Getting a second passport is in vogue these days. The desire to secure citizenship in another country, and with it a second passport, might be driven by fear, but also for educational, employment or business opportunities that an alternative citizenship might provide a family.
Second citizenship in Germany for my family provides safety, and opportunities for my kids and grandkids to live and work in both the U.S. and the European Economic Union. There are inexpensive ways to gain a second citizenship if you qualify. The primary ways are thru birth, by blood, or through naturalization.
Gaining citizenship by birth means that you were born in a country and are now seeking citizenship there. The U.S. and Canada are just two examples of the few countries that offer birthright citizenship.
What if you were not born in another country?
If you were born in the U.S. but one your parents is an Israeli citizen, you may qualify for Israeli citizenship. In countries like Ireland and Poland if you can show that your parent (or grandparent) is or were citizens, you might be eligible to apply.
Finally, citizenship may be available to you through naturalization. As a child of a German citizen (my mother) whose citizenship was taken away because of the Nazi era laws of World War II, I became eligible, under a revision of the German Constitution to reclaim German citizenship through naturalization. Other countries like Austria have similar laws today.
There are countries that have residence programs that lead to naturalized citizenship in from three to ten years if you qualify. Countries like Israel may not allow naturalized citizens to hold dual citizenship.
Citizenship through birth, through blood or through naturalization are inexpensive methods of gaining a second citizenship and along with citizenship, a second passport. But that does not mean it will not cost you anything.
What are the costs?
If you pursue a second citizenship, be aware there are significantly different laws pertaining to asset purchases, ownership, Investments, income taxes, and estate planning that could affect your U.S. Federal and individual State taxes as well as taxes in the other country. There may also be mandatory reporting requirements with heavy fines for failure to comply. It is quite complicated and fraught with gotchas for the ill-informed. You will need a good team of truly knowledgeable advisors to help you avoid the gamut of taxes and reporting penalties you could find yourself exposed to.
Though you do not have to be wealthy to acquire a second citizenship you should plan to hire professionals to help you and you will have to pay certain fees to countries where you apply. All together it will not be an inexpensive process but worthwhile if it leads to your objectives being met.
How do you get started?
Start by investigating your own family history and background. I suppose if your fore bearers came from Russia in the 1880s, changed their names at Ellis Island, and never looked back their family history may be a mystery to you. It is possible someone in your family knows something that could get a genealogical search started, beginning with where your parents and grandparents came from.
The hardest part of the process is collecting the proof, birth certificates, naturalization documents, passports, boat tickets, Ellis Island records, among other things. Genealogical research organizations like the Mormon church or commercial services like Ancestry.com can provide helpful information.
Foreign consulates might be a source for gathering the forms you will need, and Google searches can provide useful information as well. Alternatively, you might have to hire someone skilled in this kind of research to help you.
One thing to keep in mind is that you are not the only one seeking to establish a second citizenship. I started collecting the information I needed to apply for German citizenship in 2019. Once all the paperwork was submitted in 2020 it took 18 months to be approved. So, if you want to get going, do not delay.
Stewart S. Koesten, M.S.F.S., CFP®, CIMA®, CERT(IM). is Chairman of Aspyre Wealth Partners® with more than 35 years of experience as a wealth management advisor. Stewart especially enjoys working with people who travel or live abroad or those who want to travel or live abroad. Contact Stewart Koesten at (913) 345-1881. Aspyre Wealth Partners® is a Fee Only financial services company located in Overland Park, Kansas. We are fiduciaries with a focus on: Financial Planning, Investment Management, Career Coaching, and Life Transitions. We update our blog frequently – click here for additional insights. Find out how well your money is serving you by taking our complimentary, 3-minute Return on Life (ROL) Assessment.