Friday, July 9, 2010

The Best Passport in the World and other Curious Second Passport Information

By Simon Black

Today's letter is a bit early-- I'm running out soon to meet up with several subscribers at the Clarendon lounge in Notting Hill. Feel free to drop by if you're in the area tonight between 6pm and 7pm.

On to this week's questions, which are ironically all about citizenship:

Reader Antagau comments, "Simon, I am a South Korean citizen living in the U.S. as a permanent resident (green card). I am qualified to become a US Citizen and was considering doing so. After discovering your website and others, now I am not so sure. What are the pluses and minuses of my options?"

A US passport used to be the holy grail of citizenship and envy of the world. Now, this is not the case. I believe the most valuable passport in the world now is Singapore, but there are dozens of others that are also great options.

The most important question to answer when looking for a second passport is, "will I be better off with this document?" As a South Korean citizen, you already enjoy excellent visa-free travel around the world... South Korea is even on the US visa waiver program.

As such, I don't think that obtaining a US passport will be of much benefit for you, travel-wise.

In terms of rights and privileges, as a permanent resident you already have nearly the same liberties as a US citizen. Aside from voting and a few other exceptions, you're nearly one and the same.

The major difference is that you can always walk away from US residency, and hence the US tax net. Raising your right hand and taking the oath of citizenship signs you up for painful worldwide taxation, and undoing this can be costly.

Consider these issues when making your final decision-- as a South Korean resident in the US, will you be better off with a US passport? I don't think so.

Next, Larry asks, "Simon, by giving up US citizenship, do I lose the right to enter the country?"

No. This is a common misconception about renunciation; if you give up your US citizenship, you're treated just like any other foreigner. If you already have a passport from a country like New Zealand or Germany, you'll be on the visa waiver program and can enter/exit the US without applying for a visa.

If you have a passport from another country (Ecuador, Dominica, etc.), then you'll have to apply for a visa at the nearest US consulate. This is much less problematic than you would imagine; US consulate officials are trying to keep foreigners out who will try to stay and reside in the United States illegally.

Clearly, as a former American who has renounced citizenship, you would not be someone wanting to stay in the US for the long-term... so unless you're on a terrorist watch list or have a bad criminal record, you wouldn't have any problems obtaining a visa.

Read the rest here.

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