3 Ways to Get a Second Passport and 2 Countries to Get It From Quickly

Second passports, and the legal right to exist as a citizen of more than one country, are not a common, every day topic. You might encounter it in the plot of a movie about international financial crime, or in a novel about secret government agents spying on one another.

In fact, although it is not generally known, the legal right to dual citizenship, and with it the right to obtain and employ a second passport, is available to millions of people worldwide.

While it’s impossible to know exactly how many U.S. citizens have acquired a second passport, experts put the number of U.S. citizens who either hold or legally are entitled to hold a second passport at 40 million.

These are the three main routes to acquiring a second passport:

  • By place of birth, where the laws of the country in which child is born make them a citizen automatically, as in the U.S., where the 14th Amendment does this. This principle is expanded by what is known as “sanguinity,” blood relationship, citizenship based on that of one or both parents, or even grandparents in some countries, such as Ireland and Italy. This relationship is perhaps the easiest and fastest route to a second passport.
  • By official naturalization, which usually involves a specific period of prior residence in the country. Almost all countries have a route for foreigners to obtain permanent residence, linked to marriage, a job, starting a business, or other commitment to the country. On average, this means living in the country for five years.
  • By purchasing economic citizenship, which involves a large investment in the country or payment of a substantial fee. Some countries offer this in exchange for investment in real estate, starting a business, or payment to the government. Among these countries are St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, Cyprus, and Malta. These citizenships involve an extensive due diligence process and investigation.

But for low cost and quick action, there are two countries that stand out, based on the ease of acquiring immediate residence:

  • The Republic of Panama has a special Pensionado law that welcomes foreigners as new residents, especially retirees. Another law grants immediate residence, and later citizenship, to foreign investors who create new businesses and jobs. Panama has a sound banking system, a stable government, and enjoys one of Latin America’s strongest and fastest growing economies.
  • Another good option is Uruguay, an open and free South American country that welcomes new residents. Here any foreign visitor can apply for permanent residence and remain while the application is processed. An established local residence and proof of self-support of about $1,500 a month minimum is needed. Citizenship may be granted after three years, (two years for retirees), during which you must spend most, but not all, of your time there.

These are a few examples of the ways and means of obtaining a second passport, and how you may qualify. At the moment, there are 195 countries in the world. Any one of these may be just the kind of place for which you have been looking.

Is It Legal for a U.S. Citizen to Hold Two Passports?

There are many good reasons to acquire dual citizenship, and with it, a second passport. But just what does the phrase “dual citizenship” mean? Dual nationality or dual citizenship simply means that a person legally is a citizen of two countries at the same time, qualified and recognized as such under each nation’s law. It also means that such a person has, and can use, two different official national passports.

If you are a U.S. citizen, or a permanent resident alien (green card holder) an important point to know is that under U.S. law, having a second passport does not jeopardize your citizenship. It is fully legal for a U.S. citizen to hold two, or even more, citizenships, based on rulings by the Supreme Court.

While legally acquiring and using a foreign passport does not endanger U.S. citizenship, some countries do not permit their citizens to hold dual citizenship or a passport from another nation. This was the case in the U.S. until 1967, when the Supreme Court upheld the right of citizens to hold a second, foreign passport. Before that time, the official rule was that a person acquiring second nationality automatically lost U.S. citizenship, even though that rule was loosely enforced.

Dual citizenship may result automatically. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that a child born within the U.S. is a U.S. citizen. A child born in a foreign country to a U.S. citizen parent becomes both a U.S. citizen and a citizen of the country where he or she is born (if that country has such a provision). In the latter instance, the child must usually formally confirm acceptance of that second birth citizenship before their 18th birthday.

Dual status may result from operation of law, as when a U.S. citizen acquires foreign citizenship by marriage to a spouse from another nation, or a foreign person naturalized as a new U.S. citizen retains the citizenship of their country of birth.

While it’s impossible to know exactly how many Americans have acquired another passport, experts put the number of U.S. citizens who either hold, or legally are entitled to hold, a second passport at over 40 million.

The point is that dual citizenship is no longer a novelty, but an accepted legal status you might seriously consider for yourself.

Your qualification for another, second nation’s passport—one that comes with fewer restrictive strings attached—can serve as your passport to greater freedom. It can be your key to a whole new world of free movement, foreign residence, expanded international investment, greater flexibility, and even adventure.

Retire to Romantic Italy With Your Own Italian Passport

I remember the moment when the thought of moving to Italy first embedded itself in my head. My husband and I already loved the country after several trips there—but hadn’t considered anything beyond a few weeks’ vacation.

We were in the lovely seaside town of Sperlonga, south of Rome, meandering along the delightful, squiggly lanes, when suddenly we walked into a small piazza, and a picture-perfect scene of daily life played out in about one minute. A man was singing a Neapolitan folk tune while sweeping the street with a handmade broom, while a woman leaned out her window to lower a basket to a delivery boy who loaded it with vegetables. She pulled it up while chirping out her thanks to him.

Just then, a couple of men dressed in suits wandered past to have a caffè in the bar, linking the street-cleaner by the arm and pulling him in for a coffee, too. We heard cups clanking and lively banter from the barista as they entered.

It was a freeze-frame moment that implanted the seed: This would be a great way to live!

It took a while to finally decide to move. But once we did, we went full-force forward to do so legally. And in that process, we learned a few key things.

The best path to entry is citizenship—and with North America’s strong Italian links, you just may qualify. Over 15 million U.S. citizens are of Italian descent, and nearly 1.5 million Canadians also claim at least partial Italian ancestry. And you don’t have to give up your U.S. or Canadian passport to become an Italian citizen, either.

If you have an Italian parent, grandparent, or even great-grandparent, you may qualify. Italian citizenship is transmitted by birthright (legally known as jure sanguinis). The key point is whether that family member was naturalized as a U.S./Canadian citizen before the next descendant was born. In other words, if your grandfather was Italian, but he became a U.S./Canadian citizen before your father was born, it means your father never had Italian citizenship by birthright. But if your grandfather became a U.S./Canadian citizen after your father was born, then he automatically “gave” Italian citizenship to your father. You must demonstrate that the Italian citizenship was transmitted to your parent or grandparent without a break in that birthright.

But then there is the glitch that blocked me: If your Italian ancestor was a woman, and she was born on or before January 1, 1948, you won’t qualify. That’s because women weren’t granted the right to transmit their citizenship until that date. In that case, citizenship must be through the paternal line.

To provide a clear paper trail between you and your Italian ancestor, you will need:

  • Official birth and marriage records from their hometown in Italy.
  • Official birth, marriage, and death records in the U.S./Canada, legalized with an apostille (or certification, in the case of Canada), and translated into Italian by a certified translator.
  • The certificate of naturalization for your ancestor.

There is a $335 application fee. You must book an appointment with your nearest Italian consulate to submit your application and be interviewed in person. The wait time can be a year or more for the consular appointment. Expect the whole process of accumulating paperwork, applying, and waiting for acceptance to take about two to three years. It can be complicated, but if you qualify, it gives you an Italian passport, with all the benefits of EU citizenship, which you can then pass on to your own children.

By Valerie Fortney-Schneider


You Would be Shocked to Know You Can Get a Second Passport

Do you know where your parents or grandparents were born? Seems like an odd question, but finding the answer could determine whether you have an existing legal right to citizenship in another country.

There are two major legal principles of citizenship law that most countries use to determine citizenship status:

Bloodline, or the principle of jus sanguinis, (Latin for “right of blood”): describes a child’s citizenship resulting from the nationality of a father or mother, or from earlier ancestors, usually limited to grandparents. This is called “citizenship by descent.” Most countries apply this rule in some form.

Countries that follow this legal “descent” principle in some form include Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Serbia, Slovakia, Armenia, Ukraine, Israel, Lebanon, South Africa, Rwanda, Australia, the Philippines, Afghanistan, South Korea, Mexico, and Argentina.

Place of birth, or the principle of jus soli, (Latin for “right of soil”): meaning that being born within the geographic territory over which a country has sovereignty may automatically make the newborn child a citizen of that country. Not all countries apply this rule.

In this globally connected world, dual citizenship has become commonplace. Dual nationality simply means that a person is legally a citizen of two countries at the same time, qualified as such under each nation’s law.

In 1996, only seven of 17 Latin American countries allowed some form of dual nationality; now all do. In 2006, India changed its policy to allow a modified form of dual citizenship for Indians living outside their home country. Now, every major country whose nationals migrate to the United States in large numbers allows dual citizenship; except China, South Korea, and Cuba.

The Republic of Ireland offers a widely known example of automatic citizenship by descent. Under Irish nationality law, blood lines determine a birthright to citizenship even without ever having lived in the country. Irish laws confer nationality on those born within Ireland, on those who prove they have an Irish parent or grandparent, and on those who marry an Irish citizen.

Since Ireland is a European Union member state, the Irish passport is one of the most sought-after travel documents. With a population of 4.8 million, Ireland has millions of current official passports in worldwide circulation, many thousands held by U.S. citizens.

Do you know who your ancestors were?

Over 40 million U.S. citizens—nearly 12% of all Americans—can trace their ancestry to Ireland and thus are eligible for an Irish passport. There are 31.8 million U.S. citizens of Mexican origin, many entitled to dual U.S.-Mexican citizenship. A 2011 Hungarian law confers citizenship on anyone who is a descendant of a person who was a Hungarian citizen before 1920. There are 1.6 million U.S. citizens of Hungarian descent who might qualify.

The path to automatic second citizenship for you and your family may be revealed in your family tree. It may be time to investigate those vague stories you’ve heard about your family roots. Your ancestral origins may qualify you for dual citizenship.