It's a predictable reaction that a government in need of cash will turn to destructive measures, such as currency creation and increasing taxes and regulations.
Unfortunately, those measures are just the hors d'oeuvres before a 10 course meal.
As they become progressively more desperate, governments throughout history and all around the world have always turned to more destructive policies, such as capital controls, price controls, people controls, official currency devaluations, wealth confiscations, retirement account nationalizations, and more.
It's a simple relationship. The more a government's fiscal health declines, the more destructive measures it takes.
This is what political risk is all about. And it's no secret that political risk is rising in many parts of the world, in particular, in the US where spending on warfare and welfare continues unabated.
This trend has led to a surge in interest in the topic of obtaining second passports as people look for ways to diversify the risks of being totally dependent on their home government. The reasons for obtaining a second passport are well established, and I have covered them before. (See this article)
Naturally, this has also led to a surge in second passport scams and traps, which are not always easily identifiable.
If you decide to pursue a second passport, you absolutely want to make sure the path you are taking to obtain it is in fact legitimate. Unfortunately, there is no way to acquire a legitimate second passport that is at the same time fast, easy, and inexpensive. But this does not lessen the need to do so.
Some passport scams, such as the selling of alleged “diplomatic passports,” are obvious. Others that involve grey market passports are less obvious but similarly dangerous.
If you end up falling for a second passport scam or trap, it will likely end up causing you significant problems and limiting your options. Your goal should be the opposite: minimizing your problems and expanding your options.
My advice is to treat grey and black market passports (and the hucksters who peddle them) in the same manner you would a random solicitation to wire money to some Nigerian you don't know: run—don't walk—away from these people.
What Are Grey and Black Market Passports?
Black market passports are completely illegitimate documents; they are not genuine and have not been officially issued. They include stolen, cloned, and counterfeit passports. Black market passports are mainly in the realm of organized crime and spy agencies. While it is not impossible that you will run across black market passports in your search for a legit second passport, it is also not very likely.
Grey market passports on the other hand are far more common and have the appearance of legitimacy, which makes it even more important for you to be able to identify them.
Grey market passports are officially issued passports that were obtained in a way (usually from a bribed local official) that skirted the normal legal requirements for naturalization. The way this usually happens is a service provider will talk about a “special friend” in a foreign government who can help you get a passport faster and easier than would be the case if all the proper legal requirements were followed.
Some of the most common grey market passports pushed by promoters have come from Bulgaria, Belize, the Dominican Republic, Paraguay, and Cambodia. This doesn't mean there aren't legitimate ways to obtain second passports from these countries; there are. It just means if you see someone promoting these passports be absolutely certain that you are meeting the legal naturalization requirements.
No matter the country, you or those advising you should be able to point to specific naturalization laws with explicitly defined requirements that clearly spell out everything. This information is usually located on the local government's website or one of their consulate or embassy's websites.
If you cannot verify this information in some way with the local government, or if what a service provider is telling you doesn't correspond with the legal requirements, consider it a major red flag. The service provider or promoter is in all likelihood attempting to sell you an illegitimate passport, one that does not have any basis in law and thus should be avoided.
This is especially true of service providers that hype little-known economic citizenship programs. There are certainly legit economic citizenship programs, and they all have easily identifiable laws with specific costs that you can point to. It's the ones that do not have clear laws that specifically outline the program and its costs that you have to watch out for.
Costs Far Outweigh the Benefits
The potential troubles a grey market passport can cause you far outweigh any potential benefits.
In the electronic age where governments around the world have linked databases, it's foolish in the extreme to think you would be able to indefinitely get away with using an illegitimate passport. The consequences for using a fraudulent passport are severe almost everywhere in the world.
Grey market passports may work for a certain amount of time but are always at the risk of being cancelled at a moment's notice once the issuing government figures out that the passport was not properly obtained or the service provider's “special friend” is busted. In any case, it is nearly impossible for you to renew a grey or black market passport.
Americans have another reason to avoid grey market passports. And that reason is the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which makes bribing foreign government officials a criminal offense. This includes giving or offering “anything of value” to gain an “improper advantage.” Obtaining a passport by bribing a corrupt foreign official to help you skirt the normal naturalization requirements most likely is a violation of the FCPA. I know it's something that I would not want hanging over my head.
How to Detect Illegitimate Passport Offers
As is normally the case, when something is too good to be true, it usually is. Here are a couple of points that will help fine tune your second passport BS detector.
- I believe the best way to detect a grey market passport offer is to independently verify the promoter's claims against the specific and explicit naturalization requirements provided by the local government. If you are unable to do so, then it's nearly a sure bet that you are dealing with a grey market offer.
- The cheapest legitimate economic citizenship program available today costs $100,000 plus tens of thousands of dollars in fees. It also takes at least a couple of months processing time under the best circumstances. Any economic citizenship program offered that is cheaper or faster should be treated with great caution, and those much cheaper/faster should be dismissed out of hand.
- It is also important to make sure the information you are depending on is up to date. Naturalization requirements and options change frequently. For example, Belize and Grenada had legitimate economic citizenship programs in the past but no longer offer them.
- Besides the economic citizenship options, marrying a local, having ancestry in a country, or other special circumstances, it generally takes at least five years to become naturalized in most countries. There are countries that will naturalize you in less time, but not many.
- In order to become naturalized, practically every country in the world requires a thorough application process, which usually involves a background check and spending some time in the country. If the application process seems too easy, it should raise a red flag.
It is simple to see that the major costs of grey and black market passports outweigh the meager benefits.
The goal of internationalization is to increase your options in an uncertain world. Falling for a grey or black market passport scheme is a sure path to restrict your options… or worse. You should avoid them and the people who promote them like the plague.
Although there is a lot of bad advice and traps out there, it does not at all diminish the need to obtain the political-diversification benefits a legitimate second passport provides—a need that is growing each day as your home government sinks deeper into fiscal despair.
In order to safely navigate the veritable minefield that is out there, you need to have a trusted resource, such as Casey Research, to provide you with reliable information. You can find our top picks for the best countries to obtain a second passport in and how to do it here.