep in mind that while some of the paths to obtaining second citizenship are much quicker than others, none of them are instantaneous.
So it pays off to get started in the process sooner rather than later.
After all, it’s hard to imagine that you’d be worse off—especially if you’re a member of the lucky bloodline club—for taking advantage of this.
More options mean more freedom, and that’s always a good thing.