Buying a passport from another country won't help you escape the pandemic, but it might prepare you for the next one.

By Elizabeth Rhodes
Updated August 24, 2020
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Dreaming of jetting off to start anew in a faraway country? If you have money to spare, you can legally purchase a second passport from one of the nearly 100 countries offering residence- and citizenship-by-investment programs. The coronavirus pandemic has driven people around the globe, including many Americans, to consider investing in a second passport — and that’s not just because of the restrictions placed on travelers from the United States. We asked Henley & Partners Group PR Director Paddy Blewer our biggest questions about investment migration. Henley & Partners is a global leader in this field, advising governments and individuals on these programs. Here’s what you need to know about buying a foreign passport.

What is investment migration? 

Citizenship-by-investment and residence-by-investment programs fall under the umbrella of investment migration, and although there are some key differences between the two options, they can both grant a qualified candidate citizenship of a country. According to Blewer, citizenship-by-investment is the “process whereby qualified and carefully vetted candidates are granted full citizenship in exchange for their significant economic contribution to the passport-issuing state.” Residence-by-investment is similar — candidates are first granted temporary residence and can later get permanent residence or citizenship.

What are the benefits of getting a second passport? 

Although the increased travel mobility is a plus, that’s not the only reason to invest in a second passport, according to Blewer. “This is about diversifying portfolios, investing and operating globally, and creating a new inheritance and identity for the family, especially through education,” he said. Of course, the host countries benefit from the individual’s economic contribution. Henley & Partners has clients from across the globe, but West Africa, South and Southeast Africa, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, and the Middle East are among the hot spots. Recently, the firm has also seen an increase in interest from individuals in countries like the United States and Brazil who already have “premium” passports. In fact, Blewer reports a 700 percent increase in Americans inquiring about investment migration programs.

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How much does it cost? 

The cost can vary dramatically depending on the country, ranging from $100,000 to millions of euros. Some countries require a combination of non-refundable contributions and minimum real estate purchases, and some also specify the type of real estate. There are nearly 100 different countries around the world offering these programs, so getting professional advice from a firm like Henley & Partners is a must if you’re seriously considering making this international investment.

What are the most sought-after programs? 

Henley & Partners has seen an uptick across the board, but Blewer says that they’ve seen significant growth in the citizenship and residency programs from Malta, Cyprus, Montenegro, Portugal, Greece, and the Caribbean, especially St. Lucia. Blewer notes that their clients don’t necessarily move to these countries; “it means they invest in programs run by these sovereign states to acquire citizenship and/or residence rights offered by these sovereign states.”

How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted this industry? 

According to Blewer, “massive volatility driven by COVID has pushed that steady growth in investment migration into overdrive.” Blewer notes that there isn’t an instant turnaround for these programs — applications can take months — so it’s more about preparation in case something like this happens again, rather than jetting off to escape the pandemic. “This is about preparing yourself for the future and ensuring that you and your family have options if something like this happens again,” he said. “The perception of investment migration has shifted from being about living the life you want in terms of holidays and business travel (travel freedom and global mobility) to a more holistic vision of life that includes access to first-class health care provision, education, a better quality of life, a plan B, etc.”

Elizabeth Rhodes is an associate digital editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her adventures on Instagram at @elizabetheverywhere.