By Anayat Durrani
More Americans are packing up their belongings and leaving the U.S. to relocate to Europe, the Caribbean and other distant locales around the globe. The lure of a second passport has been an easy and enticing way to jump ship for a better life and opportunities.
“There is no doubt that Covid continues to be a major game changer and accelerator when it comes to the investment migration industry,” says Mehdi Kadiri, head of Henley & Partners North America Office.
Kadiri says Henley & Partners has witnessed an 80% increase in enquiries for residence and citizenship by investment programs over the past 12 months on top of an already record-breaking year in 2020 “as wealthy investors scrambled to diversify their domiciles at the same time as their investment portfolios in a bid to secure greater global access and optionality as a hedge against unrelenting market and political volatility.”
Why Americans are pursuing a new life abroad
But you don’t have to be a rich investor to get a second passport and more Americans are seeking out second passports to live the good life abroad. American Jeff D. Opdyke, editor of The Savvy Retiree, a publication of International Living moved to Prague three years ago from Los Angeles.
“My lifestyle is so much nicer, less stressful, and far more carefree. I live in the center of the city, in an neighborhood of 18th and 19th century buildings. I can walk or take a street tram or a metro anywhere I want to get. Never have to own a car or pay gas or look for parking,” says Opdyke.
“It’s just a far more comfortable, fulfilling life and lifestyle,” says Opdyke.
When it comes to investment migration, Kadiri says the Americas region is booming. From 2019 to 2021, Henley & Partners witnessed a spike of 320% in new enquiries from the region.
“Demand has predominantly been driven by geopolitical upheaval in the USA along with shifting political dynamics in several Latin American countries, as well as the global coronavirus pandemic, and its local mismanagement, and the associated travel restrictions and mobility risk,” says Kadiri.
Kadiri says based on H&P enquiry stats, American citizens were the number one consumer of residence and citizenship by investment programs in the region in 2021, 68.5% of new enquiries from the Americas came from the US. He noted that the upward trend is continuing as the H&P America office has already received more than 166% of 2021 enquiries by early February 2022, which will make 2022 to be on track to become another record year of growth.
Opdyke says reasons Americans are leaving in droves range from disenchantment with the political rhetoric and landscape of the country to wanting to cut ties to Uncle Sam’s taxes. Regarding the latter, Opdyke notes that the only other country in the world that taxes based on citizenship is Eritrea.
Opdyke says more senior Americans are seeking a more rewarding lifestyle abroad.
“Americans are increasingly seeking that in retirement because their combined Social Security and nest egg lets them live a lifestyle they would 100% never afford in America. And, well, the healthcare is often better and far, far cheaper,” says Opdyke.
One major explanation for the exodus is to escape the high cost of living in the U.S. He says his life in Prague is at least half as expensive.
“America is crazy expensive. Even middle America. You can look at a site like Numbeo.com and compare places like Malaga, Spain, on the Mediterranean, and compare it to a place like Mobile, Alabama, on the Gulf of Mexico. You need about $3,900 a month in Mobile to live the same life that costs about $3,200 in Malaga,” says Opdyke.
He says a coastal lifestyle in a beautiful, old world city is cheaper than a third-tier American city.
Investors seeking dual citizenship
While the U.S. does not track the number of dual citizens in the U.S., some estimates put it at as many as 40 million dual citizens in the country.
Some seek a second passport for potential business opportunities overseas or for deeper ties to their family homeland. There are many countries that offer ancestral citizenship to foreign nationals that have family ties, such as Ireland, Italy, Poland and Mexico, among a long list of others.
“Applying for a second passport as an American is something that sparked my interest while working aboard cruise ships as a guest entertainer,” says Alissa Musto. “Many crew members I worked alongside obtained a second passport for tax and travel convenience reasons.”
She says during the pandemic, she began to research her family's heritage and realized she may be eligible based on lineage as familial ties can help with dual citizenship. Musto has both Italian and Czech ancestry.
Though Musto worked with an immigration attorney regarding her Czech ancestry, she has not yet obtained her second passport. She says her ancestor from the Czech Republic had immigrated two years off from the cutoff date that would have made her eligible, but Musto says she’s still eligible for the Italian one.
“For me, the benefit of having a second passport would be the ability to freely travel, live and work in Europe without worrying about restrictions or visas,” says Musto. “I studied abroad in Spain when I was in high school and since then, have had a place in my heart for Europe; the culture, history and people.”
Portugal and Caribbean are popular destinations
Kadiri says the top program asked about in the Americas is the Portugal Golden Residence Permit Program, followed by the St. Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment Program and the Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship by Investment Program.
“Portugal is considered one of the most budget-friendly residence by investment options, starting at EUR 200,000, offering investors a range of options from real estate to venture capital to deposit solutions, coupled with its attractive, culturally rich, safe, and modern lifestyle, all of which contribute to this option being one of the most favored,” says Kadiri.
He says Caribbean citizenship by investment options continue to be a regional contender, with the most popular being the St. Lucia Citizenship by Investment Program, with enquiries increasing by 596% since 2019.
“In Europe, the Montenegro Citizenship by Investment Program saw consistently high levels of enquiries throughout 2021 and a significant increase of 557% between 2019 and 2021,” says Kadiri.
Opdyke says buying a second passport from some of the citizenship-for-sale countries, can take a couple months, but requires spending a minimum of $250,000 or so on that process, with the most desirable ones in Europe at half a million or more.
“If you want to do it naturally, it will take about five years in places like Portugal. Uruguay, a gorgeous country in South America, is about five years as well. I think Argentina and Peru are two years each,” says Opdyke.
He says the benefits of a second passport are many: happier lifestyle, lower cost of living, cultural riches, less stress and all around nicer life.
“There’s nothing like moving to a new country and every day you walk around with eyes wide because every day is something new,” says Opdyke. “It brings an excitement and a daily happiness to your life.”
Are you an American interested in a second passport? Contact us for help at firstname.lastname@example.org
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