Why investors are choosing to obtain a second citizenship to enable visa-free access to many countries and increase their freedom of movement
In a world where Instagram travel bloggers extol the merits and delights of travel and where business knows no borders, the need and desire to travel has never been so prominent or more integrated with everyday life than it is today. Running parallel to this, travelling has never been easier. With a few clicks, we can compare and book flights across the world.
However, not all nationalities enjoy this freedom and ease of travel. Whilst countries constantly sign new cross-country visa-free travel agreements, approximately 60% of the world’s passports only have visa-free access to around 100 countries or less. Although the extent of visa-free travel varies by country, this depends greatly on the openness of a country’s borders, or the amount of bilateral and multilateral agreements a government has in place.
Visa-free access Vs Restrictions and Lack of freedoms
Entrepreneurs and business leaders are today looking at a global market and whilst communication knows no border, business travel is still shackled by border controls and lengthy visa application procedures. Whilst countries such as Japan, Singapore, and Germany allow visa-free access to more than 185 countries – placing them amongst the strongest passports in the world – many countries’ passports offer very limited access. Indeed, most African and Middle Eastern countries are weak in this respect. An entrepreneur having US citizenship, despite holding one of the most powerful passports in the world, is still denied visa-free access to two of the world’s leading markets - China and Russia. And take, for instance, an Indian or Chinese entrepreneur wishing to widen horizons and expand business to Western markets. While the prospect is enticing, both countries have visa-free access to less than 75 countries, burdening investors with a limited list of fast and straightforward destinations.
Beyond leisure and business travel, freedom of movement becomes an ever more important consideration in countries which experience political and economic instability and where the exercise of basic democratic rights is not a foregone conclusion. A quick glimpse around the globe and it is evident that most regions face one risk or another. With wars and heightened political instability in the Middle East, economic sanctions and trade wars such as that between the US and China, and economic meltdowns in countries such as South Africa and Venezuela, the notion of freedom of mobility takes on a completely different dimension.
Overcoming Restrictions through Second Citizenship
With the rise in wealth across the globe, more investors and High Net worth individuals are opting to achieve increased freedoms by investing in a second citizenship through one of the various Citizenship by Investment programmes (CIP) available around the world. According to the 2019 “Citizenship by Investment Programmes Index (CIP Index)”, curated by international law firm, Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates, investing in one of the two European CIPs, the Malta Individual Investor Programme and Cyprus Investment Programme, provides the highest level of freedom in terms of visa-free travel, settlement rights within the European Union, as well as political and civil liberties.
A second citizenship can hold as much value to those who seek to plan ahead in their business endeavours, as it does to those who have limited travel options outside their own country.
Gaining second citizenship can mean the difference between visa-free access to 30 countries, as is the case for Afghani citizens, to 182 visa-free destinations with a Maltese passport. According to the CIP Index, Austria offers the most attractive passport as regards to visa-free travel, with no less than 185 visa-free destinations. Malta follows suit with 182 countries, while Cyprus also grants visa-free access to more than 170 countries. Notably, Malta and Cyprus have set up reputable Citizenship by Investment programmes which offer investors access to European lifestyle and investment opportunities.
Yet, it is not only European CIP programmes that offer investors and entrepreneurs with freedom of movement benefits. CIPs in 5 Caribbean countries also provide individuals seeking greater visa-free travel access ranging from 137 countries for Dominica, to 151 countries for St. Kitts and Nevis. Although the travel freedom for the Caribbean passports has yet to match that of the top European ones, it remains true that the best-suited citizenship by programme still remains relative to each individual. Taking our earlier example, a US investor who frequently travels to China and Russia would be better off attaining a Grenadian passport since it is the only CIP country which grants visa-free access to both countries.
The Value of a Second Passport Beyond Freedom of Movement
A second citizenship provides investors not only with enhanced visa-free travel, but also with the opportunities and quality of life that the CIP country offers. The Freedom Score in the CIP Index also takes into consideration whether a country allows Dual Citizenship, the extent of its Settlement Rights, and its allowance for Political and Civil Liberties. Furthermore, when ranking CIPs, the CIP Index also takes into consideration three other critical Pillars which determine the attractiveness of citizenship by investment programmes namely, Programme characteristics, Quality of Life, and the strength and performance of the Economy of the country offering the CIP.
The CIP Index thus provides investors with a studied assessment of the different citizenship by investment programmes, helping international investors, business families and their advisors in determining which CIP better suits the investor’s needs. To access the full CIP Index, click here. Chetcuti Cauchi’s CIP Cost Calculator is available here.
Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates is an international law firm, with offices in Malta, Cyprus, London, Zurich and Hong Kong. The partners within the firm are able to seamlessly advise successful entrepreneurs, business families and institutions on their needs at home and abroad. As a multidisciplinary firm, it provides legal, tax, corporate and fiduciary services to its clients, mainly relating to the practices of Corporate & Tax, Residency & Citizenship, Property, Fintech & iGaming, and Yachts & Jets.
Dr Jean-Philippe Chetcuti
Senior Partner, Global Residency & Citizenship
Direct Tel: +356 2205 6604