What’s a Golden Passport?
And what are the benefits of having an extra citizenship?
I’ve always been fascinated by passports. As a kid with big dreams of travel, that little navy blue booklet held the key to new cultures, knowledge and experiences. As an adult, it's allowed me to see the world, but also—and sometimes even more importantly—return home. But now I've learned there's a whole new level of passport to achieve. Have you heard of the “golden passport”?
According to Vox, the ultrarich are collecting not one, but sometimes two or three passports and multiple citizenships, and all the privileges they confer. “These passports, often issued by nations particularly welcoming of cash, can be a kind of collector's item, a status symbol luxury good to show off at bougie soirees.” It also cracks open the door to a possible escape, should things go south for the holder in their personal life or in their country of origin.
Or perhaps you simply want easy, visa-free travel throughout Europe. The small Mediterranean island of Malta was offering up simple dual citizenship for those willing to buy it, for that very reason. The European Union wasn't such a fan, and took Malta to court over the controversial program last year.
All it requires is money. And a few background checks and a short wait for approval. These so-called “golden” passports don't even actually require you to reside in your newfound home. Ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt applied for Cyprus's citizenship-by-investment program a few years ago, allowing him to travel to the European Union amid pandemic lockdowns. Harlan Crow, the embattled billionaire GOP donor, procured citizenship to the noted Carribean tax-haven Saint Kitts and Nevis. Sometimes, you don't even have to formally apply—Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel gained French citizenship for an exceptional contribution to the nation.
About 22 countries have a legal provision in place that would allow citizenship by investment, according to Kristin Surak, a political sociologist at the London School of Economics, who has a book coming out on the topic soon. And once a person becomes a citizen, its hard to get kicked out, she says. That's why golden passports are so attractive. Interestingly, the U.S. has no policy limiting dual citizenships. Which means as long as the other country allows it, an American can theoretically hold as many passports as they want.