Sunday, May 30, 2021 7:00 am
Akinwumi Reju, is a Senior Partner in Topmarke Attorneys, Canada. He handles business law, business immigration and real estate. In this interview with Ademola Adegbamigbe of TheNEWS, he explains what the second passport program means, who can get it, the requirements, costs and its advantages
What is the second passport program?
It is essentially an immigration program that allows high net worth individuals to gain citizenship or permanent residence in a foreign country by investing in the passport country. Ultimately, the investor will be issued the passport of that country. International passports are graded via a Mobility Score (MS) system which ranks passports by how many countries the passport holder can enter visa free. The more countries a passport can enter the more powerful that passport is. The most powerful passport is currently in Asia and the passport has access to 191 countries.
I also hear of Golden Visa, can you explain or differentiate them from second passport?
Well, those terminologies are used interchangeably. So you can hear someone say “golden visa” country or “golden passport”, they are referencing the investment immigration program that grants residency or citizenship to an applicant on the basis of his or her investment in that country.
Which countries currently have these programs and how popular are they?
There are many countries in Europe, Americas and the Caribbean offering the program. The most expensive programs are in Europe; and the most affordable are in the Caribbean when you look at value for money. The most popular countries are Antigua and Barbuda, Malta, Germany, St. Kitts, Vanuatu, Cyprus, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Portugal and Ireland. Each of these countries have their peculiarities and they are attractive to investors for different reasons. It is therefore important to sit with a professional to consider the options carefully and make a choice.
Who can get this second passport?
Anyone who can afford to make the minimum investment or make a donation or acquire real estate in the target country can get the second passport. The principal applicant must be at least 21 years and all the dependents (spouses, children and in some cases, parents) can gain permanent residence or citizenship through the principal or main applicant. Most golden visa countries will carry out some kind of due diligence or background checks to ensure that the applicant is not laundering money or financing terrorism. The extent of the due diligence vary from passport country to another.
Whilst talking about those who can get second passports, how about politically exposed persons?
That is a good question, the fact that an investor is a politician does not prevent the investor from gaining a second passport. Each passport country has prescribed rules or conditions for granting a second passport. The key to every investor program is ability to show the money trail, the investor must be able to demonstrate the source of the funds being invested.
What does it cost to acquire the second passport?
The costs of acquisition will include the investment amount, which can be either a donation to the passport country, investment in real estate or acquisition of shares in an approved enterprise. Apart from this, there will be processing or administration fee for due diligence checks, passport fee and others. There is also professional fee costs. The investment amount required ranges from USD$150,000 up to USD$2million depending on the passport country.
When you say passport country, what does this mean?
These are countries that have set up citizenship by investment programs, the motivation for them is basically to attract investment into their countries. They are aware that most people acquire the passports as an alternative to their first country’s passport. To make their country’s passport attractive, they ensure that the economy is good, the immigration laws are relaxed and ensure that there is a huge tax advantage for the investors.
Is it legal to have two passports and why will one want to acquire a second passport?
The laws of most countries allow dual or multiple passports, however in case you are unsure if your country allows dual or multiple citizenships, it is better to contact your country’s foreign affairs department or ministry. Investors who acquire a second citizenship or passport do so because of the advantages. The advantages of a second citizenship are numerous but most investors just want to be able to travel easily without needing to “queue” for a visa. As an international “citizen”, you also have access to many countries where you can travel to for business, leisure or study. Thirdly, most citizenship by investment program gives some tax sheltering and they can be passed down through generations. Fourthly, some investors just want safety, peace, financial security and keep their options open.
What is the process of acquisition of a second passport?
Most second passport countries have appointed accredited agents to assist in processing application for passports, most of the agencies work with lawyers and other professional who are knowledgeable in immigration law and business to complete the procedures for each country. After the initial documents review by the professionals, the process of application gets underway, due diligence is done and the investment is made directly by the investor to the country whose passport the investor would like to acquire. It is important to state that the investment funds are not paid to the intermediary or agents but paid directly to the National treasury of the country of investment. Once all the due diligence checks are finalized, and the investors are cleared, the passports are issued and couriered to the agency / lawyers who will then arrange for delivery to the investors. All these are achieved within a period of 3 – 7 months.
You are a Canadian business and immigration lawyer, does Canada have a second passport program?
The direct answer is no. However, there is a way to get there. Canada has many investor or business immigration programs both at the federal and provincial levels. The required investment range from about CAD $150,000 to about CAD$2million. The investments will lead to the grant of permanent residence. After spending the required number of years in Canada and meeting all eligibility conditions, the investor can apply for Canadian citizenship and get the passport.